Although the reason for the retractions may sound odd, the editor, Minvydas Ragulskis, told Retraction Watch he was concerned an author had engaged in citation manipulation. Specifically, Ragulskis explained that the majority of the citations came from papers at a 2017 conference on which one of the authors, Magd Abdel Wahab, was chair—raising suspicion that he had asked conference presenters to cite his work.
Almost three-quarters of papers that cited Wahab’s work originated from the conference, which “is large enough to assume a high probability for citation manipulation,” Ragulskis said. (Wahab, Professor and Chair of Applied Mechanics at Ghent University in Belgium, was not a co-author on the conference papers that cited his work.)
Who will admit to keeping poor records, gifting authorship, or even more obvious forms of misconduct such as plagiarism? Simon Godecharle at University of Leuven and his colleagues asked 2000 scientists from academia and industry in Belgium, and reported their findings in a recent paper for Science and Engineering Ethics. We spoke to Godecharle about the fact that most respondents admitted to engaging in at least one of the 22 items designated as misconduct — and why he thinks people in academia were more likely to ‘fess up than industry scientists.
Retraction Watch: You didn’t limit misconduct to fraud and plagiarism, and instead included problematic behaviors such as cutting corners to save time, gift authorship, and poor record-keeping. Still, you showed that 71% of respondents from academia and 61% of respondents from industry admitted to engaging in at least one of the 22 forms of misconduct. Did those numbers surprise you?
Bollen, the paper’s corresponding author, told Retraction Watch that one instance of image duplication, the inclusion of a gel-band from an unrelated experiment to represent a control, was “worrisome” but easily explainable:
May was quite a month forRik Torfs, the rector of a prominent university in Belgium. On May 9, Torfs lost his re-election campaign for rector of KU Leuven by a slim margin—out of more than 2100 votes, he lost by amere 48. And just 20 days later, on May 29, Torfs wrotehis final column for the Flemish daily newspaperDe Standaard — whom he believes was at least partly to blame for his election loss.
A high-profile pediatric oncologist quietly left his former institution in 2015 after it concluded his clinical trials had been affected by significant “administrative problems.” But now the results of the university’s investigations and what followed have become public, after a paper in Belgium published a series of news reports last month.
We’re still hazy on some details of the case. The recent news reports allege that Van Gool started some clinical trials without proper ethical approvals and informed consent, and may have misled patients and their families about the benefits and potential side effects of his experimental treatment. Meanwhile, the CEO University Hospitals Leuven (UZLeuven) told us that Stefaan Van Gool, who had appointments at both the hospital and the university (KULeuven), left the hospital in 2015 as a result of administrative problems, but did not disclose the specific nature of these issues.
For the past 15 years or so, Van Gool has been developing and studying a vaccine to treat various cancers, initially at UZLeuven and, after September 2015, at a private clinic in Germany. Today, patients travel to his private clinic from all over the world and pay tens of thousands of dollars to receive the vaccine. But according to Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard, several years ago, UZLeuven began investigating his research and patient care practices. The outcome of these investigations was kept private until last month, after De Standaard published its reports.
Marc Decramer, the CEO of UZLeuven, confirmed that Van Gool left the hospital in 2015 and the university in 2016,but did not provide the specific reasons for his exit: