Caught Our Notice: A team from Harvard, Cornell, Cambridge, HHMI, and UCSF can’t reproduce a paper’s findings

What Caught Our Attention: Any time there’s an issue with a paper co-authored by researchers from such high-profile institutions as Harvard, Cornell, and the University of Cambridge, we take notice. In this case, the group — which included Laurie Glimcher, then-dean at Cornell, now president of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — chose to retract a 2013 paper from a Cell journal after learning they couldn’t reproduce some of the experiments. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: A team from Harvard, Cornell, Cambridge, HHMI, and UCSF can’t reproduce a paper’s findings

Journal says it will correct three papers by prominent psychologist for duplication

Some heavy criticism of a high-profile scientist has prompted one journal to announce it plans to correct the record.

Following a series of allegations about the work of psychologist Robert Sternberg at Cornell, a journal has declared it plans to correct three of his papers. Last month, Inside Higher Ed reported that critics have raised concerns about Sternberg’s practice of citing his own work, prompting him to resign from his position as editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science. On the heels of that, graduate student Brendan O’Connor took to Twitter to accuse Sternberg of recycling his own text in his papers — and last Friday, the Journal of Creative Behavior told O’Connor it was correcting three of Sternberg’s papers.

In an email to O’Connor — who we interviewed this month about his concerns regarding Sternberg’s work — the journal says it will publish three “Text Recycling Corrections & Notifications” to three articles O’Connor flagged, which will:

Continue reading Journal says it will correct three papers by prominent psychologist for duplication

Survey says: A researcher wasn’t sure if he needed to correct a paper. So he created a poll.

Craig Jones

When geophysicist Craig Jones realized a figure in one of his published papers contained an error, he was on the fence about what to do. It was a clear mistake, but he’d seen much larger mistakes go uncorrected by other authors. Unsure if it warranted a correction, Jones polled readers of his blog to see what they thought.

The answer: 37 people responded, 23 of whom (62%) said he should correct the paper. In an update, Jones said he was prepping a correction to submit to the journal.

Jones, who is based at the University of Colorado Boulder and blogs under the title the “Grumpy Geophysicist,” told Retraction Watch:

Continue reading Survey says: A researcher wasn’t sure if he needed to correct a paper. So he created a poll.

A cancer researcher said she collected blood from 98 people. It was all her own.

A researcher collected her own blood and forged the labels so it would appear to be samples from nearly 100 people, according to a new finding of research misconduct released today by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

The former researcher at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center swapped her own blood samples for those taken from 98 human subjects. The misconduct affects two grant progress reports and two papers; one paper has already been retracted, and the former “research interviewer” — Maria Cristina Miron Elqutub — has agreed to correct or retract the other.

Adel El-Naggar, a co-author on both of the papers also based at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, told Retraction Watch:

Continue reading A cancer researcher said she collected blood from 98 people. It was all her own.

Mount Sinai multiple sclerosis researcher admits to misconduct

Gareth John

A researcher who has received millions in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and who runs a lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York has confessed to falsifying data in a 2014 paper.

Gareth John, who studies multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases, “has expressed remorse for his actions,” according to a report released last week from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity. Continue reading Mount Sinai multiple sclerosis researcher admits to misconduct

A frustrated former editor asked a publishing group for help. He didn’t like what they said.

When the former editor of a public health journal didn’t get a straight answer about why the journal retracted his paper that was critical of corporate-sponsored research, he brought his concerns to an organization dedicated to promoting integrity in academic publishing. He wanted the group to help resolve the impasse he’d reached with the publisher, but was sorely disappointed.

David Egilman, the former editor of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, had been seeking answers about the paper for a year. In November, the journal’s editorial board resigned, in protest of the “apparent new direction that the journal appears to be moving towards.” They objected to the “unilateral withdraw[al]” of Egilman’s paper, with little explanation, the delay in publishing other papers that had been accepted under Egilman’s leadership, and the decision to appoint a new editor with industry ties.

Amidst all that upheaval at the journal, Egilman still wasn’t getting the answers he wanted about why his paper was withdrawn. So he brought his concerns to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Continue reading A frustrated former editor asked a publishing group for help. He didn’t like what they said.

A new “data thug” is born

Brendan O’Connor

In the last week, a lot more people know the name of Brendan O’Connor. Recently, the graduate student at the University of Leicester in the UK posted allegations on Twitter that a prominent psychologist at Cornell University, Robert Sternberg, had recycled large swaths of text in multiple publications. Since then, other so-called “data thugs” — such as Nick Brown and James Heathers — have added their voices to the discussion. Sternberg recently resigned as editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science, in part over concerns about his practice of frequently citing his own papers. We spoke with O’Connor about the response to his allegations — and why he took to Twitter to raise them. (Note: O’Connor’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily representative of his institution.)

Retraction Watch: How did you stumble upon the alleged text recycling by Dr. Sternberg?

Continue reading A new “data thug” is born

Chemists duke it out over who was first to discover a 30-year-old technique

Decades ago, unbeknownst to each other, two chemists were independently working on a screening approach to identify new potential drugs. Both published papers about the technique around the same time. So now, when scientists write papers that cite the technique, who should get credit for discovering it?

Decades later, that question still hasn’t been answered — and the researchers continue to argue, this time over one’s decision not to cite the other’s work.  

More than 30 years ago, Árpád Furkanow retired from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapestdeveloped an approach he says has had “outstanding importance” in drug development. The technique, called split-mix synthesis, made it possible to synthesize and screen millions of peptides at once, instead of one by one. Furka patented the method in 1982, presented an abstract in 1988, and published a paper in 1991. Continue reading Chemists duke it out over who was first to discover a 30-year-old technique

Researcher loses battle with Cell over wording of retraction notice

For months, a researcher has wrestled with a journal over the wording of an upcoming retraction notice. It appears that she has lost.

Earlier this week, Cell retracted the paper, despite the protests of first author Shalon Babbitt Ledbetter. When Ledbetter learned the journal was planning to retract the biochemistry paper over image manipulations, but wouldn’t name the culprit in the notice, she shared her concerns on PubPeer. Although a 2015 letter sent to Cell from Saint Louis University identified last author Dorota Skowyra as responsible for multiple manipulations, the journal wasn’t planning to say Skowyra was responsible in the retraction notice. Which would leave all other authors — particularly Ledbetter — under a cloud of suspicion.

Now, Cell Press has finally retracted the paper, along with another paper in Molecular Cell that lists Skowyra as corresponding author. Both notices describe image manipulations that were investigated by Saint Louis University (SLU). Neither identifies who is responsible.

Continue reading Researcher loses battle with Cell over wording of retraction notice

That study reporting worrisome levels of zinc in tuna? It’s being retracted

Recently, a rash of news outlets posted concerns that canned tuna and other products may contain potentially dangerous levels of zinc. They were all wrong.

News outlets such as The Daily Mail and The Sun reported findings from a recent study, which showed that canned foods such as tuna may contain 100 times the daily limit of zinc — raising concerns about how such huge doses of the mineral could be causing digestion problems. The last author of the study told Retraction Watch the paper is going to be retracted, because the authors made a fundamental error calculating the amount of zinc present in canned foods.

Last week, the UK’s biggest health website NHS Choices posted a critique of the paper, in which they recalculated the levels of zinc present in canned foods:

Continue reading That study reporting worrisome levels of zinc in tuna? It’s being retracted