What Caught Our Attention: Usually, an Expression of Concern (EOC) offers general language about “concerns regarding the validity of the data” or “concerns regarding the integrity of the study.” Here the language is anything but, saying that 54 Western blot bands within three figures have problems such as “visible pasted joints,” “square border,” and numerous “appear to be the same band.” According to the notice, the authors have not responded to requests for the original blots, so the editors are allowing the article to remain intact, choosing instead “to alert readers to these issues and allow them to arrive at their own conclusions regarding the figures.” Continue reading Caught Our Notice: 54 problems in three scientific images equals one expression of concern
What Caught Our Attention: In the span of 48 hours, PLOS ONE retracted two papers this month that were co-authored by Bo Yu, based at Key Laboratories of Education Ministry for Myocardial Ischemia Mechanism and Treatment and The Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in China. Both notices cite multiple duplications and errors, and conclude:
A BMJ journal has retracted a 2017 paper that made a false claim about the clinical trial in question.
The Acupuncture in Medicine paper reported the results of a clinical trial about the impact of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine on stroke, gathered from one center. However, in November, the editors of the journal discovered that the authors had completed the trial at three centers, and had already published the data in Scientific Reports in 2016. The authors say the duplication and misrepresentation of the data stemmed from “confusion and misunderstanding.” Continue reading Authors claim clinical trial data came from one center. It came from three.
Following a massive editorial protest, Scientific Reports is admitting its handling of a disputed paper was “insufficient and inadequate,” and has agreed to retract it.
The 2016 paper was initially corrected by the journal, after a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, Michael Beer, accused it of lifting some of his earlier work. After we covered the story, nearly two dozen Hopkins researchers threatened to resign from the journal’s editorial board if the journal didn’t retract the paper — and many followed through with that threat after the journal reaffirmed its initial decision. In response, the journal said it would assemble a “senior editorial committee” to review its decision-making.
That committee, it appears, has determined that the journal erred in its initial decision. According to a statement from the journal provided to Retraction Watch:
A pharmacy journal has retracted a 2017 cancer paper after determining that the lead author forged her co-author’s signature.
Alain Li Wan Po, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, told Retraction Watch that, after discovering the forgery, the journal lost confidence in “the integrity of the whole report,” and decided to retract it:
Our judgment was that if an author is willing to forge a signature, we cannot be sure of the integrity of the whole report and decided on the retraction.
According to Po, the paper’s lead author, Yan Wang, objected to the retraction because “she maintained that the data were accurate.” So the editors retracted the paper without her approval — but with the agreement of the author Jatinder Lamba, whose name was forged.
How did the journal discover the forged signature?
What Caught Our Attention: When a reader noticed that six panels in one figure from a 2013 paper looked a little fishy, the authors decided to take a closer look. Following an internal investigation, the authors learned that a laboratory technician had manipulated the panels after realizing some of the original data had been lost. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: When data went missing, lab tech filled in the gaps
What Caught Our Attention: Two articles by different groups of authors recently suffered from the same (fatal) flaw: A poor literature review. The article, “Whole-Genome De Novo Sequencing of the Lignin-Degrading Wood Rot Fungus Phanerochaete chrysosporium (ATCC 20696),” claimed to have sequenced a strain already sequenced in 2004 and published in a well-cited article. According to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, the 2004 article was cited 474 times before the now-retracted article was published. And that 2004 article appeared in a highly-cited journal, Nature Biotechnology. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Doesn’t anyone do a literature review any more?
What Caught Our Attention: After an expression of concern (EOC) is published in a journal, the usual procedure is to either publish a subsequent correction or retraction — or, unfortunately, leave it sit ad infinitum. But apparently, there’s another option. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Unusual — journal flags paper for concerns, then updates them
For some of the papers, the issues went beyond the single image. According to the retraction notice, several papers contained other duplicated images, as well as “overlapping text.” The notice, published in October 2017 in Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention (APJCP), is essentially a letter PLOS ONE wrote to several journals, informing them of the issues in the eight papers, all published between 2014 and 2016. The letter mentions that one of the papers—a 2016 analysis in Korean Journal of Physiology (KJPP)—had already been retracted earlier this year. One author of the retracted KJPP paper confessed to using a company to prepare and submit the manuscript. Continue reading One image was duplicated in eight papers. Yes, eight.
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?