Thousands boycott new Nature journal about machine learning

More than two thousand researchers have signed a petition to boycott a new Nature journal over the fact it will be available only by subscription.

The new journal — Nature Machine Intelligence, about machine learning — plans to charge readers for access, unlike most other journals in the field. The researchers who signed the petition have pledged not to submit their work to the new journal, and will decline to review or edit papers for it, as well.

Most journals published by Nature Publishing Group are available only by subscription — but that doesn’t work for the machine learning community, the signatories argue:

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Figures in cancer paper at root of newly failed compound called into question

How much role did a potentially problematic paper play in the demise of a once-promising compound?

Researchers are questioning the validity of a high-profile article, published by Nature in 2006. Although the letter is 12 years old, the concerns have current implications: It was among the early evidence used to develop a cancer compound that recently failed a number of clinical trials.

It’s unclear whether the problems with the paper — if validated — could have contributed to the compound’s demise. But an outside expert has some thoughts — and so do image experts and multiple external reports, including one released this month, which agree the concerns about the figures have merit. (The first author’s ex-husband isn’t too happy with the article, either.)

Continue reading Figures in cancer paper at root of newly failed compound called into question

Over a dozen editorial board members resigned when a journal refused to retract a paper. Today, it’s retracted.

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:

Continue reading Over a dozen editorial board members resigned when a journal refused to retract a paper. Today, it’s retracted.

“Major advance” in solar power retracted for reproducibility issues

The authors of a highly cited 2016 research letter on a way to improve the efficiency of solar panels have retracted their work following “concerns about the reproducibility.”

Given the potential importance of the data, it would be nice to know what exactly went wrong, and why. However, the retraction notice doesn’t provide many details, and doesn’t even specify if the authors did indeed fail to reproduce the data.

The letter, titled “Graded bandgap perovskite solar cells,” was published in Nature Materials by a group out of the University of California at Berkeley and the affiliated Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The 2016 article has been cited 16 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, earning it the ranking of “highly cited.”

Berkeley heralded the findings in a press release as a “major advance” in the field of solar energy:

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Ever been asked to remove a reference for libel concerns? These authors have

Last month, Nature Ecology & Evolution published a series of responses to a previous article recommending essential reading for all ecologists. In one response, the authors argue that the list is highly biased in favor of white male authors, and raises the problem of bullying and harassment in academia. But the letter is missing one key reference from its original submission: To a recent news story in Science reporting “disturbing” sexual harassment allegations against a prominent field researcher.

Why is the reference missing?

Because the editor at Nature Ecology & Evolution asked the authors to take it out, citing concerns about libel.

Here’s the note the authors received on their original submission:

Continue reading Ever been asked to remove a reference for libel concerns? These authors have

”Definitely embarrassing:” Nobel Laureate retracts non-reproducible paper in Nature journal

A Nobel Laureate has retracted a 2016 paper in Nature Chemistry that explored the origins of life on earth, after discovering the main conclusions were not correct.  

Some researchers who study the origins of life on Earth have hypothesized that RNA evolved before DNA or proteins.  If true, RNA would have needed a way to replicate without enzymes. The Nature Chemistry paper found that a certain type of peptide — which may have existed in our early history — made it possible for RNA to copy itself.

Jack W. Szostaka professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider for their pioneering research on aging—told us he was “incredibly excited” when he “thought we had at least a partial solution to this problem,” which researchers have been working on for over 50 years.  

But in subsequent experiments, Tivoli Olsen — a member of Szostak’s lab — could not reproduce the 2016 findings. When she reviewed the experiments from the Nature Chemistry paper, she found that the team had misinterpreted the initial data: The peptide in question did not appear to provide an environment that fostered RNA replication.

The errors were “definitely embarrassing,” Szostak told us: Continue reading ”Definitely embarrassing:” Nobel Laureate retracts non-reproducible paper in Nature journal

Journal to assemble “senior editorial committee” to review paper that led to board resignations

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:

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17 Johns Hopkins researchers resign in protest from ed board at Nature journal

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:

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“My dog ate the data:” Eight excuses journal editors hear

As a journal editor, are you tired of hearing the same excuses from authors who are facing allegations of problematic data? If so, you’re not alone.

Recently, an editor of the journal Oncogene co-authored an editorial in the journal listing the types of excuses he often hears — and why none of them is valid. Writing the article with editor Justin Stebbing of Imperial College/Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust is David Sanders of Purdue University. Sanders himself has raised allegations of misconduct against a cancer researcher (and is currently being sued for defamation as a result).

Here are the problematic excuses they encounter:

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21 faculty at Johns Hopkins threaten to resign from board if journal doesn’t retract paper

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:

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