Norway university committee recommends probe into the country’s most productive researcher

In 2019, Filippo Berto was hailed as Norway’s most productive researcher, publishing a new study on average every two to three days. 

Five years on, a committee appointed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), where Berto, a mechanical engineer, was based until last year, is recommending that the institution carries out an in-depth investigation into his work following a complaint by Per Steineide Refseth, a librarian at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences in Rena. 

Rune Nydal, a philosopher at NTNU who leads the independent research integrity committee that met May 14 partly to discuss the complaint about Berto’s work, told Retraction Watch it is recommending NTNU’s rector conduct an in-depth probe into Berto’s papers and release a public statement on the outcome. 

Continue reading Norway university committee recommends probe into the country’s most productive researcher

My journal was hijacked: an editor’s experience

Sune Dueholm Müller

At the beginning of February 2023, I discovered that the Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems (SJIS) had been hijacked. As editor-in-chief of the publication, I had been contacted by an author confused by receiving both an acceptance letter and a desk rejection for her manuscript. I had rejected the paper because it did not align with our editorial policy. Upon investigation, the acceptance letter turned out to have been issued by cybercriminals attempting to charge her for publication in what she thought was SJIS but was in fact a fraudulent website posing as the journal.

Journal hijacking is a growing problem and a threat to the entire scientific community. Hijacked journals are scam websites that impersonate legitimate journals and attempt to take over their brand. A list including hundreds of these fake sites can be found at the Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker. By stealing the brand, web domain, or the serial number used to identify a publication, cybercriminals try to lure researchers into paying for publications. The problem is in part attributable to increased pressure on researchers to publish their work in journals indexed in Scopus, Elsevier’s abstract and citation database.

Researchers of all experience levels fall prey to such scams. This susceptibility often stems from the tendency to be off guard when communicating with seemingly authentic and trustworthy academic journals, particularly when links to these journals are found on otherwise credible bibliographical databases.

In the case that led to the discovery of the SJIS hijacking, the researcher who was swindled described the experience as harrowing, making her question whom she could trust. She also ran into trouble at her university, which required her to have two publications in Scopus-indexed journals to advance her career. 

Continue reading My journal was hijacked: an editor’s experience

Second paper tied to drug scandal in Norway ski team retracted

Researchers in Norway have retracted a second high-profile exercise paper — again after running afoul of an ethical approval committee.

As part of the 2016 study, the researchers gave athletes asthma medication to measure its effect on signals from the nervous system to the lungs; although the drug appeared to have no detectable effect on the nervous system signals, 45 minutes after getting the drug, athletes (including those without asthma) showed an average slight increase in one measure of lung function.

Annette Birkeland, of The Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees (FEK), told us:

Continue reading Second paper tied to drug scandal in Norway ski team retracted

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

Authors retract paper lacking approval to study asthma in athletes

british-journal-of-sports-medicineThe authors of a 2014 study about asthma in Norwegian athletes have retracted it after realizing they hadn’t obtained proper approval from an ethical committee.

The study’s first and corresponding author of the study in the British Journal of Sports MedicineJulie Stang from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences in Oslo — told us the authors had struggled to obtain ethical approval for the research, but believed the issue had been resolved.

However, earlier this year, a member of an ethical committee wrote an article in the Norwegian press about his concerns regarding the study, which tested the effects of three drugs on top athletes’ breathing. In it, he said the Regional Committees for medical and health professional research ethics (REC) had not approved the study, as members were concerned the presumably healthy athletes were being exposed to drugs used to treat asthma, which could enhance their performance. 

Stang has denied that the study had anything to do with boosting athletic performance.

Stein Evensen, the committee member who wrote the article, declined to comment beyond the published text. So we’ve gotten the kronikk article translated from Norwegian using One Hour Translation. It reads: Continue reading Authors retract paper lacking approval to study asthma in athletes

Structural biology corrections highlight best of the scientific process

Nature_latest-coverIf you need evidence of the value of transparency in science, check out a pair of recent corrections in the structural biology literature.

This past August, researchers led by Qiu-Xing Jiang at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center corrected their study, first published in February 2014 in eLife, of prion-like protein aggregates called MAVS filaments, to which they had ascribed the incorrect “helical symmetry.” In March, Richard Blumberg of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues corrected their 2014 Nature study of a protein complex called CEACAM1/TIM-3, whose structure they had attempted to solve using x-ray crystallography.

In both cases, external researchers were able to download and reanalyze the authors’ own data from public data repositories, making it quickly apparent what had gone wrong and how it needed to be fixed — highlighting the very best of a scientific process that is supposed to be self-correcting and collaborative. Continue reading Structural biology corrections highlight best of the scientific process

Authors lied about ethics approval for study on obesity, depression

cover (1)

Obesity has retracted a study that suggested overweight people may be less depressed than their slimmer counterparts in cultures where fat isn’t stigmatized, after realizing the authors lied about having ethical approval to conduct the research.

The authors claimed their research protocol had been approved by Norwegian and Bangladeshi ethical committees, but, according to the retraction note, part of the study “was conducted without the required approval of the university ethics board.” The journal’s managing editor told us that there is no evidence that there was harm to the study subjects.

Here’s more from the retraction note for “In Bangladesh, overweight individuals have fewer symptoms of depression than nonoverweight individuals:”

Continue reading Authors lied about ethics approval for study on obesity, depression

Correction changes results about genetics of neurological disorder

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.04.13 PM

A paper on the genetics underlying a common neurological disorder has issued a correction that influences the results of the paper.

Genetic Diagnosis of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease in a Population by Next-Generation Sequencing” was published in BioMed Research International, and looked at 81 families with the disease. The researchers identified mutations that might be connected to the disease. The problem, says the correction note, is that the authors classified a couple variants in one patient’s genes as “likely pathogenic,” when their true nature was less clear.

The correction explains the new numbers:

Continue reading Correction changes results about genetics of neurological disorder

PubPeer strikes again: Leukemia paper retracted for image duplications

bbaIn July, a PubPeer commenter called out a paper in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta for image duplication; by September, the paper was retracted for the exact reason detailed in the anonymous comment.

Here’s the notice for “Effect of ST3GAL 4 and FUT 7 on sialyl Lewis X synthesis and multidrug resistance in human acute myeloid leukemia,” a paper initially published in June: Continue reading PubPeer strikes again: Leukemia paper retracted for image duplications

Patient mix-up sinks prenatal supplement paper

This one seems like an honest mistake: a paper on dietary supplements during pregnancy has been retracted based on an error in data recording.

In the BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth paper, “Folic acid supplementation, dietary folate intake during pregnancy and risk for spontaneous preterm delivery: a prospective observational cohort study,” women for whom the researchers had no data on folic acid supplementation were classified as taking no supplements. Despite the error, the authors claim the overall conclusion remains the same: taking folic acid supplements didn’t protect women from preterm deliveries.

Here’s the retraction notice: Continue reading Patient mix-up sinks prenatal supplement paper