UK House of Commons committee wants to make sure “university investigations into research misconduct are handled appropriately”

As Retraction Watch readers may recall, the UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has been holding an inquiry into scientific misconduct for well over a year. During that inquiry, we submitted written evidence including some statistics about how the UK’s retraction rate compared to other countries, and our Ivan Oransky gave oral testimony late last year.

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.

We asked C. K. Gunsalus, who serves as director of the National Center for Professional & Research Ethics and who has studied institutional integrity for decades, for her take on the report.

C. K. Gunsalus

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s Research Integrity: Sixth Report of Session 2017-19 Report is both good news and bad news. The good news is that the report crisply lays out the importance of a number of important challenges to research integrity, not only in the UK, but for all research communities internationally: Continue reading UK House of Commons committee wants to make sure “university investigations into research misconduct are handled appropriately”

University of Liverpool reverses course, names researcher guilty of misconduct

Daniel Antoine

A few weeks ago, we received a press release that gave us pause: The University of Liverpool said it had found one of its researchers guilty of research misconduct — but did not say who, nor which papers might be involved.

Now, less than one month later, the university is naming the researcher, and identifying a paper that it has asked the journal to retract.

After we covered the opaque release, we received some tips that the scientist might be Daniel Antoine, who studies liver damage. Last week, Liverpool confirmed that Antoine is the researcher in question.

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”:

Continue reading University of Liverpool reverses course, names researcher guilty of misconduct

University of Liverpool announces it’s investigating someone for misconduct. But don’t ask who.

University of Liverpool

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:

Continue reading University of Liverpool announces it’s investigating someone for misconduct. But don’t ask who.

How much cancer stems from diabetes, obesity? Lancet journal swaps high-profile paper

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.

According to first author Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard at Imperial College London:

Continue reading How much cancer stems from diabetes, obesity? Lancet journal swaps high-profile paper

Caught Our Notice: Why did Reuters remove a 3.5-year-old story?

Title: Oil producer Afren fires CEO, 3 other executives in scandal

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.”

The executives were fired in 2014 for allegedly receiving unauthorized payments; two have subsequently faced criminal and civil charges. The news agency has retracted articles on rare occasions — but why a news story from nearly four years ago? The 2014 story appeared to report on an announcement from the company on that same day, which corroborates the facts reported in the headline (all that’s left of the original story). Other outlets also covered the same announcement.

All we know about why the 2014 story disappeared is what little a Reuters spokesperson told us:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Why did Reuters remove a 3.5-year-old story?

Journal retracts and replaces paper because author stole credit for group’s work

An optics journal has retracted and replaced a 2016 paper after discovering that the author took sole credit for a team project.

According to the retraction notice, a University of Leeds review determined that “the research on which the paper was based the work of a team,” not just that of Raied S. Al-Lashi, who was the sole author on the 2016 paper. Continue reading Journal retracts and replaces paper because author stole credit for group’s work

Why detailed retraction notices are important (according to economists)

Adam Cox

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?

Continue reading Why detailed retraction notices are important (according to economists)

“Absolutely mortified” after unintentionally plagiarizing, author offers to step down from new post

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 paper while 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:

I knew I needed to retract my paper.

Continue reading “Absolutely mortified” after unintentionally plagiarizing, author offers to step down from new post

Caught Our Notice: Former rising star loses fourth paper

Title: Haemophilus influenzae responds to glucocorticoids used in asthma therapy by modulation of biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance

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:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Former rising star loses fourth paper

Caught Our Notice: Bioethics article retracted for…ethics violation

Title: Bioethics and Medical Education

What Caught Our Attention: As we’ve said before, you can’t make this stuff up: An article on bioethics had its own ethical issues to deal with. It turns out, the authors had “substantial unreferenced overlap” with another article, that “overlap” including the article’s title. Here’s a side by side comparison of the first page, highlighting the matching text: Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Bioethics article retracted for…ethics violation