What Caught Our Attention: Any time there’s an issue with a paper co-authored by researchers from such high-profile institutions as Harvard, Cornell, and the University of Cambridge, we take notice. In this case, the group — which included Laurie Glimcher, then-dean at Cornell, now president of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — chose to retract a 2013 paper from a Cell journal after learning they couldn’t reproduce some of the experiments. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: A team from Harvard, Cornell, Cambridge, HHMI, and UCSF can’t reproduce a paper’s findings
Specifically, the notice states a review of the paper found “concerns regarding the study design, methodology, and interpretation of the data.” Overall, the research “contradict(s) a large body of existing literature and do(es) not provide a sufficient level of evidence to support the claims made in the paper.” Um, so what did it get right?
What Caught Our Attention: PLOS ONE had a few reasons for retracting a 2015 paper about a treatment for kidney disease due to diabetes: For one, despite what the paper claims, the authors did not obtain ethical approval to conduct the reported animal experiments. In addition, the corresponding author had no idea the paper had been submitted and published. How could a corresponding author be kept in the dark? It turns out, the journal was given an incorrect email address for him, so he didn’t receive any communications around the paper. (One author apparently used a third party editing company.) Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Forged email for corresponding author dooms diabetes paper
What Caught Our Attention: We won’t lie — any retractions of papers about fish semen (OK, any kind of semen) will make us stop and look. In this case, the journal retracted three papers submitted by the same researcher over concerns of fake review. In the end, the journal was concerned the papers were okayed by reviewers who weren’t “suitably qualified” to review the papers about the content and quality of semen from different fish species. (In fairness, we imagine the pool of qualified reviewers is relatively small.)
What Caught Our Attention: We haven’t heard much about Bharat Aggarwal since his seven retractions in 2016 propelled him onto our leaderboard (and long after he threatened to sue Retraction Watch for our reporting). There was a whisper of a mention, when his name was listed as one of the organizers of a cancer conference from which MD Anderson (his former employer) had to publicly distance themselves as a co-sponsor. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Researcher who once threatened to sue Retraction Watch now up to 19 retractions
What Caught Our Attention: Usually, an Expression of Concern (EOC) offers general language about “concerns regarding the validity of the data” or “concerns regarding the integrity of the study.” Here the language is anything but, saying that 54 Western blot bands within three figures have problems such as “visible pasted joints,” “square border,” and numerous “appear to be the same band.” According to the notice, the authors have not responded to requests for the original blots, so the editors are allowing the article to remain intact, choosing instead “to alert readers to these issues and allow them to arrive at their own conclusions regarding the figures.” Continue reading Caught Our Notice: 54 problems in three scientific images equals one expression of concern
What Caught Our Attention: Regular readers will be familiar with the saga involving Fazlul Sarkar and PubPeer: In 2014, Sarkar sued anonymous commenters on the site, claiming defamation (and that damaging comments may have cost him a new job). Although Sarkar won an initial ruling, it was overturned by an appeals court. In the midst of that, the ACLU (which represented PubPeer in the case) released a copy of a misconduct investigation report compiled by Sarkar’s institution, Wayne State University, which concluded that he had committed enough misconduct to warrant retracting 40 papers. The two latest notices, both of which cite Wayne State’s investigation, bring Sarkar’s total to 21. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Researcher who sued PubPeer commenter up to 21 retractions
What Caught Our Attention: Quite frankly, anything with “gorilla gorilla gorilla” in the title will catch our eye, even if it is just the scientific name of the western lowland gorilla. In this case, the journal issued an expression of concern over an “unintended discrepancy” that may have affected the paper, which validates the use of a tool to measure oxytocin in the apes’ urine and saliva. The authors voluntarily notified the editors of Primate of the potential issue, and the journal issued an Expression of Concern only one month after the article was published — which is pretty fast for a notice, although not a record (see this one, issued six days after publication).
We contacted the editor, who told us:
What Caught Our Attention: In the span of 48 hours, PLOS ONE retracted two papers this month that were co-authored by Bo Yu, based at Key Laboratories of Education Ministry for Myocardial Ischemia Mechanism and Treatment and The Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in China. Both notices cite multiple duplications and errors, and conclude:
What Caught Our Attention: Usually, when journals publish corrections to articles, they also correct the original article, except when the original is unavailable online. When Nature noticed that some figure panels in a 20-year-old paper were duplicated, it flagged the issue for readers — but didn’t correct the online version of the original paper. According to the notice, the duplications don’t disturb the conclusion illustrated by the figure, the original data couldn’t be found, and the last two authors had retired. We contacted a spokesperson at Nature, who told us “the information at the start of the paper clearly links to the corrigendum.” Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Yes, a 20-year-old article is wrong — but it won’t be corrected online