The authors of an much-ballyhooed 2017 paper about the spread of fake news on social media have retracted their article after finding that they’d botched their analysis.
The paper, “Limited individual attention and online virality of low-quality information,” presented an argument for why bogus facts seem to gain so much traction on sites such as Facebook. According to the researchers — — from Shanghai Institute of Technology, Indiana University and Yahoo — the key was in the sheer volume of bad information, which swamps the brain’s ability to discern the real from the merely plausible or even the downright ridiculous, competing with limited attention spans and time.
We’ve seen plagiarizers plagiarizing plagiarizers, but here’s what seems to be a first: A journal has retracted an article that duplicated text…from a paper that had been retracted for containing dubious data.
The Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science published the recycled paper, titled “Development and in vitro-in vivo characterization of chronomodulated multi-particulate drug delivery system of terbutaline sulphate for treatment of nocturnal asthma by box–Behnken statistical design.” The authors were from several institutions in India.
As we’re fond of repeating, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Which doesn’t jibe with the findings in an eye-catching 2018 paper that found people were less fearful of catching a contagious illness if they were in a dark room or were wearing sunglasses.
Fortunately for us, although not for the researchers, we no longer have to live with the cognitive dissonance. The paper, the journal tells us, will be retracted for flaws in the data — which, thanks to the open sharing of data, quickly came to light.
In a first for the CDC, the agency’s premier scientific publication has retracted a 2016 article on suicide, five months after a news story pointed out serious errors in the paper.
The article, initially published as “Suicide Rates by Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012,” had purported to find that farmers were at particularly high risk of suicide. That result in particular caught the attention of a website called The New Food Economy (TNFE), which last June called out what it said were errors in the CDC’s analysis. And on June 29, the journal, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), issued a reader’s note.
The authors of a 2018 paper on the effects of gun laws on domestic violence have retracted the article after discovering errors in their analysis and replaced it with a clean version. The new study shows that some gun laws — particularly ones that keep firearms out of the hands of violent offenders, even if their offenses don’t involve domestic assaults — do seem to reduce the incidence of domestic killings.
The paper, which appeared last November in the American Journal of Epidemiology and received some press coverage, including this piece in the New York Times, looked specifically at whether laws that keep guns away from people convicted of violent crimes beyond domestic abuse reduce the number of intimate partner homicides. It also considered the effect of laws that covered dating partners and not simply spouses or former spouses. The first author is April Zeoli, of Michigan State University. Zeoli has published other papers on the topic and delivered a TEDMED talk on it as well.
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).