It’s a mind-boggling story: A United Airlines pilot claims to be a cardiologist and was eagerly sought after for medical conferences at which he taught doctors teamwork. He shared millions in grants, according to the Associated Press. But as the AP reports, William Hamman wasn’t a cardiologist at all, having never even finished medical school.
Hamman’s career seems to be collapsing, now that he resigned from his post as a researcher and educator at Royal Oak, Michigan’s William Beaumont Hospital once the hospital found out he had misled them. (Just last year, Beaumont touted a $150,000 grant Hamman nabbed with a colleague, Marc Abramson at Improbable Research notes.) United has also grounded him.
The storyline is reminiscent of 2002’s Catch Me If You Can, in which Frank Abagnale Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) forges millions of dollars’ worth of checks around the world, in the process impersonating a Pan Am pilot and a doctor. In Hamman’s case, there are apparently no questions over whether his pilot credentials are legit, according to the AP.
There’s a retraction in the issue of Neurology published this week. In a nutshell, a group of researchers had reported earlier this year that they had identified a genetic mutation potentially responsible for a rare neurological disorder called the filamin myopathy. But when another group tried to replicate those results, they found that the original tests were probably contaminated by a “pseudogene.”
In a letter from the second group:
Kono et al reported the effects of a novel c.8107del mutation in the filamin C gene (FLNC). We reviewed their results and concluded that the reported mutation was mistaken identity.
If a paper appears online but then is withdrawn — a kinder, gentler version of retracted — before it is “officially” published, did anyone hear it fall?
Oops, mixed metaphors again. And scare quotes! The latter, however, are because publishers seem to have varying opinions of whether or not something that is freely available online is published. And that has ramifications for whether you can retract a paper like that.
The authors of a 2009 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have retracted the paper, which found a particular molecule could make breast tumors respond to a drug to which they’re not normally susceptible.
The paper — which has been cited five times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — was the subject of a fair amount of press coverage, although the molecule is not yet in clinical trials. In a Reuters story, lead author Caroline Ford said of the alleged tamoxifen-sensitizing compound, Foxy-5:
“It flips the switch basically,” Ford said in a telephone interview. “It makes breast cancer cells respond to tamoxifen in women who cannot be treated with the drug,” she added. “If you don’t have that molecule you can’t get tamoxifen because there is no target.”
Over the past few weeks, you’d have been forgiven for wondering if the name of this blog should be “Plagiarism Watch” instead of Retraction Watch. Just take a look at all of the recent plagiarism cases:
That last example inspired this poll. When we brought an example of likely plagiarism by the same author to the attention of one journal editor, he was nonplussed. “[A]s all editors know there are rarely absolutely clear cut issues in which the line is unequivocally drawn in the sand,” said the editor-in-chief of Biomaterials, David Williams of Wake Forest. (Williams also suggested that the relative obscurity of the plagiarizers’ institution, and of the journal where they published, meant the case wasn’t worth investigating.)
Reason: During the second revision of the manuscript, the authors modified Figure 1 (changing the label from “Israel” to “Historical Palestine”), apparently with the goal of inserting a political statement into a scientific journal article. The authors did not inform the editors or the publisher of this change in their manuscript. As such, the authors have not lived up to the standards of trust and integrity that form the foundation of the peer-review process. The Editors-in-Chief take a very strong view on this matter and, hence, the retraction of the article from publication in Agricultural Water Management.
One of the paper’s authors, Jatinder Ahluwalia, hadn’t signed the retraction, and the notice referred to “Supplementary Information” that hadn’t yet been made available. Today, University College London (UCL) posted that supplementary information, which was the report of a panel that investigated charges of research misconduct against Ahluwalia. That report fills in a lot of details about what preceded the retraction.
If a plagiarist plagiarizes from an author who herself has plagiarized, do we call it a wash and go for a beer?
That scenario is precisely what Steven L. Shafer found himself facing recently. Shafer, editor-in-chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia (A&A), learned that authors of a 2008 case report in his publication had lifted two-and-a-half paragraphs of text from a 2004 paper published in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia.
A contrite retraction letter, which appears in the December issue of A&A, from the lead author, Sushma Bhatnagar, of New Delhi, India, called the plagiarism “unintended” and apologized for the incident. Straightforward enough.