Barislav Momčilović thinks that iodine status is — after iron deficiency — the “main public health” issue in the world today. So when he figured out what he believed was the best way to test levels of the mineral, he was determined to get the message out.
A little too determined, perhaps: He published the same information three times. And one journal caught on. Last week, Thyroid retracted “Hair Iodine for Human Iodine Status Assessment,” a 2014 paper that they say overlapped with two earlier works.
What Caught Our Attention: Soon after the paper appeared, the journal was alerted to the fact its findings were at odds with others in the field. When the editor approached the authors, everything fell apart: The authors couldn’t repeat the experiments, and “were also unsure of the molecular probes that were used in the study.” While it isn’t unusual to have doubts about data — since since research is a process of experimentation — it is odd not to know how your experiment was conducted. The paper was retracted less than two months after it was published. The manuscript was accepted two months after it was submitted in early May, theoretically giving reviewers enough time to catch these issues (along with the authors’ failure to cite relevant papers).
Sometime in the middle of 2015, Jennifer Byrne, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Sydney, began her journey from cancer researcher to a scientific literature sleuth, seeking out potentially problematic papers.
The first step was when she noticed several papers that contained a mistake in a DNA construct which, she believed, meant the papers were not testing the gene in question, associated with multiple cancer types. She started a writing campaign to the journal editors and researchers, with mixed success. But less than two years later, two of the five papers she flagged have already been retracted.
In July 2015, DNA and Cell Biology began routinely scanning manuscript submissions for plagiarism using iThenticate; since then, it’s rejected between four and six manuscripts each month for that reason alone. Additional submissions have been rejected after the journal realized the authors had digitally altered figures. The level of misconduct “shocked” editor-in-chief Carol Shoshkes Reiss, as she wrote in a recent editorial for the journal. She spoke to us about the strict measures the journal has adopted in response to these incidents.
When a researcher discovered one of the images in her papers was a duplication, she asked the journal to fix it — but the journal decided to retract the paper entirely.
The researcher, Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, is currently being investigated by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden after a number of her papers were questioned on PubPeer. She told us the duplication was the result of ‘‘genuine human error.’’ Tissue Engineering Part A, however, decided the request to swap the image was a ‘‘cause for concern,’’ and chose to retract the paper.
Journals have retracted two papers after realizing that they contain “nearly identical” abstracts and introductions, published only months apart.
The two retracted papers, along with a third that also contains similar text, all conclude that a certain polymorphism could signal a risk for coronary artery disease among Chinese people, though each paper presents different data. The papers do not have any authors in common; the first authors are all based at different hospitals in China. The editor in chief of one journal told us that some of the reviewers did not use institutional email addresses, which leaves open the possibility that they were fake emails, and the peer-review process was compromised.
A father and son are fighting over whether a laser therapy they describe as co-authors of a 2015 paper could be harmful to patients, prompting the journal to retract the article.
The small study suggested that the therapy could safely treat patients with glaucoma. But Tomislav Ivandic — the father — alleges that errors in how the study was reported could lead to harmful doses of laser light for patients receiving the therapy. His son and co-author, Boris Ivandic, maintains that the article is accurate.