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:
A BMJ journal has retracted a medical case report about a couple in the United Kingdom who were infected by parasitic worms while on a Caribbean cruise.
The paper in BMJ Case Reports included graphic photos of the patients’ buttocks, the site of the infection, which were republished within a week by UK tabloids.
Specifics about when and why the journal retracted the paper remains unclear. BMJ Publishing Group, the journal, and the corresponding author have not responded to multiple requests for comment.
A UK-based lawyer, who has represented doctors in cases that touch on publishing and media law, told us there could be legal trouble. Martin Soames, of London firm Simons Muirhead & Burton, told Retraction Watch that UK laws governing patient confidentiality or protection of personal information could apply, raising problems for both the publisher and the doctors who wrote the paper. [See update at the end of the post, in which the editor says the paper was removed, and “does not consider that there are any issues of liability.”] Continue reading BMJ journal pulls case report after UK tabloids publish graphic photos
A medical journal has retracted a 2016 paper over a series of errors, prompting it to lose faith in the paper overall. The authors have objected to the decision, arguing the errors weren’t their fault and could be revised with a correction — rather than retracting what they consider “an important contribution” to an ongoing debate in medicine.
The paper explored the so-called weekend effect—that patients admitted to the emergency department on the weekend are more likely to die than those admitted on a weekday. Whether the weekend effect is real is not clear. Some studies have supported the phenomenon in certain areas of medicine, but others (including the now-retracted paper) have failed to find an effect.
First author Mohammed A. Mohammed, based at the University of Bradford in the UK, told Retraction Watch that the errors were introduced by one of the hospitals that provided them the data:
As a journal editor, are you tired of hearing the same excuses from authors who are facing allegations of problematic data? If so, you’re not alone.
Recently, an editor of the journal Oncogeneco-authored an editorial in the journal listing the types of excuses he often hears — and why none of them is valid. Writing the article with editor Justin Stebbing of Imperial College/Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust is David Sanders of Purdue University. Sanders himself has raised allegations of misconduct against a cancer researcher (and is currently being sued for defamation as a result).