Journal silently fixes emergency care paper — after misleading press coverage

Last month, a colleague of emergency medicine doctor Daniel Waxman sent him some newly reported findings that took him by surprise. Waxman knew from the title of a press release about the recent paper — “Nearly Half of U.S. Medical Care Comes From Emergency Rooms” — that something was wrong.

Immediately I said, that’s not true. It’s just crazy.

Waxman quickly realized the mistake: The data were based only on care provided in hospitals — much of which, not surprisingly, originates from emergency departments (EDs). But the title of the paper, the abstract, and other places in the text do not specify that. What’s more,  the press release about the study says the findings relate to “all medical care.” The journal has since changed the paper, including the title, to make that distinction clear, but not provided any editorial notice indicating the text had been updated. Meanwhile, the press release and news stories about the original study continue to report the “surprising” original findings.

Continue reading Journal silently fixes emergency care paper — after misleading press coverage

A journal printed a sharp critique of a paper it had published. If only it had checked with the authors first.

In 2016, researchers published a paper showing that an RNA molecule may be overactive in breast tumor tissue. But after reading the paper, three biologists believed the data supported the opposite conclusion.

What happened after that is a tale of misunderstandings and unnecessarily bruised feelings. We’ve seen plenty of cases where researchers ignore criticism, which at first glance seemed to be the case here. But upon closer inspection, it wasn’t. Continue reading A journal printed a sharp critique of a paper it had published. If only it had checked with the authors first.

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

Journal republishes withdrawn paper on emergency care prices, amid controversy

The Annals of Emergency Medicine has republished a controversial paper it withdrew earlier this year which compared the cost of emergency care at different types of facilities.

Because the paper drew heavy criticism when it was originally released, the journal has published a revised version, along with several editorials and discussions between the authors and critics. One point of contention: The analysis stems from data provided by an insurance company — Blue Cross Blue Shield — which it declined to share.

The paper — originally published in February —  caught national attention (and raised concerns among some emergency care providers) when it reported the cost of treatment in emergency departments can be significantly higher than at urgent care centers, even for the same conditions. The journal withdrew the paper in spring, and re-published it Tuesday, with minor changes.

First author Vivian Ho at Rice University told us she made “slight changes”  to some headings, phrases, and the appendix, but:

Continue reading Journal republishes withdrawn paper on emergency care prices, amid controversy

Released FDA docs reveal details of agency’s (failed) attempt to retract paper

Earlier this year, a raging controversy regarding a new drug spilled into the pages of a leading medical journal: the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and another official publicly called for the retraction or correction of a peer-reviewed article about the drug. They didn’t get their wish. Now, documents released by the FDA via a lawsuit shed light on the attempt — and show how tricky it can be to correct the official record.

The controversy surrounds the approval of eteplirsen, a drug approved last September to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare but invariably fatal disease that strikes (mostly) young boys. Eteplirsen was approved over the objections of the FDA team that reviewed the drug, which determined that there was insufficient evidence to approve the drug.

But the controversy didn’t end within the walls of the FDA complex. Ellis Unger, who led the review team, believed that one of the principal studies of the drug, published in the Annals of Neurology, was “misleading” because it was based on “unreliable data.” So in early November, Unger, joined by the then-head of the FDA, Robert Califf, took the extremely rare move of writing to the editor of the journal to “urge that the paper be corrected or retracted….”

According to the documents, the authors of the Annals article did, in fact, agree to correct the article.

On November 9, 2016, Clifford Saper, Annals‘ editor in chief, wrote to Califf and Unger:

Continue reading Released FDA docs reveal details of agency’s (failed) attempt to retract paper

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

Are there foxes in Tasmania? Follow the poop

Stephen Sarre, based at the University of Canberra in Australia, has made a career out of collecting and analyzing poop.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Part of his work is designed to answer a multi-million dollar question: Is Tasmania home to foxes, a pest that carries rabies and other diseases and can ravage local wildlife? According to the Australian news outlet ABCthe Tasmanian and Australian governments have spent $50 million (AUD) on hunting foxes on the island since 2001 — even though many have debated whether they are even there.

In 2012, after analyzing thousands of fecal samples, Sarre published a paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology which boldly claimed that “Foxes are now widespread in Tasmania.” But many outside researchers didn’t buy it, and quickly voiced their criticisms of the paper, namely that there may be problems with false positives and the methodology used to analyze the samples. Recently, the journal issued an expression of concern for the paper, citing an ongoing investigation into the allegations.

Here’s the expression of concern (paywalled, tsk tsk):

Continue reading Are there foxes in Tasmania? Follow the poop

Journal alerts readers to “technical criticism” of CRISPR study

A Nature journal has posted a editor’s note to a recent letter on potential unintended consequences of CRISPR gene editing, after an executive at a company trying to commercialize the technology said the paper should be retracted.

The original article, published on May 30 as a correspondence in Nature Methods, suggested that using CRISPR in mice can lead to unexpected mutations. But last week, the journal added an “Editorial note” online. Nature Methods says the notice is not an expression of concern, which would be a stronger suggestion that the paper is problematic; it simply wants to alert readers to the fact that, as the note states:

Continue reading Journal alerts readers to “technical criticism” of CRISPR study

Despite author’s protest, journal removes paper on emergency department prices

A journal has temporarily removed a paper showing the dramatic differences in the cost of providing emergency care that caught national attention (and some criticism from emergency care providers), despite the first author’s claims that the results are valid.

The paper, published online in February by the Annals of Emergency Medicine, showed that it can cost significantly more for patients to be treated at emergency departments than at urgent care centers, even for the same conditions. Soon after the paper was published, first author Vivian Ho at Rice University was told by the American College of Emergency Physicians, which publishes the journal, that there were some errors in the appendix, and they wanted to reanalyze the entire paper.

Ho told us:

Continue reading Despite author’s protest, journal removes paper on emergency department prices

Updated: Science fish-microplastics paper retracted

Despite continuing to vigorously defend their work, the authors of a controversial paper about the effects of human pollution asked Science to retract the paper last week.

According to a release from Uppsala University issued today, authors Peter Eklöv and Oona Lönnstedt submitted their request to Science last week, noting they wanted to withdraw the paper “as long as a suspicion of misconduct remains.”

The release — which echoes a statement that was also provided to Nature — notes:

Continue reading Updated: Science fish-microplastics paper retracted