PNAS wouldn’t let authors cite unpublished manuscript. Now, it admits it was wrong.

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When researchers submitted a paper about a type of microparticle to PNAS, they wanted to give credit where it was due, and cite an unpublished manuscript that helped guide their work. But the journal’s policy forbid citing unpublished work, and the reference was removed before publication. Now, concerns from the authors of that unpublished work have prompted the journal to have a change of heart.  

Continue reading PNAS wouldn’t let authors cite unpublished manuscript. Now, it admits it was wrong.

UCSF-VA investigation finds misconduct in highly cited PNAS paper

PNAS has corrected a highly cited paper after an investigation found evidence of misconduct.

The investigationconducted jointly by the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Centeruncovered image manipulation in Figure 2D, which “could only have occurred intentionally.” The institutions, however, could not definitively attribute the research misconduct to any individual.

According to the notice, the UCSF-VA committee determined that a correction to the 2008 PNAS paperwhich explores the genetic underpinnings of prostate cancerwas “appropriate,” and the authors have now replaced the problematic figure with a corrected version. The 2008 paper has been cited 630 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

A spokesperson for PNAS told Retraction Watch: Continue reading UCSF-VA investigation finds misconduct in highly cited PNAS paper

Overlooked virus “generated a mess,” infected highly cited Cell, PNAS papers

When Alexander Harms arrived at the University of Copenhagen in August 2016, as a postdoc planning to study a type of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, he carried with him a warning from another lab who had recruited him:

People said, “If you go there, you have to deal with these weird articles that nobody believes.”

The papers in question had been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 and Cell in 2013. Led by Kenn Gerdes, Harms’s new lab director, the work laid out a complex chain of events that mapped out how an E. coli bacterium can go into a dormant state, called persistence, that allows it to survive while the rest of its colony is wiped out.

Despite some experts’ skepticism, each paper had been cited hundreds of times. And Harms told us:

I personally did believe in the published work. There had been papers from others that kind of attacked [the Gerdes lab’s theory], but that was not high-quality work.

But by November 2016, Harms figured out that the skeptics had been right.  Continue reading Overlooked virus “generated a mess,” infected highly cited Cell, PNAS papers

Florida investigation can’t ID culprit who falsified data in retracted PNAS paper

When the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences retracted a gene therapy paper in December, it declared that some of the data had been falsified and mentioned a research misconduct investigation. But the notice said nothing about who was responsible.

Via a public records request, Retraction Watch has obtained investigation documents from the University of Florida, which show the focus had been narrowed down to two of the paper’s three co-first authors. But the investigation committee didn’t assign blame to either one. According to their final report, dated Oct. 24, 2016:

there was not enough direct evidence to either implicate or exonerate either of these individuals.

Over the course of the formal investigation, which lasted from early August to late October 2016,  the committee was able to determine that data in the PNAS paper had been falsified. However, it said: Continue reading Florida investigation can’t ID culprit who falsified data in retracted PNAS paper

Prof who just dropped $10M suit against PNAS: “I was expecting them to settle”

Mark Jacobson

Yesterday, Mark Jacobson, a researcher at Stanford University who studies the future of renewable energy, announced he would drop a $10 million defamation suit over a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was critical of his work. As we reported, the announcement came just two days after the District of Columbia Superior Court heard oral arguments about the case because the defendants — the National Academy of Sciences and Christopher Clack, who runs a data analysis company called Vibrant Clean Energy — had asked the court to dismiss the case.

When the suit became public knowledge in November 2017, Jacobson’s decision drew criticism from both scientists and lawyers. We talked with him today about how he feels now that it’s over. Continue reading Prof who just dropped $10M suit against PNAS: “I was expecting them to settle”

Stanford prof plans to drop $10m suit against PNAS and critic

Mark Jacobson

A professor who is suing a journal publisher and critic for defamation has announced he plans to drop the case.

Yesterday, Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson announced on Twitter that he plans to “voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit” he filed last year in the District of Columbia, in which he alleged he was defamed when the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a paper critical of his research on the future of renewable energy. Continue reading Stanford prof plans to drop $10m suit against PNAS and critic

PNAS asks D.C. court to dismiss $10 million defamation lawsuit

WASHINGTON, DC — Lawyers for the National Academy of Sciences have asked a District of Columbia court to dismiss a $10 million defamation suit brought by a Stanford University professor.

Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford who has published research about the future of renewable energy, alleged he was defamed in a June 2017 article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In September 2017, Jacobson sued both NAS and the first author of the article for libel in D.C. Superior Court. He also sued NAS for breach of contract.

In response, the co-defendants have each asked the court to dismiss the case under a D.C. law designed to curb so-called “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPP). Anti-SLAPP laws, which D.C. and 28 states have enacted, generally offer defendants a way to counter what they consider burdensome lawsuits that may have the effect of chilling speech on important issues. In a memo filed Nov. 27, 2017, in support of its motion, NAS claimed that Jacobson filed the suit: Continue reading PNAS asks D.C. court to dismiss $10 million defamation lawsuit

They thought they might solve the world’s energy problems. Then they realized they were wrong.

Frederick MacDonnell

Researchers are retracting a 2016 PNAS paper that described a way to create gasoline-like fuels directly from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Senior author Frederick MacDonnell, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), told us he originally thought his team had made a preliminary breakthrough that might “solve the world’s energy problems.” Instead, he said:

It was an elaborate trap we fell into.

In a retraction notice that contains more information than we usually see, MacDonnell and his co-authors wrote: Continue reading They thought they might solve the world’s energy problems. Then they realized they were wrong.

University finds falsified data in PNAS gene therapy paper, authors retract

A university investigation has found falsified data in a 2011 paper about the side effects of a virus commonly used in gene therapy.

The authors are retracting the paper, but one co-author told Retraction Watch they stand by their main conclusions. According to Roland Herzog, a professor at the University of Florida (UF) College of Medicine and a co-author of the paper, the falsified data were related to a minor part of the paper.

The paper, “Activation of the NF-κB pathway by adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors and its implications in immune response and gene therapy,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in March 2011. All authors were affiliated with UF at the time; the handling editor, Kenneth Berns, is an emeritus professor at UF. The paper has been cited 50 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. Continue reading University finds falsified data in PNAS gene therapy paper, authors retract

Lawyers call libel suit against journal and critic “lawless” but “well written”

Mark Jacobson

A $10 million defamation suit filed by a Stanford University professor against a critic and a journal may be an assault on free speech, according to one lawyer, but at least it’s “well written.”

Kenneth White, a lawyer at Southern California firm Brown White & Osborn who frequently blogs about legal issues related to free speech at Popehat, told us:

It’s not incompetently drafted, but it’s clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.

Scientists have publicly bemoaned the suit’s existence, as reported by several outlets, including Mashable and Nature. Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford, has alleged that he was defamed in a June article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which was critical of a 2015 paper co-authored by Jacobson in the same journal. In a complaint filed Sept. 29 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Jacobson accused the journal’s publisher, the National Academy of Sciences, and the paper’s first author, Christopher Clack, an executive at a renewable energy analysis firm, of libel.

White told us that there are several pitfalls that could trip up the lawsuit, including a DC law that allows defendants an early opportunity to ask the court to dismiss cases muzzling free speech and recover attorneys’ fees. But another attorney said the complaint should at least clear the lowest hurdle in the way of getting to trial. Continue reading Lawyers call libel suit against journal and critic “lawless” but “well written”