Today, the committee released a report of its findings, along with several recommendations. Among them are for all UK universities to “establish a national Research Integrity Committee to provide a means of verifying that university investigations into research misconduct are handled appropriately.”
Norman Lamb, chair of the committee, said in a statement:
While most universities publish an annual report on research integrity, six years from signing a Concordat which recommends doing so it is not yet consistent across the sector. It’s not a good look for the research community to be dragging its heels on this, particularly given research fraud can quite literally become a matter of life and death.
After he left Liverpool, Antoine took a position at the University of Edinburgh. However, the faculty page is now blank, and a spokesperson told Retraction Watch he is “no longer employed by the University”:
Transparency begins …. with a T, as Ali G once said. That seems to be extent of the University of Liverpool’s commitment to openness, at least in the handling of an ongoing misconduct investigation at the UK institution.
We know this much: The school in late 2017 launched an inquiry into one of its scientists — apparently someone involved in liver research. The investigators concluded that the employee, who has since left the institution, had indeed committed research misconduct, according to a statement from the university.
The problem is, that’s all we know at this point. The university is refusing to name the researcher, identify any affected papers or shed any other light on the matter. The only salient facts in the statement are that the work involves:
Six months ago, the media was ablaze with the findings of a new paper, showing that nearly six percent of cancer cases are caused, at least in part, by obesity and diabetes. But this week, the journal retracted that paper — and replaced it with a revised version.
The new paper doesn’t change the main findings much — the share of all cancers attributable to diabetes and obesity changed from 5.6% to 5.7%, which wouldn’t change any headlines about the original paper. But soon after the paper was published, a group of researchers noticed the authors’ mistake — which was significant enough to prompt the journal to retract the paper entirely, and swap it with a new one.
What Caught Our Attention: Two days ago, the news organization Reuters mysteriously withdrew a 2014 story about the firing of four people from now-defunct oil company Afren, including its CEO. The only explanation: “it did not meet Reuters standards for accuracy.”
When journals retract a paper but don’t explain why, what should readers think? Was the problem as simple as an administrative error by the publisher, or more concerning, like fraud? In a recent paper in Research Policy, economists led by Adam Cox at the University of Portsmouth, UK, analyzed 55 retractions from hundreds of economics journals, mostly issued between 2001 and 2016. (Does that number sound low? It should — a 2012 analysis of retractions in business and economics found they are a relatively rare occurrence.) In the new paper, Cox and his colleagues analyzed how many notices failed to provide detailed information, the potential costs of these information gaps, and what journals should do about it.
Retraction Watch: You used “rational crime theory” to analyze retraction notices and their consequence to offenders in economics. Could you explain briefly how rational crime theory works in this context?
A few months ago, Dirk Werling discovered he had made a horrible mistake: He had inadvertently plagiarized in his recent review.
On January 20, Werling said he came across a 2016 paperwhile working on a grant and realized he had published some of the text in his 2018 review in Research in Veterinary Science. Werling — based at Royal Veterinary College at the University of London — told Retraction Watch:
What Caught Our Attention: This is the fourth retraction for Robert Ryan, formerly a high-profile researcher studying infections that can be deadly in people with lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis. In 2016, the University of Dundee in Scotland determined that Ryan had committed research misconduct, including misrepresenting clinical data and duplicating images in a dozen different publications. (Ryan tried to appeal the decision, then resigned.) The latest retraction cites a few problems with the paper, including uncertainty about the provenance of some data.
According to the notice, the second-to-last author, George A. O’Toole at Dartmouth, disagrees with the text of the notice, not the decision to retract. We contacted O’Toole, who declined to comment.
We received a statement from Ryan about the retraction: