Caught Our Notice: How can a publication be a surprise to a corresponding author?

Via Wikimedia

Title: Umbelliferone reverses depression-like behavior in chronic unpredictable mild stress-induced mice via RIP140/NF-κB pathway

What Caught Our Attention: One would think that the corresponding author would have to be aware that they are submitting an article for publication — but apparently not, as this retraction demonstrates. The 2016 paper listed two corresponding authors — along with both of their emails and mailing addresses — but according to the retraction notice, one of them did not give consent “in any form” to the publication. Often, we see authors unaware of the use of their name when their email has been faked, but here, it’s possible the journal simply relied on the other corresponding author for all correspondence. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: How can a publication be a surprise to a corresponding author?

Caught Our Notice: What if you find out a paper relied on expired herbal supplement?

Via Wikimedia

Title: Exploration of inhibitory mechanisms of curcumin in lung cancer metastasis using a miRNA- transcription factor-target gene network

What Caught Our Attention: The researchers were studying how curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric, can inhibit lung cancer metastases. But upon learning that the primary material had been expired at the time of testing (and realizing they were unable to repeat their experiments), the researchers pulled their paper. Expiration dates do have safety factors built in, but attention to such details is imperative in research.  Continue reading Caught Our Notice: What if you find out a paper relied on expired herbal supplement?

Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched

Via Wikimedia

Title: Molecular Characterization and Biological Activity of Interferon-α in Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

What Caught Our Attention: Soon after the paper appeared, the journal was alerted to the fact its findings were at odds with others in the field. When the editor approached the authors, everything fell apart: The authors couldn’t repeat the experiments, and “were also unsure of the molecular probes that were used in the study.” While it isn’t unusual to have doubts about data — since since research is a process of experimentation — it is odd not to know how your experiment was conducted. The paper was retracted less than two months after it was published. The manuscript was accepted two months after it was submitted in early May, theoretically giving reviewers enough time to catch these issues (along with the authors’ failure to cite relevant papers).  

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched

Caught Our Notice: To know if someone’s been vaccinated, just asking isn’t enough

Via Wikimedia

Title: Hepatitis B Virus Infection in Preconception Period Among Women of Reproductive Age in Rural China – A Nationwide Study

What Caught Our Attention: When researchers set out to study hepatitis B among women in rural China, and they wanted to know if the women had been vaccinated against the virus, they simply asked them. While that can sometimes be useful, apparently it was a mistake in this case, as the reliance on patient memory injected too much doubt into these findings.  Continue reading Caught Our Notice: To know if someone’s been vaccinated, just asking isn’t enough

Caught Our Notice: Concerns about image in 2008 paper prompt editorial notice

Via Wikimedia

Title: Characterization of a novel epigenetically-silenced, growth-suppressive gene, ADAMTS9, and its association with lymph node metastases in nasopharyngeal carcinoma

What caught our attention: One year ago, a PubPeer user suggested an image from a 2008 paper looked similar to one from another paper. After the authors stated their belief in the soundness of the image, without providing the originals, the journal issued only an Expression of Concern for the paper. Some journals have issued retractions for lack of original data, some have issued corrections, and even fewer have published editorial notices. Expressions of concern usually indicate that some type of final resolution will be announced, but in reality, a significant proportion remain unresolved for years. Based on the wording of this notice, it may be around for a while. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Concerns about image in 2008 paper prompt editorial notice

Caught Our Notice: An “absolutely perfect retraction”

Via Wikimedia

When Retraction Watch began in 2010, our co-founders Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus quickly realized they couldn’t keep up with the hundreds of retractions that appeared each year.  And the problem has only gotten worse — although we’ve added staff, the number of retractions issued each year has increased dramatically. According to our growing database, more than 1300 retractions were issued last year (and that doesn’t include expressions of concern and errata). So to get new notices in front of readers more quickly, we’ve started a new feature called “Caught our Notice,” where we highlight a recent notice that stood out from the others. If you have any information about what happened, feel free to contact us at retractionwatchteam@gmail.com.

Title: Skeletal muscle-specific CPT1 deficiency elevates lipotoxic intermediates but preserves insulin sensitivity

What caught our attention:  Continue reading Caught Our Notice: An “absolutely perfect retraction”

A journal printed a sharp critique of a paper it had published. If only it had checked with the authors first.

In 2016, researchers published a paper showing that an RNA molecule may be overactive in breast tumor tissue. But after reading the paper, three biologists believed the data supported the opposite conclusion.

What happened after that is a tale of misunderstandings and unnecessarily bruised feelings. We’ve seen plenty of cases where researchers ignore criticism, which at first glance seemed to be the case here. But upon closer inspection, it wasn’t. Continue reading A journal printed a sharp critique of a paper it had published. If only it had checked with the authors first.

Board member resigns from journal over handling of paper accused of plagiarism

A biologist is crying foul at a journal’s decision to correct (and not retract) a paper he claims plagiarized his work — and one of his colleagues has resigned from the journal’s editorial board as a result.

The 2016 paper, published by Scientific Reports, is an application of a previously published algorithm designed to better identify regulatory sequences in DNA. The three authors, based at the Shenzhen campus of the Harbin Institute of Technology, used the technique to identify recombination spots in DNA. They called it SVM-gkm.

On April 2, Michael Beer of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore notified the editors of Scientific Reports that he believed the paper had plagiarized his work. Despite Beer’s efforts, the journal ultimately decided to issue a correction notice, which cites “errors” and the authors’ failure to credit Beer’s work. That isn’t good enough for Beer — nor one of his colleagues at Johns Hopkins, who resigned from the journal’s editorial board saying “the recent affair with Mike Beer’s work being plagiarized did not impress me.

Continue reading Board member resigns from journal over handling of paper accused of plagiarism

Authors retract plant biology paper after they realized sample was contaminated

Plant biologists from China have retracted a 2013 paper in The Plant Cell after discovering that some of the plant material used was “inadvertently contaminated.”

According to the retraction notice, the authors believe the contamination affects the main conclusion of their paper. Continue reading Authors retract plant biology paper after they realized sample was contaminated

20 years of retractions in China: More of them, and more misconduct

Lei Lei

After reviewing nearly 20 years of retractions from researchers based in China, researchers came up with some somewhat unsurprising (yet still disheartening) findings: The number of retractions has increased (from zero in 1997 to more than 150 in 2016), and approximately 75% were due to some kind of misconduct. (You can read more details in the paper, published this month in Science and Engineering Ethics.) We spoke with first author Lei Lei, based in the School of Foreign Languages at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, about what he thinks can be done to improve research integrity in his country.

Retraction Watch: With “Lack of Improvement” right in the title (“Lack of Improvement in Scientific Integrity: An Analysis of WoS Retractions by Chinese Researchers (1997-2016)”), you sound disappointed with your findings.  What findings did you expect — or at least hope — to find, and what are your reactions to the results you did uncover?

Continue reading 20 years of retractions in China: More of them, and more misconduct