With those 25 words, “one of the greatest scientific Easter eggs in a long time” or an image that was “highly unethical,” depending on your point of view, disappeared from a paper from Scientific Reports. Continue reading “Unusual aspects” of a figure — aka a cartoon of Trump’s face in baboon feces — disappear from a journal
If you’ve been anywhere near Twitter this week, you have probably seen a paper from Scientific Reports that appears to contain a likeness of a certain U.S. president in a cartoon of baboon feces.
It was “one of the greatest scientific Easter eggs in a long time,” according to Jonathan Eisen of the University of California, Davis. Continue reading Is it game over for a cartoon of Trump’s face in baboon feces? A journal issues an editor’s note for “unusual aspects”
Following a massive editorial protest, Scientific Reports is admitting its handling of a disputed paper was “insufficient and inadequate,” and has agreed to retract it.
The 2016 paper was initially corrected by the journal, after a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, Michael Beer, accused it of lifting some of his earlier work. After we covered the story, nearly two dozen Hopkins researchers threatened to resign from the journal’s editorial board if the journal didn’t retract the paper — and many followed through with that threat after the journal reaffirmed its initial decision. In response, the journal said it would assemble a “senior editorial committee” to review its decision-making.
That committee, it appears, has determined that the journal erred in its initial decision. According to a statement from the journal provided to Retraction Watch:
Following heavy criticism of its decision to correct — instead of retract — a paper accused of plagiarism, Scientific Reports is adding an editor’s note to the paper and forming a committee to review the case.
The 2016 paper in question has been accused of plagiarism by a researcher at Johns Hopkins, Michael Beer. Following the initial allegation, the journal decided to correct, not retract, the paper. After we covered the story, nearly two dozen Hopkins researchers threatened to resign if the journal didn’t retract the paper. This week, the journal reaffirmed its initial decision, and the resignations are pouring in.
Yesterday, Suzanne Farley, Executive Editor of Scientific Reports, a Nature Publishing Group journal, sent us a statement:
More than a dozen members of the editorial board at Scientific Reports have resigned after the journal decided not to retract a 2016 paper that a researcher claims plagiarized his work.
As of this morning, 19 people — mostly researchers based at Johns Hopkins — had stepped down from the board, according to Hopkins researcher Steven Salzberg. Salzberg organized the response after learning of the issue from colleague Michael Beer, who has accused the 2016 paper of plagiarism.
Monday morning, Richard White, the editor of the journal (published by Springer Nature), sent an email to Salzberg and the researchers who had threatened to resign if the paper wasn’t retracted, saying:
More than 20 faculty members at Johns Hopkins University have signed a letter to Scientific Reports saying they will resign from the editorial board if the journal doesn’t retract a 2016 paper.
The paper is problematic, they argue, because a biologist at Johns Hopkins claims it plagiarized his work. One of that biologist’s colleagues at Hopkins has already resigned from the journal’s editorial board over its decision to correct (and not retract) the paper; last week, another 21 people told the journal they’d do the same.
The letter to the journal also includes a side-by-side comparison between the 2016 paper and the work it allegedly plagiarized. The board members note:
A biologist is crying foul at a journal’s decision to correct (and not retract) a paper he claims plagiarized his work — and one of his colleagues has resigned from the journal’s editorial board as a result.
The 2016 paper, published by Scientific Reports, is an application of a previously published algorithm designed to better identify regulatory sequences in DNA. The three authors, based at the Shenzhen campus of the Harbin Institute of Technology, used the technique to identify recombination spots in DNA. They called it SVM-gkm.
On April 2, Michael Beer of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore notified the editors of Scientific Reports that he believed the paper had plagiarized his work. Despite Beer’s efforts, the journal ultimately decided to issue a correction notice, which cites “errors” and the authors’ failure to credit Beer’s work. That isn’t good enough for Beer — nor one of his colleagues at Johns Hopkins, who resigned from the journal’s editorial board saying “the recent affair with Mike Beer’s work being plagiarized did not impress me.”
When a journal discovers elementary design flaws in a paper, what should it do? Should it retract immediately, or are there times when it makes sense to give the researchers time to perform a “do-over?”
These are questions the editors at Scientific Reports recently faced with a somewhat controversial 2016 paper, which reported that microRNAs from broccoli could make their way into the nuclei of human cells — suggesting that the food we eat could affect our gene expression.
After the paper appeared, researcher Kenneth Witwer at Johns Hopkins — who was not a co-author — posted comments on PubMed Commons and the paper itself, noting that the authors hadn’t properly designed the experiment, making it impossible for them to detect broccoli microRNAs.
But instead of retracting the paper, the journal decided to give the authors time to do the experiments again, this time with correctly designed molecular biology tools. When that failed, they retracted it — and as part of the notice, reported the exact opposite conclusion of the original.
Witwer said the authors did a “tremendous job” with the follow-up study, but he still thinks the journal should have retracted the paper immediately. Letting the authors redo it is “a dangerous precedent to set,” he told us:
Jae Hyo Park, who is pursuing his PhD, and Seung Ki Joo, a professor in the department of material science and engineering at Seoul National University in South Korea, appear on all five papers as first and last author, respectively.
According to an official at IOP Publishing, the retractions began when a third party contacted them last March about “potential misconduct” in a paper published earlier that year in one of its journals—Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. The IOP official Simon Davies explained: Continue reading Five retractions for engineering duo in South Korea over duplication, fraudulent data
One journal has retracted a paper containing images that recently raised suspicions of obvious duplications, and another journal is planning to do the same.
Scientists first leveled accusations against the newly retracted paper in Scientific Reports, along with two others by the same researchers, earlier this month on Twitter. One other journal — PeerJ — has announced that it plans to retract one of the questioned papers, as well. The third paper, in Frontiers in Pharmacology, bears an expression of concern.
It was unusually quick action on the part of the journals, as well as the authors’ host institution, the University of Malaya, which announced last week the authors had manipulated figures in all three papers, along with one other.
Here’s today’s retraction notice from Scientific Reports for “Novel piperazine core compound induces death in human liver cancer cells: possible pharmacological properties:”