Statisticians clamor for retraction of paper by Harvard researchers they say uses a “nonsense statistic”

via ImageCreator

“Uh, hypothetical situation: you see a paper published that is based on a premise which is clearly flawed, proven by existing literature.” So began an exasperated Twitter thread by Andrew Althouse, a statistician at University of Pittsburgh, in which he debated whether a study using what he calls a “nonsense statistic” should be addressed by letters to the editor or swiftly retracted.

The thread was the latest development in an ongoing disagreement over research in surgery. In one corner, a group of Harvard researchers claim they’re improving how surgeons interpret underpowered or negative studies. In the other corner, statisticians suggest the authors are making things worse by repeatedly misusing a statistical technique called post-hoc power. The authors are giving weak surgical studies an unwarranted pass, according to critics.

Continue reading Statisticians clamor for retraction of paper by Harvard researchers they say uses a “nonsense statistic”

Harvard cancer lab subject to federal misconduct probe

Sam W. Lee, a Harvard researcher — or perhaps former Harvard researcher — who has lost three papers to retraction, including one from Nature, now has an expression of concern for another article, this one in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

The notice for that paper, 2000’s “Overexpression of Kinase-Associated Phosphatase (KAP) in Breast and Prostate Cancer and Inhibition of the Transformed Phenotype by Antisense KAP Expression,” reads: Continue reading Harvard cancer lab subject to federal misconduct probe

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

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

Data fabrication by ex-Harvard researcher takes down paper on Huntington’s disease

A researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital is retracting a paper due to “inappropriate manipulation and fabrication of data” by the first author.

According to the retraction notice, published Aug. 22, corresponding author Marian DiFiglia is retracting the paper because the alleged misconduct by the first author, Antonio Valencia:

led to an incorrect conclusion in the paper that NADPH activity is elevated in Huntington’s disease (HD). Some original data were missing and efforts to replicate findings using the reported method or an alternative approach were unsuccessful. An institutional faculty panel supports the decision and the reasons for the retraction.

The notice added that the alleged data manipulation and fabrication affected bar graphs in two of the paper’s figures.

Terri Ogan, a spokesperson for Mass General, told Retraction Watch that Valencia no longer works at the institution, but declined to say whether there has been an investigation into the alleged misconduct: Continue reading Data fabrication by ex-Harvard researcher takes down paper on Huntington’s disease

The Harvard lab head, the grad student, and the restraining order: An ongoing saga

Lee Rubin via Harvard

Regular Retraction Watch readers may recall a remarkable story from January involving Harvard’s Lee Rubin and one of his graduate students. As we reported in Science at the time, the graduate student, Gustavo German, said he had been subjected to a forced psychiatric evaluation as “an act of revenge by Rubin, retaliation prompted by German’s allegation of scientific misconduct against Rubin and two of his students.” And a judge “agreed with German, concluding [last August] that Rubin was ‘motivated by bias and revenge, not by a legitimate interest in keeping German safe.'”

That led to a restraining order that required Rubin to remain 100 feet from German at all times — including in the lab where German was working on his PhD.

Today, we have an update on the story, also in Science: “At Harvard, extraordinary court battle between Ph.D. student and prominent researcher grinds on.” As our Alison McCook writes: Continue reading The Harvard lab head, the grad student, and the restraining order: An ongoing saga

Harvard diabetes researcher retracts third paper

A prominent diabetes researcher based at Harvard Medical School has retracted a third paper, citing manipulation of multiple figures.

Late last year, Carl Ronald Kahn—also chief academic officer at Joslin Diabetes Center—retracted two papers for similar reasons. In November, Kahn pulled a 2005 paper from The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) and a month later, he retracted a 2003 paper from The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), both times citing duplications that the authors said were introduced while assembling the figures.

Last month, Kahn retracted his third paper, also published in JBC in 2003, because the authors omitted data when constructing the images. Still, the authors remain confident in their findings, given that data from other labs “have confirmed and extended the conclusions of the manuscript.”

Here’s the retraction notice: Continue reading Harvard diabetes researcher retracts third paper

Prominent Harvard researcher issues second retraction, again citing duplication

The former president of the Joslin Diabetes Center has withdrawn a second article within a month of his first, and issued extensive corrections to another paper in the same journal, all due to figure errors.

In November, we reported that Carl Ronald Kahn — also affiliated with Harvard Medical School — had pulled a highly cited 2005 paper from The Journal of Clinical Investigation because of image duplication issues, which Kahn told us were introduced during figure assembly. This December, Kahn retracted a 2003 paper published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC)—again due to duplication issues that the authors believe “were inadvertently introduced during figure assembly.”

Here’s the retraction notice for “Bi-directional regulation of brown fat adipogenesis by the insulin receptor,” cited 46 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters:

Continue reading Prominent Harvard researcher issues second retraction, again citing duplication

A Harvard whistleblower was subjected to a forced mental exam. Here’s why.

Last March, a PhD student at Harvard filed a misconduct allegation against his mentor, a prominent stem cell researcher. Three months later, he was taken from his home by police in the middle of the night for a forced psychiatric evaluation.

How did this happen? Continue reading A Harvard whistleblower was subjected to a forced mental exam. Here’s why.

Scientists investigated for misconduct lose appeal in suit against Harvard. Lawyers explain what it means.

Paul S. Thaler
Paul S. Thaler

Richard Goldstein
Richard Goldstein

Retraction Watch readers may recall the case of Piero Anversa and Annarosa Leri, both formerly of Harvard and the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The pair — which has had their work subjected to a retraction, expression of concern, and correction — sued their former employers in 2014 for costing them job offers after the institutions notified journals, triggering notices. A judge dismissed the case a year ago, saying that Anversa and Leri had to try other administrative remedies before bringing suit.

But Anversa and Leri appealed, and last week, a court denied that appeal. (See the judge’s decision — which begins by quoting Ecclesiastes and includes the delicious word “gallimaufry” — here.) We spoke by email to two attorneys — Richard Goldstein, who represented the scientist in Bois v. HHS, the first case to overturn a funding ban by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), and Paul Thaler, who has represented scientists involved in misconduct proceedings for more than 25 years — about the case, and what it could mean for similar lawsuits.

Retraction Watch: The decision seems to stop Anversa and Leri from continuing their suit against Harvard and the Brigham, but also acknowledges some of the scientists’ concerns as legitimate. How would you summarize the findings and their implications? Continue reading Scientists investigated for misconduct lose appeal in suit against Harvard. Lawyers explain what it means.