Why journal editors should dig deeper when authors ask for a retraction

Imagine you’re a journal editor. A group of authors sends you a request to retract one of their papers, saying that “during figure assembly certain images were inappropriately processed.”

What do you do next? Do you ask some tough questions about just what “inappropriately processed” means? Do you check your files for whether the author’s institution had told you about an investigation into the work? Do you Google the author’s names? Do you…search Retraction Watch?

It seems unlikely that any of those things happened in the case of a recent retraction from Nature Communications, or, if they did, they don’t seem to have informed the notice. We don’t know for sure, because, as is typical, the journal isn’t saying much. But here’s what we do know. Continue reading Why journal editors should dig deeper when authors ask for a retraction

Is it time for a new research integrity board in the U.S.?

C. K. Gunsalus

Nearly two years ago, a report from the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) called for a new advisory board that would promote research integrity and tackle misconduct. That board does not yet exist, but today in Nature, five authors, led by C. K. Gunsalus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, argue that it should, and describe next steps in its creation. We asked Gunsalus a few questions about the idea.

Retraction Watch (RW): Tell us what the research policy board would do. Who would fund it? Continue reading Is it time for a new research integrity board in the U.S.?

Carlo Croce loses a round in legal bid to be reinstated as dep’t chair

Carlo Croce

Carlo Croce, a professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus who has faced multiple investigations into misconduct allegations, has been denied a temporary restraining order that he sought in order to be reinstated as chair of his department.

Croce was forced to step down from the post last year. Magistrate Jennifer D. Hunt, of the Franklin County civil court, wrote in a January 23 decision that

third parties and the public interest will be harmed if a temporary restraining order is granted and Dr. Croce is reinstated as Chair.

Croce, OSU said Continue reading Carlo Croce loses a round in legal bid to be reinstated as dep’t chair

Showdown over a study of abortion policy leads to a retraction, and leaves no one happy

Elard Koch

A paper in Contraception that purported to show serious flaws in an earlier study of abortion laws and maternal health has been retracted, after the authors of the original study found what were apparently significant flaws in the study doing the debunking.

That’s the short version of this story. The longer version involves years of back-and-forth, accusations of conflict of interest and poor research practice, and lawyers for at least two parties. Be warned: We have an unusual amount of information to quote from here that’s worth following.

As the editor of Contraception, Carolyn Westhoff, put it:

I got to make everybody angry.

Continue reading Showdown over a study of abortion policy leads to a retraction, and leaves no one happy

Former UAB natural products researcher up to a dozen retractions

Santosh Katiyar

A researcher who studied natural products for cancer at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), had six papers retracted last month, bringing him to a total of 12.

Four of the recently retracted papers by Santosh Katiyar had appeared in PLOS ONE, and two had been published in Cancer Research. They have together been cited more than 250 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and are on subjects including compounds found in grape seeds and green tea.

Here’s an example, from PLOS ONE, for “Green Tea Catechins Reduce Invasive Potential of Human Melanoma Cells by Targeting COX-2, PGE2 Receptors and Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition:” Continue reading Former UAB natural products researcher up to a dozen retractions

Cornell psychology researcher sees “A model for ethical reasoning” retracted

Robert Sternberg

A Cornell researcher whose work came under scrutiny earlier this year for text recycling has had a third paper retracted.

The latest retraction for Robert Sternberg — whose work was the subject of  allegations by Brendan O’Connor and Nick Brown — appears in the Review of General Psychology.

Here’s the retraction notice for “A model of ethical reasoning:” Continue reading Cornell psychology researcher sees “A model for ethical reasoning” retracted

Under protest, OSU cancer researcher dogged by misconduct allegations stepping down as department chair

Carlo Croce

Carlo Croce, a professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus who has faced multiple investigations into misconduct allegations, has been forced to step down from his post as department chair.

As ABC6 in Columbus reports, Continue reading Under protest, OSU cancer researcher dogged by misconduct allegations stepping down as department chair

Psychology journal to retract study claiming that people fear contagion less in the dark

As we’re fond of repeating, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Which doesn’t jibe with the findings in an eye-catching  2018 paper that found people were less fearful of catching a contagious illness if they were in a dark room or were wearing sunglasses.

Fortunately for us, although not for the researchers, we no longer have to live with the cognitive dissonance. The paper, the journal tells us, will be retracted for flaws in the data — which, thanks to the open sharing of data, quickly came to light.

The study, which appeared in May in Psychological Science, reported that: Continue reading Psychology journal to retract study claiming that people fear contagion less in the dark

Journals stamp expressions of concern on 15 papers from Anversa’s cardiac stem cell lab

Piero Anversa

More than four and a half years after questions were first raised about work in a cardiac stem cell lab at Harvard and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a year and a half after the Brigham and Partners Healthcare paid $10 million to settle allegations of fraud in the lab’s data, a month after Harvard the Brigham disclosed that they were calling for the retractions of more than 30 papers from the lab, and three weeks after the NIH paused a clinical trial based on the work, two leading journals have issued an expression of concern about 15 papers from the lab.

But expressions of concern are not retractions, of course. From the notice, in Circulation and Circulation Research, both of which are published by the American Heart Association: Continue reading Journals stamp expressions of concern on 15 papers from Anversa’s cardiac stem cell lab

In a first, U.S. CDC retracts, replaces study about suicide risk in farmers

In a first for the CDC, the agency’s premier scientific publication has retracted a 2016 article on suicide, five months after a news story pointed out serious errors in the paper.

The article, initially published as “Suicide Rates by Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012,” had purported to find that farmers were at particularly high risk of suicide. That result in particular caught the attention of a website called The New Food Economy (TNFE), which last June called out what it said were errors in the CDC’s analysis. And on June 29, the journal, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), issued a reader’s note.

As TNFE wrote, the crux of the mistake involves the misclassification of farmer suicides in a way that significantly inflated the rate of these events — errors the website said it first raised with the CDC in April 2018: Continue reading In a first, U.S. CDC retracts, replaces study about suicide risk in farmers