Medical ethicist: “I now understand that I should not have been re-using material”

Ezio Di Nucci

A researcher in medical ethics has retracted two papers within the last two years after admitting to reusing material from previous publications.

Ezio Di Nucci, based at the University of Copenhagen, claims he “had misunderstood the relevant practices.”

The first retraction, issued in 2017 by the Journal of Value Inquiry, notes the paper “constituted the third verbatim publication of the same text.” The paper “Strategic Bombing, Causal Beliefs, and Double Effect” has only been cited once since it was published in 2016, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

After that retraction, Di Nucci told us he requested the retraction of a second 2016 article, published by Minds and Machines. The retraction notice for “Habits, Priming and the Explanation of Mindless Action” — which has not yet been indexed — states that “the author misunderstood the practice of re-using one’s own material and apologizes for any inconvenience caused.”

Di Nucci told us:

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A publisher just retracted ten papers whose peer review was “engineered” — despite knowing about the problem of fake reviews for years

Many publishers have been duped by fake peer reviews, which have brought down more than 600 papers to date. But some continue to get fooled.

Recently, SAGE retracted 10 papers published as part of two special collections in Advances in Mechanical Engineering after discovering the peer review process that had been managed by the guest editors “did not meet the journal’s usual rigorous standards.” After a new set of reviewers looked over the collections, they determined 10 papers included “technical errors,” and the content “did not meet the journal’s required standard of scientific validity.”

Yeah, we’re not exactly sure what happened here, either. SAGE gave us a little extra clarity — but not much.

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Researchers pull Nature paper over first author’s objections

Researchers have retracted a 2015 Nature paper about the molecular underpinnings of immune function after discovering they could not replicate key parts of the results.

The first author, Wendy Huang — who started working as an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, only months after the paper appeared — did not sign the retraction letter, published last week. The research was conducted while Huang was working as a postdoctoral fellow at New York University, home of last author Dan Littman (also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute).

What happened appears to be a case of “he said, she said:” Littman asked to retract the paper after his lab couldn’t reproduce it, and Huang insists the data remain correct, saying the process had been “unfair and done without due process:”

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After probe, journal removes flag from four papers, corrects manipulated images

Last year, Journal of Cell Science added notices to four papers after a reader contacted the editors with some concerns about issues with the figures. Now, it’s replacing the previous editorial notices with corrections, which address duplicated images and data.

When the journal issued expressions of concern for four papers co-authored by José Ignacio Rodriguez-Crespo about the allegations (which had also been raised on PubPeer), it notified his institution, the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM). The newly issued correction notices explain that UCM investigated the four papers, and the data support the results and conclusions. In two cases, the authors supplied the original data, and in the others, they replicated the experiments.

Rodriguez-Crespo declined to comment, saying only that the journal

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Fecal transplant paper pulled for “personal issue”

Last month, the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition pulled an article on fecal transplantation for a reason that, well, doesn’t pass the sniff test.

The paper, by Sonia Michail of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, appeared online in October 2017 and described a randomized controlled trial of fecal transplants to treat kids with ulcerative colitis. (If you’re interested, here’s an overview of how fecal transplantation works.) The trial, or one awfully like it, is listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, and shows Michail as the lone investigator on the study, which is aiming to gather more than 100 participants.

But the journal retracted the article — which was the subject of a laudatory editorial in the journal pointing readers to the findings — with an entirely opaque statement, saying that the work   

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Journals flag two papers by prominent researcher — who is also on trial for domestic abuse

Adeel Safdar was once a rising star in the field of kinesiology. After completing his doctorate degree at McMaster University in Canada, working with one of the titans of his field, Safdar took a postdoc at Harvard, then accepted a newly created chair position at another university in Ontario.

That all came crashing down last year, when Safdar went on trial in Canada, accused of horrifically abusing his wife. Over the course of the trial, allegations arose about his research, prompting two journals to flag papers he co-authored with his former mentor, Mark Tarnopolsky.

Tarnopolsky — author of more than 400 papers, which have collectively been cited more than 17,000 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science — told Retraction Watch:

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Misconduct probe of once rising star prompts retraction of cat’s meow paper

A group of Australian researchers who studied the cat’s meow as a model for urinary incontinence and other motor-neural issues in people have lost a 2015 paper in the wake of a misconduct investigation.

The target of the inquiry was Hari Subramanian, a former senior research fellow at the Queensland Brain Institute, part of the University of Queensland (UQ). Subramanian was leading studies of incontinence in the elderly, for which he sometimes used nerve stimulators on live rodents and cats. As The Australian reported last September, animal rights activists have objected to his research methods — which sometimes involved sticking probes into the brains of living animals.  

Recently, the school launched an investigation — prompted by an unknown complainant — into the integrity of Subramanian’s data in two articles, including one, now retracted, that appeared in the Journal of Comparative Neurology.  

The case is controversial, to say the least, replete with allegations of unfair attacks. Subramanian’s lawyer told us the journal may be reviewing its decision to retract the paper. (We couldn’t confirm that with the editor.)

Here’s what we’ve found out so far.

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How much cancer stems from diabetes, obesity? Lancet journal swaps high-profile paper

Six months ago, the media was ablaze with the findings of a new paper, showing that nearly six percent of cancer cases are caused, at least in part, by obesity and diabetes. But this week, the journal retracted that paper — and replaced it with a revised version.

The new paper doesn’t change the main findings much — the share of all cancers attributable to diabetes and obesity changed from 5.6% to 5.7%, which wouldn’t change any headlines about the original paper. But soon after the paper was published, a group of researchers noticed the authors’ mistake — which was significant enough to prompt the journal to retract the paper entirely, and swap it with a new one.

According to first author Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard at Imperial College London:

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Dental journal pulls a dozen papers for recycled images and “unreliable data”

A leading orthodontics journal has retracted 12 papers after determining that they contained either reused images, questionable data or both. Several of the articles involved experiments conducted in dogs — and one person familiar with the case told us that the duplication was an attempt to avoid sacrificing more animals than necessary for the research.  

Although the list of authors on the articles varies, the common denominator is Jose Luis Calvo-Guirado, of the UCAM Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia, in Spain. Calvo-Guirado’s title at the institution is director de la Cátedra Internacional de Investigación en Odontología, which Google translates as director of the International Research Chair in Dentistry.  Calvo-Guirado also holds (or has held) a research professorship at SUNY Stony Brook in the Department of Prosthodontics and Digital Medicine, according to his CV.

Calvo-Guirado’s name is on at least 187 entries in PubMed. Of those, 40 appeared in Clinical Oral Implants Research, a Wiley title on whose editorial board the researcher served, according to his CV.  

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Now-retracted chem paper’s problems “should have been noticed by the referees,” group says

Last year, chemist Marcus Tius at the University of Hawaii saw a paper describing the synthesis of some organic compounds, and was “struck by the implausibility” of the reported structures. So he joined up with some colleagues to try to replicate the data.

While Tius and his team were trying to repeat the experiment, however, in December 2017 the journal — Organic Letters — retracted the paper. The journal, published by the American Chemical Society, noted that the authors had not been able to produce crystal structures that confirm they had synthesized those compounds in particular. So Tius and his colleagues knew they couldn’t replicate the findings — but carried on their experiment anyway:

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