In the fall of 2015, out-of-work stem cell biologist Mavi Camarasa decided she had waited long enough. It had been three years since she and a colleague were, best they could tell, the first to successfully correct the most common cystic fibrosis mutation in stem cells derived from a patient.
But her former lab director, Daniel Bachiller, had blocked her from writing even a short report, she told Retraction Watch:
He said we are not submitting at this time, wait until [the project is] complete. “Wait, wait,” is the only answer I’d had from him ever.
Though she’d left the Spanish regenerative medicine lab in 2013 to take care of an ailing parent and had mostly been scooped by another group in April of that year, Camarasa thought she still might be able to get something out of the project. She hatched a plan to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse — an already accepted manuscript where all he would have to do is attach his name at the last minute.
But this story didn’t turn out exactly how she’d hoped — and illustrates how the pressure to publish can affect researchers at different levels in the lab.
All too often, when an article is flagged by a journal that’s concerned about the findings, the notice lingers in limbo, leaving readers unclear whether or not to rely on the findings. One chemistry paper’s two-year stint in purgatory ended last month, when the journal lifted its expression of concern (EOC) and replaced it with a correction.
The journal chose to swap the 2015 EOC with a correction after the authors addressed its concerns in a follow-up paper, also published in Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry.
The journal’s executive editor Richard Kelly provided further insights about what happened:
Last month, a publisher announced that one of its editors had resigned, following accusations he’d asked authors to cite particular papers, boosting his profile and that of journals where he worked. The publisher declined to name the editor. But when an anonymous report began circulating about the incident, the publisher named the researcher: Artemi Cerdà, based at the Universitat de València.
We spoke with Cerdà, who asserted repeatedly that he had not forced authors to add citations to their papers, and was being unfairly accused by journals who had to explain why their impact factors had risen dramatically:
An earth science journal has asked an editor to resign after it was revealed he had been manipulating citations at multiple journals.
Artemi Cerdà had already agreed to step down temporarily from Land Degradation & Development after the publisher, Wiley, was alerted that Cerdà had resigned from other journals for citation manipulation. In a new statement, the journal announces that Cerdà’s resignation has become permanent.
Susana Gonzalez, a rising star in stem cell research, has had a rough year.
In addition to being fired from her former research institute (which she is now appealing), one of her grants (totaling nearly 2 million Euros) was suspended. Most recently, she has received two new retractions in Nature Communications over figure duplications and missing raw data. By our count, she has a total of three retractions.
Both of the new notices say the papers contained figures duplicated in other papers by Gonzalez, and neither includes Gonzalez among the list of co-authors who agreed to the retraction.
After an international group of physicists agreed that the findings of their 2015 paper were in doubt, they simply couldn’t agree on how to explain what went wrong. Apparently tired of waiting, the journal retracted the paper anyway.
The resulting notice doesn’t say much, for obvious reasons. Apparently, some additional information came to light which caused the researchers to question the results and model. Although the five authors thought a retraction was the right call, they could not agree on the language in the notice.
Journals have retracted two papers after they were flagged by a pseudonymous blogger, who suspected all had copied text from other sources.
What’s more, a third paper seems to have simply disappeared from the journal’s website, after the blogger, Neuroskeptic, alerted the journal to the text overlap.
Neuroskeptic became suspicious about the three unrelated papers – about food chemistry, heart disease, and the immune system and cancer – after scanning them with plagiarism software. After alerting the journals, two issued formal retractions for the papers – but neither specifies plagiarism as the reason.
The retractions were the result of a larger project, Neuroskeptic told us: