Nature cancer paper that raised animal welfare concerns is retracted

When Nature published a paper in 2011 describing a compound extracted from a pepper plant that appeared to kill cancer cells but leave healthy cells unscathed, it got some attention.

Of course, the news caught the media’s eye, but also that of other researchers, who have since jumped on the concept, and continued to study the effects of the compound — piperlongumine — on cancer, as well as other conditions.

But ever since the 2011 letter appeared, researchers have raised concerns about some of the figures — including one that showed mice with massive tumors, suggesting they had experienced an unreasonable amount of distress during the study. Nature has responded by issuing two lengthy correction notices in 2012 and 2015 — as well as an editorial that admitted the animals may have “experienced more pain and suffering than originally allowed for,” but did not warrant retracting, as the results remained “valid and useful.”

Today, the journal is retracting the paper, with the following brief notice:

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Meet two data sleuths who paid a steep price for raising concerns about a problematic paper

Researchers Malte Elson and Patrick Markey probably didn’t know what they were getting into when they first raised questions about a problematic study of the possible effects of violent video games.

Like many other data sleuths out there, they simply wanted to ensure the scientific record wasn’t muddied by problematic data — particularly in such a high-profile area with a potentially profound impact on policy.  Although their efforts ultimately paid off — the paper was retracted, and the first author lost her PhD — they also paid a price. Continue reading Meet two data sleuths who paid a steep price for raising concerns about a problematic paper

Court orders journal to retract a paper after supplement seller sues

An Italian court has ordered a journal to retract a paper. But it hasn’t just yet.

Instead, the Journal of Ovarian Research has published an expression of concern about the 2012 paper, replete with obfuscating legal language.

Here’s the text:

Continue reading Court orders journal to retract a paper after supplement seller sues

Medical ethicist: “I now understand that I should not have been re-using material”

Ezio Di Nucci

A researcher in medical ethics has retracted two papers within the last two years after admitting to reusing material from previous publications.

Ezio Di Nucci, based at the University of Copenhagen, claims he “had misunderstood the relevant practices.”

The first retraction, issued in 2017 by the Journal of Value Inquiry, notes the paper “constituted the third verbatim publication of the same text.” The paper “Strategic Bombing, Causal Beliefs, and Double Effect” has only been cited once since it was published in 2016, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

After that retraction, Di Nucci told us he requested the retraction of a second 2016 article, published by Minds and Machines. The retraction notice for “Habits, Priming and the Explanation of Mindless Action” — which has not yet been indexed — states that “the author misunderstood the practice of re-using one’s own material and apologizes for any inconvenience caused.”

Di Nucci told us:

Continue reading Medical ethicist: “I now understand that I should not have been re-using material”

Are non-breadwinners more likely to cheat? 2015 study said yes; newly corrected version says “maybe”

A few years ago, you may remember some news headlines discussing a study that suggested people — especially men — are more likely to cheat if their spouses earn more money. Well, it turns out those findings are less convincing than they initially appeared. But they’re not getting retracted.

In a six-page correction notice, author Christin Munsch at the University of Connecticut explains that she made “several errors related to the coding of missing data,” which weakened most of her conclusions in the original paper.

The paper earned some attention from mainstream news outlets. For example, in 2015, The Washington Post wrote:

Continue reading Are non-breadwinners more likely to cheat? 2015 study said yes; newly corrected version says “maybe”

A university is revoking a student’s PhD — but not because of misconduct

Earlier this month, Tokushima University in Japan announced it was revoking a student’s PhD degree — but for a somewhat unusual reason.

The student didn’t appear to commit misconduct. Rather, the authors discovered a series of errors that invalidated the paper’s central conclusion.

The case has us wondering about how universities should respond when they discover some of a PhD student’s research is no longer valid — especially when there is no suspicion of misconduct.

Based on our Google translation of the more detailed description of what happened, the university concluded the problem was the result of the authors’ “simple mistakes:”

Continue reading A university is revoking a student’s PhD — but not because of misconduct

A publisher just retracted ten papers whose peer review was “engineered” — despite knowing about the problem of fake reviews for years

Many publishers have been duped by fake peer reviews, which have brought down more than 600 papers to date. But some continue to get fooled.

Recently, SAGE retracted 10 papers published as part of two special collections in Advances in Mechanical Engineering after discovering the peer review process that had been managed by the guest editors “did not meet the journal’s usual rigorous standards.” After a new set of reviewers looked over the collections, they determined 10 papers included “technical errors,” and the content “did not meet the journal’s required standard of scientific validity.”

Yeah, we’re not exactly sure what happened here, either. SAGE gave us a little extra clarity — but not much.

Continue reading A publisher just retracted ten papers whose peer review was “engineered” — despite knowing about the problem of fake reviews for years

University of Liverpool reverses course, names researcher guilty of misconduct

Daniel Antoine

A few weeks ago, we received a press release that gave us pause: The University of Liverpool said it had found one of its researchers guilty of research misconduct — but did not say who, nor which papers might be involved.

Now, less than one month later, the university is naming the researcher, and identifying a paper that it has asked the journal to retract.

After we covered the opaque release, we received some tips that the scientist might be Daniel Antoine, who studies liver damage. Last week, Liverpool confirmed that Antoine is the researcher in question.

After he left Liverpool, Antoine took a position at the University of Edinburgh. However, the faculty page is now blank, and a spokesperson told Retraction Watch he is “no longer employed by the University”:

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Researchers pull Nature paper over first author’s objections

Researchers have retracted a 2015 Nature paper about the molecular underpinnings of immune function after discovering they could not replicate key parts of the results.

The first author, Wendy Huang — who started working as an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, only months after the paper appeared — did not sign the retraction letter, published last week. The research was conducted while Huang was working as a postdoctoral fellow at New York University, home of last author Dan Littman (also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute).

What happened appears to be a case of “he said, she said:” Littman asked to retract the paper after his lab couldn’t reproduce it, and Huang insists the data remain correct, saying the process had been “unfair and done without due process:”

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After probe, journal removes flag from four papers, corrects manipulated images

Last year, Journal of Cell Science added notices to four papers after a reader contacted the editors with some concerns about issues with the figures. Now, it’s replacing the previous editorial notices with corrections, which address duplicated images and data.

When the journal issued expressions of concern for four papers co-authored by José Ignacio Rodriguez-Crespo about the allegations (which had also been raised on PubPeer), it notified his institution, the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM). The newly issued correction notices explain that UCM investigated the four papers, and the data support the results and conclusions. In two cases, the authors supplied the original data, and in the others, they replicated the experiments.

Rodriguez-Crespo declined to comment, saying only that the journal

Continue reading After probe, journal removes flag from four papers, corrects manipulated images