Decades ago, unbeknownst to each other, two chemists were independently working on a screening approach to identify new potential drugs. Both published papers about the technique around the same time. So now, when scientists write papers that cite the technique, who should get credit for discovering it?
Decades later, that question still hasn’t been answered — and the researchers continue to argue, this time over one’s decision not to cite the other’s work.
Last April, the American Journal of Epidemiology and the American Journal of Public Health published a rare joint editorial statement. It concerned a pair of papers on the topic of mortality and obesity. Several complaints had prompted the journals to investigate. Their assessment: These papers contained inaccurate results.
The statement was not a retraction—it was a compromise the editors came up with that would set the academic record straight, while not tainting the authors’ publication record, given that they had (in the editors’ opinion) made honest mistakes. It was an unusual solution to a not-uncommon problem (criticisms of a paper), in which the editors tried to balance their duty to the scientific record against its potential impact on the authors. And it left few people happy — including researchers in the field, who are left unsure about the validity of the results.
Roland Sturm, an economist at Pardee RAND Graduate School who was not a co-author on the papers, told Retraction Watch:
A researcher has retracted two 2014 papers, after discovering they had not gone through the proper approval process before being submitted.
The papers were part of a collaboration funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which focused on solving protein structures. Adam Godzik, the senior author, told Retraction Watch that all papers had to be approved by a special committee before being submitted to a journal. Given the scale of the collaboration, the committee for the Joint Center for Structural Genomics (JCSG) would assess whether researchers who had made a previous contribution to the work should be added as authors.
Researcher Floribert Patrick Endong had been looking forward to seeing his paper in print. Several months after he submitted it to Gender Studies, the journal told him in March that it was online. But when he read it, Endong was disappointed to see some changes he had not approved, which he believed “deformed much of the initial text.”
A pharmacy journal has retracted a 2017 cancer paper after determining that the lead author forged her co-author’s signature.
Alain Li Wan Po, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, told Retraction Watch that, after discovering the forgery,the journal lost confidence in “the integrity of the whole report,” and decided to retract it:
Our judgment was that if an author is willing to forge a signature, we cannot be sure of the integrity of the whole report and decided on the retraction.
According to Po, the paper’s lead author, Yan Wang, objected to the retraction because “she maintained that the data were accurate.” So the editors retracted the paper without her approval — but with the agreement of the author Jatinder Lamba, whose name was forged.
How did the journal discover the forged signature?
A journal has retracted a 2014 paper because of an authorship dispute that became the subject of litigation.
Last year, the Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh requested the paper be retracted to resolve the dispute. The Journal of Applied Biomaterials & Functional Materials retracted the paper in October.
According to the retraction notice, the principal investigator of a clinical trial on which some of the study is based was not included as a co-author, and claimed he had not “validated the accuracy of the data.”
The notice does not mention a lawsuit, but a letter from the authors’ research institution does.
But the study, especially its methodology, met with immediate criticism in the article’s comment section. PLOS ONEnoted in March 2016 that the authors had contacted the journal regarding an error in some of the exposure levels reported in the study, which journal staff were “looking into.” In December 2016, the journal told the authors it was going to retract the paper. Now, more than one year later, it finally has.
A journal retracted a paper about how conflicts of interest might be influencing research into the link between vaccines and autism because — wait for it — the authors failed to disclose conflicts of interest.
According to the retraction notice, the editors retracted the paper without the authors’ agreement, because the authors had a host of personal and professional interests in the field they didn’t declare, such as being associated with organizations involved in autism and vaccine safety. What’s more, the article also contained “a number of errors, and mistakes of various types that raise concerns about the validity of the conclusion.”
Carlo Croce, a cancer researcher who has faced numerous research misconduct allegations, recently accused a former lab member of misconduct. Although an institutional probe did not support that allegation, Croce’s efforts have led to a retraction.
In November 2015, Croce and another cancer researcher at Ohio State University (OSU), Ramiro Garzon, contacted PLOS ONE, alleging that the paper’s corresponding author, Stefan Costinean, published data without their knowledge or permission and without “accurately acknowledging their contributions to the research.” Although the PLOS ONE paper mentioned Croce’s and Garzon’s contributions in the acknowledgements section, the two were not included as co-authors. We have obtained a copy of the report describing OSU’s preliminary probe; it did not find evidence of misconduct, but recommended the paper be retracted for using data without permission. Although Costinean disagreed, the journal has since retracted the paper.