Former medical school dean earns sixth retraction

Joseph Shapiro

A kidney researcher and former dean of a medical school has now had six papers retracted and one marked with an expression of concern in a little more than a year

The latest retraction for Joseph I. Shapiro, of a 2015 paper in Science Advances, comes two years after PubPeer commenters began posting about potentially duplicated images in the article, and one year after the authors corrected two of its figures. 

Shapiro, the corresponding author on the article, stepped down as dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va., on June 30th of this year, but remains a tenured professor at the institution. Neither he nor  Komal Sodhi, the first author on the article and also of Marshall, have responded to our request for comment. 

Retractions of work Shapiro led began last September, according to our database, following critical comments on PubPeer. 

Continue reading Former medical school dean earns sixth retraction

Paper likening human sperm to “playful otters” retracted

via Science Advances

Everybody out of the pool. 

The authors of a 2020 paper in Science Advances on how human sperm propel themselves in a corkscrew fashion like “playful otters” have retracted their article after concluding that their analysis didn’t support their conclusions. 

The article, by Hermes Gadêlha, of the University of Bristol, in England, and several colleagues in Mexico, spawned significant coverage in the lay and science press — including this segment on NPR’s Science Friday and an article in Science (the work behind it was the subject of this YouTube video titled “The great sperm race”).

At the heart of the paper, “Human sperm uses asymmetric and anisotropic flagellar controls to regulate swimming symmetry and cell steering,” was the use of a technology called high-speed 3D microscopy to analyze sperm in motion. Per the abstract

Continue reading Paper likening human sperm to “playful otters” retracted

Drug delivery study with duplicated images is retracted

By Elisabeth Bik, via PubPeer

A study that found a way to deliver certain kinds of drugs more effectively in mice is being retracted today.

The study, “Molecular targeting of FATP4 transporter for oral delivery of therapeutic peptide” was overseen by Haifa Shen at the Houston Methodist Research Institute and published in Science Advances on April 1.

Several readers, including scientific sleuth Elisabeth Bik, posted concerns about the article’s images on PubPeer within weeks of the paper’s publication. The concerns involved overlapping and duplicate images, and this gem:

Could the authors clarify if some of the mice had two sets of major organs, please?

The retraction notice says:

Continue reading Drug delivery study with duplicated images is retracted

Dear journals: Clean up your act. Regards, Concerned Biostatistician

Romain-Daniel Gosselin

Recently, a biostatistician sent an open letter to editors of 10 major science journals, urging them to pay more attention to common statistical problems with papers. Specifically, Romain-Daniel Gosselin, Founder and CEO of Biotelligences, which trains researchers in biostatistics, counted how many of 10 recent papers in each of the 10 journals contained two common problems: omitting the sample size used in experiments, as well as the tests used as part of the statistical analyses. (Short answer: Too many.) Below, we have reproduced his letter.

Dear Editors and Colleagues,

I write this letter as a biologist and instructor of biostatistics, concerned about the disregard for statistical reporting that is threatening scientific reproducibility. I hereby urge you to spearhead the strict application of existing guidelines on statistical reporting. Continue reading Dear journals: Clean up your act. Regards, Concerned Biostatistician

Ecologists pull paper on how climate change affects moths after model mixup

science advancesEcologists have retracted a paper published only months ago in Science Advances, after realizing that they had misinterpreted a climate model.

The October paper examined the effects of climate change on populations of 155 species of British moths and butterflies. According to a press release from the authors’ institution, the University of York:

Using data collected by thousands of volunteers through ‘citizen science’ schemes, responses to recent climate change were seen to vary greatly from species to species.

But the authors quickly realized that the variation they had measured was not due to climate change alone, according to the retraction notice they issued for the paper last week:

Continue reading Ecologists pull paper on how climate change affects moths after model mixup

What do you do after painful retractions? Q&A with Pamela Ronald and Benjamin Schwessinger

Pamela Ronald and Benjamin Schwessinger, wearing the shirts of a swim competition they entered

2013 was a rough year for biologist Pamela Ronald. After discovering the protein that appears to trigger rice’s immune system to fend off a common bacterial disease – suggesting a new way to engineer disease-resistant crops – she and her team had to retract two papers in 2013 after they were unable to replicate their findings. The culprits: a mislabeled bacterial strain and a highly variable assay. However, the care and transparency she exhibited earned her a “doing the right thing” nod from us at the time.

After many months spent understanding what went wrong and redoing the experiments correctly, today Ronald and her team release another paper in Science Advances that reveals the protein they thought they had identified in 2013.

Ronald and co-first author Benjamin Schwessinger (who recently became an independent research fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra) spoke to us about the experience of recovering from the retractions and finally getting it right. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

-What did you do differently this time so you didn’t repeat the same mistakes?

Continue reading What do you do after painful retractions? Q&A with Pamela Ronald and Benjamin Schwessinger