Caught Our Notice: Hey peer reviewers — did you even read this paper??

What Caught Our Attention: A tree of life paper has been axed — and based on the information in the retraction notice, we’re wondering how it ever passed peer review.

Specifically, the notice states a review of the paper found “concerns regarding the study design, methodology, and interpretation of the data.” Overall, the research “contradict(s) a large body of existing literature and do(es) not provide a sufficient level of evidence to support the claims made in the paper.” Um, so what did it get right?

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Hey peer reviewers — did you even read this paper??

Caught Our Notice: Forged email for corresponding author dooms diabetes paper

Title: Naringin Alleviates Diabetic Kidney Disease through Inhibiting Oxidative Stress and Inflammatory Reaction

What Caught Our Attention: PLOS ONE had a few reasons for retracting a 2015 paper about a treatment for kidney disease due to diabetes: For one, despite what the paper claims, the authors did not obtain ethical approval to conduct the reported animal experiments. In addition, the corresponding author had no idea the paper had been submitted and published. How could a corresponding author be kept in the dark? It turns out, the journal was given an incorrect email address for him, so he didn’t receive any communications around the paper. (One author apparently used a third party editing company.) Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Forged email for corresponding author dooms diabetes paper

Caught Our Notice: Duplicates, errors prompt two retractions for same author

Titles: 1) Angiopoietin-Like 4 Confers Resistance to Hypoxia/Serum Deprivation-Induced Apoptosis through PI3K/Akt and ERK1/2 Signaling Pathways in Mesenchymal Stem Cells

2) Novel Mechanism of Inhibition of Dendritic Cells Maturation by Mesenchymal Stem Cells via Interleukin-10 and the JAK1/STAT3 Signaling Pathway

What Caught Our Attention: In the span of 48 hours, PLOS ONE retracted two papers this month that were co-authored by Bo Yu, based at Key Laboratories of Education Ministry for Myocardial Ischemia Mechanism and Treatment and The Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in China. Both notices cite multiple duplications and errors, and conclude:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Duplicates, errors prompt two retractions for same author

Journal retracts study linking “gut makeover” to weight loss, improved health

Over the objections of the authors, PLOS ONE has retracted a paper linking a diet designed to restore healthy gut bacteria to weight loss and other benefits.

The study, published in June 2017, claimed to show that a “Microbiome restoration diet improves digestion, cognition and physical and emotional wellbeing.” The diet was one championed by The Gut Makeover, whose author, Jeannette Hyde, is also a co-author on the paper (which the paper clearly disclosed). The diet is “designed to improve the health and diversity of the microbiome,” the microbiota that live within us.

The paper apparently prompted some criticisms, and even led one academic editor at PLOS ONE to resign. The journal  now says “the conclusions of this study are not supported by the data presented,” and have retracted it. But the case may reveal more about the limitations of peer review at the journal than it does about any weaknesses of the study. Continue reading Journal retracts study linking “gut makeover” to weight loss, improved health

Caught Our Notice: Voinnet co-author issues another correction

Title: AtsPLA2-α nuclear relocalization by the Arabidopsis transcription factor AtMYB30 leads to repression of the plant defense response

What Caught Our Attention:  A previous collaborator with high-profile plant biologist Olivier Voinnet (who now has eight retractions) has issued an interesting correction to a 2010 PNAS paper. Susana Rivas is last author on the paper, the correction for which notes some images were duplicated, and others were “cropped and/or stretched to match the other blots.” Rivas is currently a group leader at The Laboratory of Plant-Microbe Interactions (LIPM), “a combined INRA-CNRS Research Unit.” Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Voinnet co-author issues another correction

Caught Our Notice: Swiss group loses 4th paper for data manipulation

Title: Dysferlin Interacts with Histone Deacetylase 6 and Increases alpha-Tubulin Acetylation

What Caught Our Attention:  After losing three articles for data manipulation, Michael Sinnreich has retracted another paper in PLoS ONE.  All four retractions share some of the same authors, including Bilal Azakir and Sabrina Di Fulvio, who is listed as the first author on the latest retraction. None of the notices have identified a person responsible for the data manipulation. Three years ago, PubPeer user had flagged some of the figures mentioned in the notice — noting that he was “led to this paper by a story on Retraction Watch” — most likely, a 2014 post that flagged an ongoing discussion about one of Sinnreich’s papers on PubPeer. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Swiss group loses 4th paper for data manipulation

Caught Our Notice: Oops, wrong species

Title: Virulent Diuraphis noxia Aphids Over-Express Calcium Signaling Proteins to Overcome Defenses of Aphid-Resistant Wheat Plants

What Caught Our Attention: Sadly, it’s not uncommon for researchers to mistake the identity of what they’re working with — but not everyone comes clean and works to transparently correct the record. So it’s nice to see some authors among a group based in the US and India take the initiative to retract their paper after realizing they had based some of their conclusions on the wrong species of aphid. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Oops, wrong species

Journal retracts “hopelessly flawed” paper linking cell phone radiation to pain

Mario Romero-Ortega. Credit: UT-Dallas

A journal is retracting a paper linking radio waves from cell phone towers to pain in amputees, despite objections from the authors.

Anthropogenic Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields Elicit Neuropathic Pain in an Amputation Model,” originally published Jan. 16, 2016 in PLOS ONE, suggested that rats with injured nerves experienced pain when exposed to the type of electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phone network towers. A press release issued by the University of Texas at Dallas (UT-Dallas) — where the corresponding author Mario Romero-Ortega and two co-first authors are based — said that this phenomenon has been reported anecdotally by people missing limbs.

But the study, especially its methodology, met with immediate criticism in the article’s comment section. PLOS ONE noted in March 2016 that the authors had contacted the journal regarding an error in some of the exposure levels reported in the study, which journal staff were “looking into.” In December 2016, the journal told the authors it was going to retract the paper. Now, more than one year later, it finally has.

Ken Foster, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who commented in February 2016 that the paper was “hopelessly flawed,” told us: Continue reading Journal retracts “hopelessly flawed” paper linking cell phone radiation to pain

Caught Our Notice: What if you find out a paper relied on expired herbal supplement?

Via Wikimedia

Title: Exploration of inhibitory mechanisms of curcumin in lung cancer metastasis using a miRNA- transcription factor-target gene network

What Caught Our Attention: The researchers were studying how curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric, can inhibit lung cancer metastases. But upon learning that the primary material had been expired at the time of testing (and realizing they were unable to repeat their experiments), the researchers pulled their paper. Expiration dates do have safety factors built in, but attention to such details is imperative in research.  Continue reading Caught Our Notice: What if you find out a paper relied on expired herbal supplement?

PLOS ONE retracts two papers one year after author says he okayed the move

PLOS ONE has retracted two 2014 papers from a group of researchers, after an institutional investigation confirmed image duplication. Although the authors initially asked to correct the figures in the two papers, they ultimately agreed with the decision to retract.

Mrinal K. Maitian associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur and corresponding author on the two now-retracted PLOS ONE papersalso corrected a 2016 paper published in PLOS ONE over figure-related errors. Maiti is the only author in common to all papers.

A spokesperson for the journal told us:
Continue reading PLOS ONE retracts two papers one year after author says he okayed the move