Author blames retraction on ‘Chinese censorship’

Thomas Ameyaw-Brobbey

A former assistant professor of international relations at Yibin University in Sichuan, China, said he was fired from his job and “forced” to retract a paper on COVID-19 because the article did not “paint a good picture of the Chinese government.”

In the 2021 paper, Thomas Ameyaw-Brobbey, now an adjunct lecturer at Accra Business School in Ghana and an adjunct research fellow at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College, discussed the negative effects of the pandemic on the global public opinion of Chinese leadership and how the outbreak fostered  an “unfavorable image” of China.

After the article appeared in the Journal of International Studies, authorities at Yibin University held several meetings with Ameyaw-Brobbey asking him to explain the paper and why he used a dataset of public opinion in the United States that was “likely to be biased towards China,” he said.

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Food science journal retracts 10 papers for compromised peer review

Farhan Saeed

A research group based in Pakistan has had 10 of their papers retracted from Wiley’s Food Science & Nutrition based on flaws in the peer review process.

According to the notices, which were identical for each article, “the editorial office found unambiguous evidence that the manuscript was accepted solely based on compromised and insufficient reviewer reports.” 

The following articles have been retracted: 

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Finland group downgrades 60 journals

A panel of scholars in Finland has downgraded 60 journals in their quality rating system, following months of review and feedback from researchers.

The Finnish Publication Forum (JUFO) classifies and rates journals and other scholarly publications to “support the quality assessment of academic research,” according to its website. JUFO considers the level of transparency, the number of experts on a publication’s editorial board, and the standard of peer review to make its assessment, which academics can use to determine the credibility of a given title or its publisher.

JUFO’s classification ranges from 3, for “supreme-level” publications, to 1, which still counts as legitimate publication. Level 0 means the journal is excluded from the ranking, which may dissuade researchers from publishing with them, James Heathers, a scientific sleuth said. Finland’s university funding model relies on JUFO as a publication quality metric. 

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Paper recommending vitamin D for COVID-19 retracted four years after expression of concern

Michael Holick

A paper that purported to find vitamin D could reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms has been retracted from PLOS ONE, four years after the journal issued an expression of concern about the research.

The article, “Vitamin D sufficiency, a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D at least 30 ng/mL reduced risk for adverse clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19 infection,” appeared online September 25, 2020. Michael F. Holick, a professor of medicine at Boston University and a proponent of the use of vitamin D, was the last author among a group of other researchers from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran. 

Soon after publication, the paper gained traction on platforms like Twitter (now X) as evidence vitamin D could treat COVID-19 symptoms.

Amidst this discussion, Nick Brown, a science integrity researcher at Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden, and Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, a research fellow at the University of Wollongong, Australia, pointed out potential flaws with the work, including the small sample size of the study and a lack of patient information such as how the patients died.

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‘Exhausting’: Author finds another’s name on an Elsevier book chapter she wrote

Ina Vandebroek

When Ina Vandebroek read the latest edition of Pharmacognosy, an Elsevier textbook to which she contributed a chapter for the 2017 edition, she was shocked. Although she had declined to write for the 2023 update, her chapter was still in the book, under a different author’s name.

“When I first saw this, it was like somebody hit me on the head with a hammer and everything that I’d worked for all my life was put into question,” Vandebroek, an ethnobotanist and senior research fellow at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Kingston, Jamaica, told Retraction Watch. “This shakes my foundation of what I think science should stand for.”

The situation arose when one of the textbook’s editors, Simone Ann Marie Badal, a researcher at UWI, asked if Vandebroek wanted to revise her chapter for the new edition. Vandebroek declined, assuming her chapter would be omitted from the book.

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Brain tumor researchers lose second paper as UCSF investigates

Russell Pieper

A research group at the University of California, San Francisco, under investigation for potential misconduct has had a second paper retracted.

The group, led by Russell O. Pieper, director of basic science at the UCSF Brain Tumor Center and vice-chairman of the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery, previously lost a 2021 paper in Science Translational Medicine after Elisabeth Bik and other commenters on PubPeer posted concerns about some of the images in the article. 

The newly retracted paper, “Phosphoglycerate Mutase 1 Activates DNA Damage Repair via Regulation of WIP1 Activity,” appeared in Cell Reports in 2020. It has been cited 25 times, according to Clarivate’s Web of Science. 

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Editor and authors refuse to share data of paper containing alleged statistical errors

Olivia Robertson

Last July, David Allison and his students identified what they considered to be fatal errors in a paper that had appeared in Elsevier’s Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.

The authors of the article, led by Sergio Di Molfetta, of University of Bari Aldo Moro in Bari, Italy, used a cluster randomized controlled trial, but did an improper statistical analysis, according to Allison’s group. 

In August, Allison, dean of Indiana University’s School of Public Health in Bloomington, and his colleagues requested the authors’ data.

Then they hit a wall.

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Elsevier journal issues 73 expressions of concern for manipulated peer review

An Elsevier journal has expressed concern over 73 papers with evidence of manipulated peer-review and rigged citations.  

Last July, we reported that Masoud Afrand, a former member of the editorial board of Engineering Analysis with Boundary Elements, had been linked to paper mill activity. At the time, Alexander Cheng, the journal’s editor in chief said Afrand had been asked to step down due to “unethical publication conduct.” (For other coverage of the journal since then, see this post by Maarten van Kampen and Alexander Magazinov.)

Cheng told Retraction Watch the journal is investigating the “temporary” expressions of concern. “Findings will be published, and actions will be taken, once investigations are completed,” he said.

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Climate paper retracted from Science over miscalculations

The authors of a paper published in Science have retracted their article following the discovery of calculation errors.

The article,“Drought sensitivity in mesic forests heightens their vulnerability to climate change” by Robert Heilmayr of the University of California, Santa Barbara and colleagues found that in drier areas, trees are less sensitive to drought and in hotter regions with a wet climate, tree growth is expected to decrease.

It has been cited once, according to Clarivate’s Web of Science. Since its publication in December, the article has been downloaded 4,641 times, posted by 154 X users, and written about by 20 news outlets and press release sites.

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MDPI backtracks on claim that a thesis can’t be plagiarized

The publisher MDPI has reversed itself on one reason it said a paper does not need to be retracted following allegations the authors had plagiarized a thesis.

As we reported earlier this week, the editorial office at Nutrients told Solange Saxby, a postdoctoral research fellow at Dartmouth Health in Lebanon, NH, in May that it didn’t consider apparent overlap between a 2023 paper and her 2020 thesis plagiarism “because thesis materials are not classified as prior publications.”

Yesterday, MDPI did a 180, blaming a “mismatch in their internal communications” for the responses Saxby received.

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