UK government research watchdog publishes new retraction guidelines

The UK’s Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) has just published “Guidance for researchers on retractions in academic journals.” The document is an adaptation of existing guidelines by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a UK charity.

Nothing has changed, COPE chair Liz Wager told Retraction Watch. UKRIO just decided to convert COPE’s existing guidelines, targeted to journal editors, so that they were useful to researchers.

Errors, phantom author, retraction? It’s enough to set your teeth on edge

 

Photo by mattlemmon via flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/mplemmon/

 

Authorship issues, sloppy science, deception — more often than not, at least one of these is at the heart of a retracted paper. But it’s rare when all three are involved. Which, of course, means that such a case is precisely what we’re about to deliver.

The Journal of Medical Case Reports, a BioMed Central title, recently retracted an intriguing item about a young man who developed a condition called pubic osteomyelitis after becoming infected with Streptococcus viridans following oral surgery to pull a wisdom tooth. As the authors, from Great Britain, explained in their 2008 paper describing the episode: Continue reading Errors, phantom author, retraction? It’s enough to set your teeth on edge

Update on stem cell-cancer link retraction: Why not everyone signed, and why authors ended up in another journal first

Last month, we wrote about the retraction of a 2005 paper suggesting that some adult stem cells might give rise to cancer. That, of course, would be a problem if researchers tried treating heart disease and other conditions with them. The paper’s authors retracted it, however, when it became clear that instead of being transformed — that’s the scientific word for “became cancerous” — the cells had simply become contaminated and overgrown with tumor cells used in research.

We had some questions for the authors of the original paper, and for the editor of the journal. Last week, we heard back from one of the paper’s authors, Javier Garcia-Castro, who had been on vacation without Internet access for weeks. In an email to Retraction Watch, Garcia-Castro wrote: Continue reading Update on stem cell-cancer link retraction: Why not everyone signed, and why authors ended up in another journal first

Shifting gears: Occupational health journal pulls study linking shift work, age and sleep disorders

Blaming “data coding errors,” the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health has pulled an article linking shift work, age and sleeping problems.

The study was published four months ago, but managed in its brief lifespan to garner significant attention in the mainstream media and the blogosphere, although it has not been cited by any other papers. It comes alongside growing interest in the potential lnks between shift work and various health conditions including irritable bowel syndrome and breast cancer. Denmark even awards damages to shift workers who have developed the latter.

Ironically, the researchers, led by Philip Tucker, of Swansea University in Wales, U.K., had hoped to demonstrate the toll of shift work that previous studies were unable to show conclusively because of “methodological difficulties”: Continue reading Shifting gears: Occupational health journal pulls study linking shift work, age and sleep disorders

Double negatives: Four years later, a journal restores retracted headache paper

drawing by JD Fletcher via Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Clusterhead.jpg

It might not be a first – although we can’t find another example — but a mental health journal has reinstated an article it retracted four years ago.

The retracted retraction notice appears in the August issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, a BMJ title, and refers to a 2005 article describing an alarming case of treatment-related emotional problems in a patient with cluster headaches.

These headaches, which often strike behind the eyes, are akin to migraines and have been dubbed “suicide headaches” because they are so intensely painful that many sufferers have said that death would be a preferable fate. (Think: “It beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.”)

The patient had been taking high doses of the drug methysergide and began to experience Continue reading Double negatives: Four years later, a journal restores retracted headache paper

Science wants “reactome array” enzyme chip authors to retract paper

Following an investigation into an October 2009 study in Science that claimed to have proven the ability of a device to measure all of the enzyme activity in a cell at a particular time, the journal has asked the study’s authors to retract the paper, Science‘s news blog, ScienceInsider, reported on Friday.

The move comes after Bruce Alberts, Science‘s editor in chief, issued an Editorial Expression of Concern in December in response to concerns raised by other scientists

to alert our readers to thefact that serious questions have been raised about the methodsand data presented in this article. The questions focus in particularon the synthesis of the dye-labeled metabolites that are centralto the microarray technique. In addition, the spectroscopicdata the authors cite in support of their claim were not postedto the Bangor University School of Biological Sciences Web siteat the time of publication, despite the authors’ indicationin the Supporting Online Material that the data would be soposted. In response to inquiries from Science, the authors haveprovided new descriptions of the synthetic methods that differsubstantially from those in their published article. Based onour original concerns and the authors’ response, Science hasrequested evaluation of the original data and records by officialsat the authors’ institutions: These officials have agreed toundertake this task.

That evaluation, reported late last month by Nature, concluded Continue reading Science wants “reactome array” enzyme chip authors to retract paper

Why write a blog about retractions?

Post by Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus

The unfolding drama of Anil Potti — a Duke researcher who posed as a Rhodes Scholar and appears to have invented key statistical analyses in a study of how breast cancer responds to chemotherapy — has sent ripples of angst through the cancer community. Potti’s antics prompted editors of The Lancet Oncology to issue an “expression of concern” — a Britishism that might be better expressed as “Holy Shit!” — about the validity of a 2007 paper in their journal by Potti and others.

Unlike newspapers, which strive for celerity as much as accuracy, science journals have the luxury of time. Thorough vetting, through editorial boards, peer reviewers and other filters, is the coin of the realm.

And yet mistakes happen. Sometimes these slips are merely technical, requiring nothing more than an erratum notice calling attention to a backwards figure or an incorrect address for reprints. Less often but far more important are the times when the blunders require that an entire article be pulled. For a glossary of the spectrum between erratum and retraction — including expression of concern — see this piece, commissioned by one of us, Ivan, while he was at The Scientist.

Retractions are born of many mothers. Fraud is the most titillating reason, and mercifully the most rare, but when it happens the results can be devastating. Consider the case of Scott Reuben, a prodigiously dishonest anesthesiologist whose fabrications led to the retraction of more than a score of papers and deeply rattled an entire medical specialty. (One of us, Adam, broke that story.)

So why write a blog on retractions? Continue reading Why write a blog about retractions?