After years of back and forth, a highly cited paper that appeared to show that gay people who live in areas where people were highly prejudiced against them had a significantly shorter life expectancy has been retracted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:”