Are rich people meaner? While trying to find out, two teams find errors in each other’s work

Is having money linked to bad behavior?

A high profile paper published in 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) set out to answer that question — and found that yes, the more money people have, the more likely they are to lie, cheat, and steal. And the greedier they are, the worse they behave. But when a more recent paper tried to replicate some of those findings, it couldn’t.

It turns out, both the original paper and the paper that tried to replicate it contained errors. Although neither appear to affect the main conclusions, the authors of the 2016 replication recently issued a correction; the error in the 2012 paper was initially deemed too insignificant to correct, but the journal has decided to revisit the idea of issuing a correction.

A representative of PNAS told us that the replication paper — and reporting by Retraction Watch — is the reason why: Continue reading Are rich people meaner? While trying to find out, two teams find errors in each other’s work

Board member resigns from journal over handling of paper accused of plagiarism

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.

Continue reading Board member resigns from journal over handling of paper accused of plagiarism

Nature adds alert to heavily debated paper about gene editing

Nature has added an “editor’s note” to a high-profile August paper alerting readers to the fact that the article has been subject to criticism.

Journals often flag papers that are being debated — what’s unusual here is that the journal doesn’t label the notice as an official “Expression of Concern,” which are indexed by PubMed. Yet the Nature notice reads just like an expression of concern.

Here’s the text of the new notice, which was added October 2 (and spotted by Paul Knoepfler):

Continue reading Nature adds alert to heavily debated paper about gene editing

Nature tags glacier paper with note of concern due to data mix-up

Nature has tagged a recent paper on the importance of glacial melt to water supply in Asia with an expression of concern (EoC), after receiving a tip that the author had misused some data.

The EoC for “Asia’s glaciers are a regionally important buffer against drought,” published by Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, came out today. The May 11, 2017 article — which has been cited three times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science — considers the contribution of glaciers to water supply in Central Asia and the potential for glacier loss to exacerbate water stress in the region. The paper received limited news coverage when it came out from science sites, including Phys.org.

Pritchard appears to have improperly used a particular data set — an error that was reported to the journal by two outside experts within weeks after the paper was published.  Continue reading Nature tags glacier paper with note of concern due to data mix-up

“Devastating:” Authors retract paper in Nature journal upon discovering error

Several years ago, Chris Dames thought he had made an exciting discovery, a “secret sauce” that would allow him to design a device using a novel mechanism.

In a 2014 Nature Communications paper, Dames—who works at the University of California at Berkeley—and his team described the first experimental results for the device, a photon thermal diode. A thermal diode conducts heat in one direction but not in the other, and in theory, could have broad applications—for example, provide barriers that shield buildings from excess heat or use heat to power computers.

But two years later, in August 2016, a colleague thought he had discovered a fundamental error in the design of the experiments. Bair Budaev, who also works at the University of California at Berkeley, believed that the authors made a “a fundamental symmetry error” which invalidated their results. Continue reading “Devastating:” Authors retract paper in Nature journal upon discovering error

What should a journal do when a scientist who committed misconduct submits a new paper?

Chris Surridge

In December of last year, Chris Surridge found himself in a situation not uncommon to journal editors: A researcher who had been found to have committed misconduct had submitted a manuscript to the journal Surridge edits, Nature Plants. Retraction Watch readers may recall the name of the corresponding author, Patrice Dunoyer, who has had five papers retracted and five corrected following an investigation into work out of the Olivier Voinnet lab.

So what to do? The journal accepted the paper in May, and published it in June, along with a thoughtful editorial likening prizes and cheating in science to those phenomena in sports. The editors, according to the editorial, “treated the study we received as we would any other.” We asked Surridge to answer a few questions about the episode.

Retraction Watch (RW): Was there some internal debate about whether to consider publishing a paper by Dr. Dunoyer? Did you personally hesitate? Why or why not? Continue reading What should a journal do when a scientist who committed misconduct submits a new paper?

“The data have spoken:” Controversial NgAgo gene editing study retracted

The author of a 2016 paper describing a potentially invaluable lab tool has retracted it, following heavy criticism from outside groups that could not reproduce the findings.

The paper had already been tagged with an Expression of Concern by the journal, Nature Biotechnology, which included data from multiple groups casting doubt on the original findings. Although the authors, led by Chunyu Han at Hebei University of Science and Technology in China, produced data to support their original findings, the journal has concluded — following “feedback from expert reviewers” — that the additional data “are insufficient to counter the substantial body of evidence that contradicts their initial findings,” according to an editorial released today:

Continue reading “The data have spoken:” Controversial NgAgo gene editing study retracted

Controversial CRISPR paper earns second editorial note

Against the authors’ objections, Nature Methods has added an expression of concern to a 2017 paper that drew fire for suggesting a common gene editing technique could cause widespread collateral damage to the genome. The latest note — the second to be added in two months — alerts readers to an alternative interpretation of the findings.

When “Unexpected mutations after CRISPR–Cas9 editing in vivo” was published May 30, it immediately drew criticism from many of the top scientists working with CRISPR, including those associated with companies seeking to develop CRISPR-based therapies for humans. Share prices for the two largest companies pursuing CRISPR therapies, Editas Medicine and Intellia Therapeutics, dropped following publication of the article.

On June 14, the journal published a notice to alert readers to “technical criticisms” of the paper. Apparently, that wasn’t sufficient, because the journal is now providing more details on the nature of the criticisms, despite the objections of the paper’s authors:

Continue reading Controversial CRISPR paper earns second editorial note

Months after neuroscientist flagged errors, Nature journal corrects them — and more

When a neuroscientist noticed there were problems with his January 2017 paper in Nature Neuroscience, he didn’t wait for the journal to take action — instead, he published his concerns about four figures on PubMed Commons. Months later, the journal has issued formal corrections to those figures — along with several more.   

In February 2017, we praised Garret Stuber for alerting the scientific community to issues in his paper only 10 days after it first appeared online. On Twitter, he directed followers to the comment on PubMed Commons and asked them to retweet “for the sake of science integrity” — yet another example of how more researchers are taking matters into their own hands to alert readers to flaws in their papers. But according to the journal, the problems with the paper were more extensive than Stuber initially reported. Continue reading Months after neuroscientist flagged errors, Nature journal corrects them — and more

Nature Chemistry issues its first retraction

For the first time in its eight-year history, Nature Chemistry has retracted a paper, citing “data integrity issues.”

The 2010 paper, which explored how various iron-based molecules interact with water and ethanol, was withdrawn after the authors uncovered possible duplication in two images.

According to the retraction notice, the authors could not provide the raw data to confirm their findings and could not reproduce the figures because the experimental set-up had been dismantled. The authors subsequently requested the paper be retracted because the issues undermined “our full confidence in the integrity of the study.”

Here’s the retraction notice for “Charge transfer to solvent identified using dark channel fluorescence-yield L-edge spectroscopy”: Continue reading Nature Chemistry issues its first retraction