What Caught Our Attention: Robert J. Frumento first caught our notice in 2013, as a coauthor on a paper retracted with a nonspecific reference to author misconduct. Three years later, Frumento was clearly identified as having fabricated data and a master’s degree, and added three retractions to his name. Now he’s got a fifth retraction, this one citing missing data and a lack of proof that data blinding was performed correctly. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Columbia researcher up to five retractions
A historian based at Columbia University has returned a 2014 prize after criticisms prompted him to issue more than 70 corrections to his prominent book about North Korea.
Charles Armstrong told Retraction Watch he returned the 2014 John K. Fairbank Prize he received for “Tyranny of the Weak” due to “numerous citation errors.” The book has faced heavy criticism, including allegations of plagiarism and using invalid sources.
The American Historical Society, which issues the Fairbank Prize, released a statement last week:
Researchers at Columbia University have retracted a 2013 paper in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, after uncovering abnormalities in the stem cell lines that undermined the conclusions in the paper.
Last year, corresponding author Dieter Egli discovered he could not reproduce key data in the 2013 paper because almost all the cell lines first author Haiqing Hua used contained abnormalities, casting doubt on the overall findings. When Egli reached out to Hua for answers, Hua could not explain the abnormalities. As a result, Hua and Egli agreed the paper should be retracted.
Since some of the details of how the paper ended up relying on abnormal cells remain unclear, the university confirmed to us that it is investigating the matter.
Here’s the retraction notice for “iPSC-derived β cells model diabetes due to glucokinase deficiency,” cited 42 times: Continue reading Unexplained abnormalities in stem cells prompt Columbia researchers to pull diabetes paper
The author of a high-profile book about the history of North Korea is issuing 52 corrections to the next edition, scheduled to appear this spring. The changes follow heavy criticism of the book, alleging it contained material not supported by the list of references.
Last month, author Charles Armstrong, a professor at Columbia University, announced on his website that he was issuing the changes after reviewing the book in detail, especially the footnotes. He writes:
This summer, Columbia University signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. government over a case filed under the False Claims Act (FCA), which enables whistleblowers to sue institutions on behalf of the government. Although this may seem like one of the many legal issues facing academic science recently, this case merits a closer look, says John R. Thomas, Jr., an attorney with Gentry Locke who represents whistleblowers in a variety of FCA cases – including a potentially landmark case against Duke University that we covered for Science. Thomas – who also authored a three-part Retraction Watch primer on how to file an FCA suit (“So You Want to Be a Whistleblower?” Part One, Part Two, Part Three) – tells us what we need to know about this latest FCA verdict.
As readers of Retraction Watch are unfortunately well aware, dishonesty in research comes in many forms. While we often focus on dishonesty in research itself, scientists and institutions may also defraud the government through a variety of administrative avenues, such as effort reporting (accounting for researcher time), improper cost accounting, and inflated facilities and administrative (F&A) costs.
We saw an example of this in July, when Continue reading Columbia has settled a fraud case for $9.5M. Here’s why that’s important.
Scientific fraud isn’t what keeps Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics at Columbia University in New York, up at night. Rather, it’s the sheer number of unreliable studies — uncorrected, unretracted — that have littered the literature. He tells us more, below.
Whatever the vast majority of retractions are, they’re a tiny fraction of the number of papers that are just wrong — by which I mean they present no good empirical evidence for their claims.
I’ve personally had to correct two of my published articles. Continue reading Retractions aren’t enough: Why science has bigger problems
Retraction Watch readers may recall that nearly two years ago, an editor at PLOS declared the scientific story of a link between XMRV, aka xenotropic murine leukemia-related virus, and prostate cancer over, saying that a retraction from PLOS Pathogens was the “final chapter.” (That retraction led to an apology from the journal about how it was handled.)
Perhaps, however, there is an epilogue. This week, a group of authors who published a highly cited 2009 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) making the same link retracted it. Here’s the notice, signed by all five authors: Continue reading Authors retract highly cited XMRV-prostate cancer link paper from PNAS
In 2011, a group of researchers at Columbia University reported in Cell that they had been able to convert skin cells from patients with Alzheimer’s disease into functioning neurons — a finding that raised the exciting prospect of “made to order” brain cells for patients with the degenerative disease. As one researcher not involved with the study, led by Asa Abeliovich, put it:
“[This is] simply a remarkable and complete piece of work which will now set a standard for stem cell work in neurological disease. The standard of the characterization of the neuronal cultures is very high,” John Hardy at University College London, U.K., wrote to [Alzforum]. He was not involved in the work but is taking a similar approach in his own lab.
According to the abstract of “Directed Conversion of Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Skin Fibroblasts into Functional Neurons:”
Paul Pronyk, who until last week was director of monitoring and evaluation at Columbia University’s Center for Global Health and Economic Development, which runs the Millennium Villages Project, wrote a letter to the Lancet acknowledging errors in the paper, “The effect of an integrated multisector model for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and improving child survival in rural sub-Saharan Africa: a non-randomised controlled assessment,” originally published May 8. That admission came after Jesse Bump, Michael Clemens, Gabriel Demombynes, and Lawrence Haddad wrote a letter criticizing the work, which was published this week accompanied by corrections to the paper: Continue reading Millennium Villages Project forced to correct Lancet paper on foreign aid as leader leaves team
Last month, we (and others) reported that the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) had temporarily withdrawn a paper by a former president of the society after a number of chemists pointed out similarities between the March 25 article and previous ones by the author, Ronald Breslow.
The paper had drawn puzzled looks thanks to an April 11 press release — since deleted — headlined “Could ‘advanced’ dinosaurs rule other planets?” In its note last month, the journal said: Continue reading JACS makes it official, retracting Breslow “space dinosaurs” paper for “similarity to his previously published reviews”