What Caught Our Attention: In the span of 48 hours, PLOS ONE retracted two papers this month that were co-authored by Bo Yu, based at Key Laboratories of Education Ministry for Myocardial Ischemia Mechanism and Treatment and The Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in China. Both notices cite multiple duplications and errors, and conclude:
What Caught Our Attention: Cornell food marketing researcher Brian Wansink, the one-time media darling who has been dogged by mounting criticism of his findings, has lost another paper to retraction. As we’ve noted in the past, corrections for Wansink’s work tend to be long. This time, “the number of errors is too voluminous to be executed by issuing a correction statement,” according to the retraction notice for a paper about behaviors following weight loss surgery. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Retraction eight as errors in Wansink paper are “too voluminous” for a correction
Last spring, a group of environmental scientists reported an impressive finding: Hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) in the Marcellus Shale region of the eastern United States was leaking enough methane to power a city twice the size of Washington, D.C. (We didn’t come up with that comparison, apt though it may be.)
Turns out that wasn’t true. Continue reading Fracking paper overstated size of methane leak from Marcellus Shale, earning retraction
What Caught Our Attention: Informative retraction notices can be infrequent, but rarer still are notices that fulfill an oft-ignored function: To be a source of learning for others in the field. Here, the authors offer a nearly 800-word “detailed description of the issues” with “some observations that may be useful for investigators conducting similar studies.” These authors embraced the retraction process, carefully explaining their findings or the lack thereof, for each figure from their now-retracted paper. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: A retraction that is “useful for investigators”
Some researchers who study the origins of life on Earth have hypothesized that RNA evolved before DNA or proteins. If true, RNA would have needed a way to replicate without enzymes. The Nature Chemistry paper found that a certain type of peptide — which may have existed in our early history — made it possible for RNA to copy itself.
Jack W. Szostak—a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider for their pioneering research on aging—told us he was “incredibly excited” when he “thought we had at least a partial solution to this problem,” which researchers have been working on for over 50 years.
But in subsequent experiments, Tivoli Olsen — a member of Szostak’s lab — could not reproduce the 2016 findings. When she reviewed the experiments from the Nature Chemistry paper, she found that the team had misinterpreted the initial data: The peptide in question did not appear to provide an environment that fostered RNA replication.
The errors were “definitely embarrassing,” Szostak told us: Continue reading ”Definitely embarrassing:” Nobel Laureate retracts non-reproducible paper in Nature journal
In the retraction notice, the journal said it “removed the information that we believe to be inaccurate.”
The article, first published Oct. 28, 2017, highlights Pfizer’s decision to withdraw the drug, misoprostol, from the French market in 2018, and explores the ongoing debate surrounding its uses and safety. Approved to treat ulcers, misoprostol is more often used off-label to induce labor or medical abortions, despite reports of serious side effects, including hemorrhaging and birth defects “sometimes associated with fetal death.” Continue reading Lancet retracts and replaces news story about controversial abortion drug
Can seeing a weapon increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors?
A meta-analysis on the so-called “weapons effect” has been flagged with an expression of concern by a SAGE journal, after the researchers discovered errors affecting at least one of the main conclusions.
The paper found that the presence of weapons increased people’s aggressiveness, but not feelings of anger. However, the corresponding author, Arlin James Benjamin, who works at University of Arkansas–Fort Smith, told us:
we would urge considerably more caution in interpreting the impact of weapons on behavioral outcomes based on those initial re-analyses.
Last author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University (OSU), was the corresponding author on two now-retracted papers linking video games and violence. Continue reading After losing two video game-violence papers, co-author’s weapons paper is flagged
A high-profile food researcher who’s faced heavy criticism about his work has retracted the revised version of an article he’d already retracted last month.
Yes, you read that right: Brian Wansink at Cornell University retracted the original article from JAMA Pediatrics in September, replacing it with a revised version. Now he’s retracting the revised version, citing a major error: The study, which reported children were more likely to choose an apple over a cookie if the apple included an Elmo sticker, was conducted in children 3-5 years old, not 8-11, as the study reported.
Although Wansink told BuzzFeed he asked the journal to retract the paper, Annette Flanagin, Executive Managing Editor for The JAMA Network, told us the editors requested the retraction:
The paper explores a new principle related to Einstein’s theory of relativity. According to the authors, after the Canadian Journal of Physics notified them on July 17 about the decision to retract the paper, they asked the editor to publish their objection “to defend our sound point of view, and beyond this, our scientific reputation.” But Kholmetskii—who lists his affiliation at Belarus State University in Minsk, and Yarman, a professor at Okan University in Istanbul—told us that the editor found their response “inappropriate.” As a result, the authors turned to aiXiv to protest the retraction.
Here’s the retraction notice for “Conservative relativity principle and energy-momentum conservation in a superimposed gravitational and electric field:” Continue reading After journal retracts their paper, authors post rebuttal on arXiv
In 2016, three researchers published data they had collected on a series of devastating earthquakes that hit Japan earlier that year.
But, in late September 2017, one of the authors—Hiroyuki Goto—revealed that the Kumamoto Earthquake data contained “wide reaching errors”—and an outside expert had warned him the data might be problematic nine months earlier.
Goto, an associate professor in the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at Kyoto University, issued two statements in which he acknowledged the errors, but did not indicate how they occurred. According to The Japan Times, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is investigating whether the data “was falsified or fabricated due to inconsistencies with other readings taken nearby.” A report in another Japanese paper, The Mainichi, notes that Osaka University—where one of the authors, Yoshiya Hata, works—is looking into the matter as well.