Ever since critics began raising concerns about high-profile food scientist Brian Wansink’s work, he’s had to issue a series of high-profile retractions — and now has his seventh (including one paper that was retracted twice, after the journal removed a revised version, along with 14 corrections). The latest notice — first reported by BuzzFeed — is for a paper that was originally corrected by the journal Preventive Medicine earlier this month — and the correction notice was longer (1636 words) than the original, highly cited paper (1401 words). Following criticism by James Heathers about the highly cited study back in March 2017, the authors issued a series of changes, including explaining the children studied were preschoolers (3-5 years old), not preteens (8-11), as originally claimed. (They made that mistake once before, in another retracted paper.) But critics remained concerned. Yesterday, the journal retracted the paper. We spoke with editor Eduardo Franco of McGill University — who provided us with an advanced copy of an accompanying editorial, soon to be published — about the editorial processes behind the two notices, including the moment the journal knew the correction wouldn’t suffice.
Retraction Watch: You write that the initial decision to correct the paper came with “considerable intellectual agony.” Can you say why?
When the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesretracted a gene therapy paper in December, it declared that some of the data had been falsified and mentioned a research misconduct investigation. But the notice said nothing about who was responsible.
Via a public records request, Retraction Watch has obtained investigation documents from the University of Florida, which show the focus had been narrowed down to two of the paper’s three co-first authors. But the investigation committee didn’t assign blame to either one. According to their final report, dated Oct. 24, 2016:
there was not enough direct evidence to either implicate or exonerate either of these individuals.
The authors of a highly cited 2016 research letter on a way to improve the efficiency of solar panels have retracted their work following “concerns about the reproducibility.”
Given the potential importance of the data, it would be nice to know what exactly went wrong, and why. However, the retraction notice doesn’t provide many details, and doesn’t even specify if the authors did indeed fail to reproduce the data.
Here’s an unusual way to allege plagiarism: Do it in the reference list.
That’s what Brian Levine, a professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, did when he came across a paper he wanted to cite but suspected of plagiarism. When Levine published his 2017 paper, he cited the paper in question as:
R.Rajan, “ Feasibility, Effectiveness, Performance and Potential Solutions on Distributed Content Sharing System [plagiarized],” Intl. J. Engineering and Computer Science, 5(1):15638–15649, Jan 2016 http://www.ijecs.in/ issue/v5- i1/30%20ijecs.pdf.
A highly cited paper has received a major correction as a result of the ongoing battle over attitudes towards gay people, when a prominent — and polarizing — critic showed it could not be replicated.
In December 2017, researchers led by Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University corrected thepaper, originally published in Social Science & Medicine in February 2014, which showed that gay people who live in areas where people were highly prejudiced against them had a significantly shorter life expectancy. The corrigendum came more than a year after a researcher who has testified against same-sex marriage was unable to replicate the original study.
“Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations,” has been cited 102 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and attracted media coverage when it was published, from outlets such as Reuters andU.S. News & World Report.