It’s become a sort of Retraction Watch Mad Libs: Author writes a paper that is so far, far, out of the mainstream. Maybe it argues that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Or that vaccines cause autism. Truth squads swarm over the paper, taking to blogs and Twitter to wonder, in the exasperated tone of those who have been here before, how on earth it was published in a peer reviewed journal.
Then, in something that approaches — but does not quite qualify as — contrition, the journal in question retracts the paper, mumbling something in a retraction notice about a compromised peer review process, or that ghosts in the machine allowed the paper to be published instead of being rejected.
This week’s parade float entry is a paper in the International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology, a Springer Nature title that is apparently sponsored by The Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, where many of its editorial board members work.
According to one notice for “In-silico Analysis of LncRNA-mRNA Target Prediction” in: D. Reddy Edla et al. (eds.), Advances in Machine Learning and Data Science, Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing 705, the chapter was retracted for plagiarism.
The authors of a 2018 paper on how noisy distractions disrupt memory are retracting the article after finding a flaw in their study.
The paper, “Unexpected events disrupt visuomotor working memory and increase guessing,” appeared in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, a publication of the Psychonomic Society. (For those keeping score at home, psychonomics is the study of the laws of the mind.)
The article purported to show that an unexpected “auditory event,” like the sudden blare of a car horn, reduced the ability of people to remember visuomotor cues. Per the abstract:
When a researcher submitted a manuscript to a journal about multimedia tools, she was frustrated to wait 13 months for the journal to make a decision — only to have it reject the paper outright. So imagine how she felt when, days after the paper was rejected, she saw the journal had published a plagiarized version of the paper by a group of different authors.
Clearly, something went very awry here — especially since the journal, Multimedia Tools and Applications (MTAP), has retracted three papers by the same group of authors, all of which plagiarized from unpublished manuscripts by other people.
Of course, one possibility is that an author was a peer reviewer of the manuscripts, and stole the unpublished material — something that unfortunately does happen.
There are four authors in common to all three manuscripts, but only one — corresponding author Chao Xiong of the Changzhou Institute of Technology in China — has responded to any queries from MTAP, according to the retraction notices. As the notices state, Xiong agrees with one of the the retractions, but not the other two. (All of the papers cover similar topics and were submitted around the same time, so it’s unclear why Xiong didn’t object to one retraction.)
Here’s a sample notice, for “Image-based reversible data hiding algorithm toward big multimedia data:”
Last week, we reported that the journal, and its publisher, Springer Nature, were having some trouble with a retracted presentation from a 2017 cancer meeting. Turns out, the issue involved crossed wires for similar articles in the journal by the same trio of researchers.
Elizabeth Hawkins, a spokeswoman for Springer Nature, told us:
What Caught Our Attention: We won’t lie — any retractions of papers about fish semen (OK, any kind of semen) will make us stop and look. In this case, the journal retracted three papers submitted by the same researcher over concerns of fake review. In the end, the journal was concerned the papers were okayed by reviewers who weren’t “suitably qualified” to review the papers about the content and quality of semen from different fish species. (In fairness, we imagine the pool of qualified reviewers is relatively small.)
What Caught Our Attention: Quite frankly, anything with “gorilla gorilla gorilla” in the title will catch our eye, even if it is just the scientific name of the western lowland gorilla. In this case, the journal issued an expression of concern over an “unintended discrepancy” that may have affected the paper, which validates the use of a tool to measure oxytocin in the apes’ urine and saliva. The authors voluntarily notified the editors of Primate of the potential issue, and the journal issued an Expression of Concern only one month after the article was published — which is pretty fast for a notice, although not a record (see this one, issued six days after publication).
What Caught Our Attention: Usually, when journals publish corrections to articles, they also correct the original article, except when the original is unavailable online. When Nature noticed that some figure panels in a 20-year-old paper were duplicated, it flagged the issue for readers — but didn’t correct the online version of the original paper. According to the notice, the duplications don’t disturb the conclusion illustrated by the figure, the original data couldn’t be found, and the last two authors had retired. We contacted a spokesperson at Nature, who told us “the information at the start of the paper clearly links to the corrigendum.” Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Yes, a 20-year-old article is wrong — but it won’t be corrected online