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.
The article was written by U. M. McHugh, of University Hospital in Galway, Ireland, and Steven Yentis, a consultant anaesthetist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London. Yentis was editor of Anaesthesia during the three scandals and had a first-hand view of two of the investigations. He also is the editor who unleashed anesthetist and self-trained statistician John Carlisle on the Fujii papers to see how likely the Japanese researcher’s data were to be valid (answer: not very likely). Continue reading When it comes to retracting papers by the world’s most prolific scientific fraudsters, journals have room for improvement
Another domino has fallen for the infamous and prolific former anesthesiologist Scott Reuben. This time it’s a retraction for a letter to the editor that cites one of his since-retracted papers.
The letter, published in 2001, argues that local anesthesia is a “safe, reliable, inexpensive, and practical alternative to the use of epidural, spinal, or general anesthesia” for outpatient knee surgery. But to support his point, he uses one of his papers that has since been retracted for data fabrication.
The note from Anesthesia & Analgesia explains:
Continue reading Scott Reuben notches 25th retraction, for a letter to the editor
In yet more evidence that retracted studies continue to accrue citations, a new paper has shown that nearly half of anesthesiologist Scott Reuben’s papers have been cited five years after being retracted, and only one-fourth of citations correctly note the retraction.
According to the new paper, in Science and Engineering Ethics: Continue reading Half of anesthesiology fraudster’s papers continue to be cited years after retractions
As we — and others — have written, retracted articles don’t necessarily creep off to some little island somewhere never to be heard from again. After all, the electronic versions of about a third of retracted papers aren’t marked as retracted. Sometimes, like Napoleon, those papers return from exile to wreak havoc: They get cited as if they had never been retracted.
To wit: The Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology has published a letter to the editor regarding a 2012 article by a group of Italian researchers. The topic of the paper in question was “Perioperative pregabalin for postoperative pain control and quality of life after major spinal surgery.”
That happens to have been an area of interest for one Scott Reuben, a Massachusetts anesthesiologist and pain specialist turned federal inmate who was, Continue reading After retracted study’s cited, editors ask, “time to add scientiﬁc integrity to the downside of print on paper?”
In the beginning, there was Scott Reuben.
Well, not quite. Reuben, a Massachusetts anesthesiologist who fabricated data and briefly topped our list of most-retracted authors, didn’t invent research fraud, although he did spend six months in federal prison for his crimes. But his case was in no small measure responsible for the birth of this blog, and, well, the rest of human history that followed.
Although Reuben’s retractions are behind him now — his count ends at 22 — and other scientists, including two anesthesiologists, Joachim Boldt and Yoshitaka Fujii, have or likely soon will dramatically eclipsed his mark, a new paper has revisited his publications with an eye toward seeing if they could identify statistical evidence of data manipulation. It’s the same kind of effort that Ed Yong highlighted as noteworthy about the Dirk Smeesters case, which we covered yesterday and which involved an anonymous statistically inclined whistleblower.
Before we get to whether there was evidence of such manipulation Continue reading Is post-hoc statistical analysis the new fraud detection tool? A new review looks at fraudster Reuben’s work
Sometimes redundancy — the topic of our last post — is a failure of editors to adequately vet a manuscript. Other times, the blame falls more squarely on the authors.
Consider: In the August 2010 issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, a highly regarded specialty journal, five researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, led by Andrew Ochroch, made a remarkable confession.
Their article in the May issue of A&A on ventilation of patients recovering from bariatric surgery plagiarized a 2009 paper in a competing publication, Anesthesiology — written by the same group:
We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate and unacceptable intellectual overlap and self-plagiarism of our paper … published in Anesthesiology.
Sincere apologies are better, we suppose, than insincere ones. But, never mind. They go on: Continue reading Redundancy, redux: Anesthesia journal retracts obesity paper in self-plagiarism case
Post by Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus
The unfolding drama of Anil Potti — a Duke researcher who posed as a Rhodes Scholar and appears to have invented key statistical analyses in a study of how breast cancer responds to chemotherapy — has sent ripples of angst through the cancer community. Potti’s antics prompted editors of The Lancet Oncology to issue an “expression of concern” — a Britishism that might be better expressed as “Holy Shit!” — about the validity of a 2007 paper in their journal by Potti and others.
Unlike newspapers, which strive for celerity as much as accuracy, science journals have the luxury of time. Thorough vetting, through editorial boards, peer reviewers and other filters, is the coin of the realm.
And yet mistakes happen. Sometimes these slips are merely technical, requiring nothing more than an erratum notice calling attention to a backwards figure or an incorrect address for reprints. Less often but far more important are the times when the blunders require that an entire article be pulled. For a glossary of the spectrum between erratum and retraction — including expression of concern — see this piece, commissioned by one of us, Ivan, while he was at The Scientist.
Retractions are born of many mothers. Fraud is the most titillating reason, and mercifully the most rare, but when it happens the results can be devastating. Consider the case of Scott Reuben, a prodigiously dishonest anesthesiologist whose fabrications led to the retraction of more than a score of papers and deeply rattled an entire medical specialty. (One of us, Adam, broke that story.)
So why write a blog on retractions? Continue reading Why write a blog about retractions?