How much do oil spills cost? Controversy over paper oozes into larger debate

622871A controversy surrounding a 2014 Journal of Environmental Management paper has tapped into a larger scientific and economic issue — how to tally up the damage after an oil spill.

The original paper, called “A revealed preference approach to valuing non-market recreational fishing losses from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” estimates the 2010 explosion of the BP-owned drilling rig cost the Gulf-Coast recreational saltwater angler fishing industry alone nearly $600 million. But Kenneth Train, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley has questioned the methods used — both publicly, in a comment that was published in the Journal of Environmental Management, and privately through personal calls with the authors. The first author says Train asked them to retract the paper; he denies ever making that request. While Train, in his comment, says he doubts the accuracy of the $600 million estimate, he does not provide an alternative number.

Train was hired to review the study by BP, which owned the well that spilled millions of oil barrels into the Gulf.

Calculating the cost of oil spills is controversial. Since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, Continue reading How much do oil spills cost? Controversy over paper oozes into larger debate

Cancer Cell paper under investigation following anonymous queries on PubPeer

cancer cellA Cancer Cell paper that caused a flurry of activity on the website PubPeer is under investigation, after the last author announced on the site that he’d requested a correction from the journal.

The 2012 paper sparked a lively dialogue last month on the post-publication discussion site, as commenters questioned Western blot images in which some bands appeared to be duplicates. The last author responded, noting he had alerted the journal to a “mishap,” and a correction would be forthcoming. However, some commenters remained unsatisfied, and questioned why the correction was taking so long to appear, as well as the explanation for what went wrong.

A spokesman from Cancer Cell confirmed to us the paper is under investigation: Continue reading Cancer Cell paper under investigation following anonymous queries on PubPeer

Five years after a retraction, company’s stock is up more than 500%

wntloggawntresearchwebny1Is ethical behavior good for business?

Five years ago this month, Swedish pharmaceutical company WntResearch immediately notified shareholders when authors retracted a 2009 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) paper on a potential cancer therapy that was key to the company’s business.

At the time, the company’s decision to disclose the retraction hurt its finances, as WntResearch delayed its planned initial public offering for three weeks. It also offered investors and shareholders the opportunity to withdraw their shares of WntResearch stock.

But, aside from one of the paper’s co-authors, “No one did that,” Nils Brünner, WntResearch’s CEO, told us. Since the company’s IPO on December 17, 2010, its stock price has increased from Continue reading Five years after a retraction, company’s stock is up more than 500%