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

BMJ journal pulls case report after UK tabloids publish graphic photos

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

Should a journal retract a paper the authors didn’t know contained bad data?

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:

Continue reading Should a journal retract a paper the authors didn’t know contained bad data?

Caught Our Notice: Reporter’s inquiry prompts financial disclosure in autism paper

Via Wikimedia

Title: Promoting child-initiated social-communication in children with autism: Son-Rise Program intervention effects

What caught our attention: When journalist Brendan Borrell was investigating a controversial autism treatment program for Spectrum, he came across a study where lead author Kat Houghton failed to disclose a prior relationship with the treatment center that taught the program, called Son-Rise.

The Spectrum article notes:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Reporter’s inquiry prompts financial disclosure in autism paper

“My dog ate the data:” Eight excuses journal editors hear

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 Oncogene co-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).

Here are the problematic excuses they encounter:

Continue reading “My dog ate the data:” Eight excuses journal editors hear

Caught Our Notice: Investigation finds “accidental mistakes” in PNAS stem cell paper

Via Wikimedia

When Retraction Watch began in 2010, our co-founders Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus quickly realized they couldn’t keep up with the hundreds of retractions that appeared each year.  And the problem has only gotten worse — although we’ve added staff, the number of retractions issued each year has increased dramatically. According to our growing database, just shy of 1,000 retractions were issued last year (and that doesn’t include expressions of concern and errata). So to get new notices in front of readers more quickly, we’ve started a new feature called “Caught our Notice,” where we highlight a recent notice that stood out from the others. If you have any information about what happened, feel free to contact us at retractionwatchteam@gmail.com.

Title: Combined hydrogels that switch human pluripotent stem cells from self-renewal to differentiation 

What caught our attention: Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Investigation finds “accidental mistakes” in PNAS stem cell paper

Dispute over author order torpedoes paper on syndrome linked to autism

At least one disgruntled co-author has triggered the retraction of a paper presenting a novel approach to treating a rare, genetically inherited condition.

The paper concerned research on Fragile X syndrome (FXS), characterized by both intellectual and physical abnormalities, which is linked autism. A compound that passed through phase 2 clinical trials in October 2015 appeared to partially treat FXS in mice in the study, published earlier this year.

The journal’s notice says the paper was retracted over a dispute among authors about the order in which they are listed on the paper: Continue reading Dispute over author order torpedoes paper on syndrome linked to autism