Oft-quoted paper on spread of fake news turns out to be…fake news

*See update at end of post

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.

As they reported: Continue reading Oft-quoted paper on spread of fake news turns out to be…fake news

Authors try to duplicate bad data, fail miserably

Cangaroojack via Flickr

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but here’s what seems to be a first: A journal has retracted an article that duplicated text…from a paper that had been retracted for containing dubious data.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 the retraction notice explains: Continue reading Authors try to duplicate bad data, fail miserably

Psychology journal to retract study claiming that people fear contagion less in the dark

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.

The study, which appeared in May in Psychological Science, reported that: Continue reading Psychology journal to retract study claiming that people fear contagion less in the dark

Journals stamp expressions of concern on 15 papers from Anversa’s cardiac stem cell lab

Piero Anversa

More than four and a half years after questions were first raised about work in a cardiac stem cell lab at Harvard and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a year and a half after the Brigham and Partners Healthcare paid $10 million to settle allegations of fraud in the lab’s data, a month after Harvard the Brigham disclosed that they were calling for the retractions of more than 30 papers from the lab, and three weeks after the NIH paused a clinical trial based on the work, two leading journals have issued an expression of concern about 15 papers from the lab.

But expressions of concern are not retractions, of course. From the notice, in Circulation and Circulation Research, both of which are published by the American Heart Association: Continue reading Journals stamp expressions of concern on 15 papers from Anversa’s cardiac stem cell lab

In a first, U.S. CDC retracts, replaces study about suicide risk in farmers

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.

As TNFE wrote, the crux of the mistake involves the misclassification of farmer suicides in a way that significantly inflated the rate of these events — errors the website said it first raised with the CDC in April 2018: Continue reading In a first, U.S. CDC retracts, replaces study about suicide risk in farmers

Data mishap forces retraction of paper on gun laws, domestic killings

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.

According to the abstract of the article: Continue reading Data mishap forces retraction of paper on gun laws, domestic killings

Caveat scriptor: How a journal editor unraveled the mystery of the overlapping bad data

John Loadsman

Caveat scriptor—writer beware.

That’s the moral of a recent editorial in the Saudi Journal of Anesthesia, prompted by the retraction in that journal of a 2014 paper with bum data.

The editorial was written by John Loadsman, an anesthesiologist in Sydney, Australia, and editor of the journal Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, who played a role in the retraction. Here’s how.

According to Loadsman, he was considering an article for his journal — a meta-analysis of previously published findings. On inspection, he he noticed that some of the studies cited in the meta-analysis were potentially problematic, including Continue reading Caveat scriptor: How a journal editor unraveled the mystery of the overlapping bad data

As China cracks down on faked drug trial data, US FDA abandons disclosure rule

The FDA has walked away from a 2010 rule that would have forced drug makers to disclose fabricated data to regulators.

As Bloomberg Law reported last week, the FDA has withdrawn the proposed rule, “Reporting Information Regarding Falsification of Data,” which would Continue reading As China cracks down on faked drug trial data, US FDA abandons disclosure rule

Caught Our Notice: Gorilla paper in the mist? Journal flags ape hormone paper

Title: Biologically validating the measurement of oxytocin in western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) urine and saliva using a commercial enzyme immunoassay

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).

We contacted the editor, who told us:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Gorilla paper in the mist? Journal flags ape hormone paper

Paper used to support WHO guidelines on preventing infections “has no scientific validity”

A surgery journal retracted a 2014 paper last month after discovering that the study has “no scientific validity.”

Mario Schietroma and his coauthors, based at the University of LAquila in Italy, reported that giving patients high concentrations of oxygen during and after colorectal surgery significantly reduced their risk of infections. Although the authors reported significant p-values, the retraction notice states that, “upon recalculation, no p-values were close to significant.” The University of LAquila told Retraction Watch it is investigating, but did not provide details. Continue reading Paper used to support WHO guidelines on preventing infections “has no scientific validity”