Journals have retracted all but 19 of the 313 tainted papers linked to three of the most notorious fraudsters in science, with only stragglers left in the literature. But editors and publishers have been less diligent when it comes to delivering optimal retraction notices for the affected articles.
That’s the verdict of a new analysis in the journal Anaesthesia, which found that 15% of retraction notices for the affected papers fail fully to meet standards from the Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE). Many lacked appropriate language and requisite watermarks stating that the articles had been removed, and some have vanished from the literature.
Attention Joachim Boldt: The 1990s are calling, and they want their papers back.
The Annals of Thoracic Surgery has retracted two papers from the early 1990s on which Boldt was the first author – bringing the retraction tally for the disgraced German anesthesiologist to 96, by our count. Both articles were found to contain manipulated data.
The first paper, from 1990, was titled “Acute Preoperative Plasmapheresis and Established Blood Conservation Techniques,” and was written when Boldt was on the faculty at Justus-Liebig University, in Giessen.
We’ve found two recent retractions and an expression of concern for Joachim Boldt, former prominent anesthesiologist and currently Retraction Watch leaderboard’s 2nd place titleholder. He now has 94 retractions.
One of the retracted articles contains falsified data, along with a researcher who didn’t agree to be a co-author, according to an investigation by the Justus Liebig University Giessen, where Boldt used to work. The expression of concern is regarding some questionable data. The other new retraction is actually one of 88 papers that a group of editors agreed to retract back in 2011, after they were “unable to verify” approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the studies.
Justus Liebig University in Germany has been investigating concerns that Joachim Boldt, number two on the Retraction Watch Leaderboard and now up to 92 retractions, may have “manipulated” more data than previously believed.
Until now, the vast majority of Boldt’s retractions were thought to have involved inadequate ethics approval. However, new retraction notices for Boldt’s research suggest that there’s evidence the researcher also engaged in significant data manipulation.
The first retraction from the university investigation emerged last year. Two of three new notices cite the investigation specifically, and an informant at the university told us that there are more retractions to come.
Here are the retracted papers that are freshly on the record, starting with an August retraction for a 1991 Anesthesiology paper (cited 37 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge):
Update, 4 p.m. EST, 10/29/14: As a commenter points out, we didn’t quite get this one right. The Boldt paper that has been retracted was not previously retracted for lack of IRB approval. Rather, it was a heretofore unretracted article, from 1996, which German investigators have determined contained faked data. We’ve made edits below using strikethroughs, and have changed the headline to better reflect the content. We apologize for the errors.
We’ve commented before on the fact that we’ve noticed there’s often more to retractions whose stated reason is lack of institutional review board (IRB) approval. We can understand editors’ inclination to act as quickly as possible to issue a retraction, the scientific publishing equivalent of jailing Al Capone for tax evasion. But we appreciate it even more when said editors return to the scene of the crime, as it were, when new important details come out.
Case in point: Anesthesia & Analgesia has amended its retraction of a 2009 1996 study by Joachim Boldt — who with nearly 90 retractions once held the record in that department — based on findings that the data in that paper were fabricated.
The article was titled “Cardiopulmonary bypass priming using a high dose of a balanced hydroxyethyl starch versus an albumin-based priming strategy,” “The effects of albumin versus hydroxyethyl starch solution on cardiorespiratory and circulatory variables in critically ill patient.” had previously been retracted because Boldt had failed to obtain adequate ethics approval for the research. But now comes this, According to the retraction notice from editor in chief Steven Shafer: Continue reading Boldt’s data were fake in 1996 paper
With all the fuss about Yoshitaka Fujii, the current record holder for most retractions, you can be forgiven for forgetting that Joachim Boldt once owned that title, at least for about a year.
Well, Boldt has another retraction, although he’d need to double his tally (which is in the range of 90) to match Fujii’s “impressive” haul.
The new paper is, well, old, having been published in 1996, some 14 years before Boldt’s tribulations began. The article was titled “Influence of different volume therapy regimens on regulators of the circulation in the critically ill.” It appeared in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, and has been cited 45 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
If you wanted to minimize the real-life effects of misconduct, you might note that some of the retractions we cover are in tiny obscure journals hardly anyone reads. But a new meta-analysis and editorial in JAMA today suggests — as a study by Grant Steen did a few years ago — that the risk of patient harm due to scientific misconduct is not just theoretical.
As the editorialists note, hydroxyethyl starches (HES) are “synthetic fluid products used commonly in clinical practice worldwide:”
Synthetic colloids received market approval in the 1960s without evaluation of their efficacy and safety in large phase 3 clinical trials. Subsequent studies reported mixed evidence on their benefits and harms.
It has been a while since we heard about Joachim Boldt, the German anesthesiologist whose 90-odd retractions briefly put him at the top of the heap until Yoshitaka Fujii kicked him off earlier this year.