A retraction milestone: 200 for one author

Ludwigshafen Hospital, via Wikimedia

Numbers are everywhere in retraction land lately: A record 10,000-plus retractions in 2023. 19 journals shut down at Wiley. Now here’s another.

Readers who have checked the Retraction Watch leaderboard lately may have picked up on something notable: One researcher, Joachim Boldt, has now been credited with 210 retractions – making him the first author (to our knowledge) with more than 200 retractions to his name. 

Boldt’s new tally – representing about half of his roughly 400 publications – admittedly is an accounting change rather than new problems being identified. Some journals have only now come around to acting on the corrupt articles. In that sense, it reflects both progress and a frustrating lack of concern-slash-urgency on the part of the journals that have taken more than a decade to resolve the case.

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Cureus retracts paper for plagiarism following Retraction Watch inquiries 

The journal Cureus has retracted a 2022 paper on cancer and the environment just weeks after Retraction Watch raised questions about apparent plagiarism in the article. 

As we reported in early April, the paper, “Causes of Cancer in the World: Comparative Risk Assessment of Nine Behavioral and Environmental Risk Factors”, had a bit of a twinsies thing going with a 2005 article in The Lancet – sharing a title, figures, and wording that “follows the Lancet one on a sentence-by-sentence level while using tortured phrases,” according to the anonymous tipster who informed us of the issue. 

The April 19 retraction notice states:

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Publisher retracts more than a dozen papers at once for likely paper mill activity

The Scottish Medical Journal has retracted more than a dozen papers dating back to 2020 after concluding the articles were likely produced by one or more paper mills.

The articles, all by researchers in China, covered a range of topics including back pain, pancreatic cancer, hand hygiene and sepsis. Most were meta-analyses. 

Here’s the blanket notice for the 13 papers, which the publisher, Sage, lists by url but not title:  

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Embattled researcher Didier Raoult earns more than 100 expressions of concern and another retraction

Didier Raoult

An Elsevier journal has issued just over 100 expressions of concern for papers published by a group of researchers led by the French microbiologist Didier Raoult, who also notched a new retraction – his tenth – in a separate publication.

As we and others have reported, Raoult’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic drew intense scrutiny from data sleuths, most notably Elisabeth Bik – whose critiques, which extended beyond his COVID studies, were met with vicious online trolling and a legal complaint filed by Raoult himself. 

The allegations prompted an ethics investigation by the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products into Raoult’s research during his tenure at the IHU Méditerranée Infection, in Marseille, which he led between 2011 and his retirement as director in 2022. That inquiry found “serious shortcomings and non-compliances with the regulations for research involving the human person.”

The 101 expressions of concern come for papers Raoult and his colleagues published in New Microbes and New Infections. Here’s an example of one of the EoC’s, for “Genome sequence and description of Anaerosalibacter massiliensis sp. nov.,” which Raoult’s group published in March 2016:

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Paper claiming vaping tops nicotine gum for smoking cessation retracted from JAMA journal

A JAMA journal has retracted a paper on vaping it published two months ago after the researchers alerted the editors to “significant coding errors” and other problems with the work. 

The article, “Efficacy of Electronic Cigarettes vs Varenicline and Nicotine Chewing Gum as an Aid to Stop Smoking: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” was written by a group from China led by Zhao Liu, of the Department of Tobacco Control and Prevention of Respiratory Disease at China-Japan Friendship Hospital, in Beijing. 

According to the researchers, the study found use of vapes was no worse than a prescription medication, and better than nicotine gum, at helping people quit smoking. 

The paper received a significant amount of attention in the medical and lay press and on social media (full disclosure: Medscape, where Adam works, covered it). 

Here’s the March 29 retraction notice for the paper, which originally appeared online in JAMA Internal Medicine January 29: 

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Exclusive: ‘Bust Size and Hitchhiking’ author to earn four more expressions of concern

The journal Social Influence will be issuing expressions of concern for four papers by Nicolas Guéguen, a marketing researcher whose work has long been dogged by allegations, Retraction Watch has learned. 

Guéguen has to date has lost at least three papers to retraction, and has received many more expressions of concern, for his questionable studies. However, his institution, the Université de Bretagne-Sud, cleared him of wrongdoing in 2019.  

Guéguen made a name for himself for his quirky studies – often about human sexuality – like one purporting to find women with bigger breasts were more likely to be successful hitchhikers; and one which claimed to find men with guitar cases are more attractive to women. (The first of those articles has an expression of concern; the second was retracted in 2020.)

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Chief researcher at national Japanese institute has paper retracted for faking data

An official journal of the Japanese government has retracted a 2021 paper over concerns about misconduct in the work, which was performed in a national research center. 

Here’s the retraction notice for the paper, titled “Development and Evaluation of Fluorescence Immunochomatography for Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Thermophilic Campylobacter”: 

Food Safety decided to retract this article in which the primary author misconducted as reported from the primary author’s affiliation.

Far more details are available in materials published last December by Japan’s National Institute of Health Sciences, where the first author of the article, Hiroshi Asakura, is chief researcher. According to a press release dated Dec. 26, 2023: 

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Paper cited by article at center of lawsuit for criticizing Splenda earns an expression of concern

Susan Schiffman

A journal has issued an expression of concern for a 2008 paper suggesting artificial sweetener Splenda could disrupt the gut microbiome and cause other havoc with the gastrointestinal system – and which is cited by a paper at the center of a lawsuit against one of its authors by the maker of the sugar substitute.

The article, “Splenda Alters Gut Microflora and Increases Intestinal P-Glycoprotein and Cytochrome P-450 in Male Rats,” appeared in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, a Taylor & Francis title. The journal has a Part B, too, which also is part of this story.

The paper, which has been cited more than 200 times, according to Clarivate’s Web of Science, caught the attention of Elisabeth Bik, who last year commented on the article on PubPeer, noting potential problems with four of the figures, including Western blots and missing error bars. 

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Controversial pyramid paper retracted when authors turn out to have radiocarbon-dated nearby dirt

A journal has retracted, over the objections of the authors, a controversial 2023 paper claiming a dig site in Indonesia is home to the largest pyramid built by humans. 

The work was led by the Indonesian geologist-cum-archeologist Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, of the Research Center for Natural Disasters in Bandung.

Hilman has been working at the site in Java for many years in his quest to prove it contains the ruins of a massive pyramid built by an advanced culture between 9,000 and 27,000 years ago. Hilman has also tried to link the site to the lost city of Atlantis

But the notion that Gunung Padang is the mother of all pyramids – and, according to Hilman, the world’s oldest building – has been dismissed by some as “pseudoarchaeology,”

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Do some IQ data need a ‘public health warning?’ A paper based on a controversial psychologist’s data is retracted

Richard Lynn

A journal has retracted a controversial 2010 article on intelligence and infections that was based on data gathered decades ago by a now-deceased researcher who lost his emeritus status in 2018 after students said his work was racist and sexist.

The article, “Parasite prevalence and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability’, was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, by a group at the University of New Mexico. Their claim, according to the abstract

The worldwide distribution of cognitive ability is determined in part by variation in the intensity of infectious diseases. From an energetics standpoint, a developing human will have difficulty building a brain and fighting off infectious diseases at the same time, as both are very metabolically costly tasks.

Overlaying average national IQ with parasitic stress, they found “robust worldwide” correlations in five of six regions of the globe: 

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