Author: “The retractions were about bureaucracy, not science”

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.

Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics retracted both papers after Godzik informed the editor in August 2014 that neither article had undergone the required review before being submitted to the journal. Although Wiley agreed to the retractions in an email to Godzik in September 2014,  the papers were only pulled in January—more than three years later. Continue reading Author: “The retractions were about bureaucracy, not science”

“The ‘1’ key was not pressed hard enough:” Did a typo kill a cancer paper?

Errors in a 2017 paper about a new cancer test may have occurred because of a simple typo while performing calculations of the tool’s effectiveness.

According to the last author, the “1” key was likely not pressed hard enough.

The error, however small, affected key values “so greatly that the conclusions of the paper can no longer be supported,” the editor said, which prompted the journal to retract the paper. Continue reading “The ‘1’ key was not pressed hard enough:” Did a typo kill a cancer paper?

Child took wrong compound for over a year after “communication error”

Credit: Steven Depolo, Flickr

A journal is retracting a paper after it discovered researchers gave a child the wrong supplement for more than a year.

Rhiannon Bugno, managing editor for Biological Psychiatry, told Retraction Watch the mix-up did not put the patient at risk. However, the mistake was enough for the journal’s editor, John Krystal, of Yale University, to request the retraction of a 2016 paper describing the young girl’s experience taking the compound,“Rett-like Severe Encephalopathy Caused by a De Novo GRIN2B Mutation Is Attenuated by D-serine Dietary Supplement.”

Originally published June 17, 2016, the paper was retracted Jan. 15. Led by corresponding author Xavier Altafaj, of the University of Barcelona (UB) and Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), researchers described using an amino acid, D-serine, to treat a child with a rare genetic disorder that affects neurons.

According to the notice, the researchers did use D-serine in lab work used as proof-of-concept; however, when it came time to try it in the patient, as a result of a “communication error:”

Continue reading Child took wrong compound for over a year after “communication error”

Overlooked virus “generated a mess,” infected highly cited Cell, PNAS papers

When Alexander Harms arrived at the University of Copenhagen in August 2016, as a postdoc planning to study a type of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, he carried with him a warning from another lab who had recruited him:

People said, “If you go there, you have to deal with these weird articles that nobody believes.”

The papers in question had been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 and Cell in 2013. Led by Kenn Gerdes, Harms’s new lab director, the work laid out a complex chain of events that mapped out how an E. coli bacterium can go into a dormant state, called persistence, that allows it to survive while the rest of its colony is wiped out.

Despite some experts’ skepticism, each paper had been cited hundreds of times. And Harms told us:

I personally did believe in the published work. There had been papers from others that kind of attacked [the Gerdes lab’s theory], but that was not high-quality work.

But by November 2016, Harms figured out that the skeptics had been right.  Continue reading Overlooked virus “generated a mess,” infected highly cited Cell, PNAS papers

Should a journal retract a paper the authors didn’t know contained bad data?

A medical journal has retracted a 2016 paper over a series of errors, prompting it to lose faith in the paper overall. The authors have objected to the decision, arguing the errors weren’t their fault and could be revised with a correction — rather than retracting what they consider “an important contribution” to an ongoing debate in medicine.

The paper explored the so-called weekend effect—that patients admitted to the emergency department on the weekend are more likely to die than those admitted on a weekday. Whether the weekend effect is real is not clear. Some studies have supported the phenomenon in certain areas of medicine, but others (including the now-retracted paper) have failed to find an effect.

First author Mohammed A. Mohammed, based at the University of Bradford in the UK, told Retraction Watch that the errors were introduced by one of the hospitals that provided them the data:

Continue reading Should a journal retract a paper the authors didn’t know contained bad data?

Study that said hate cuts 12 years off gay lives fails to replicate

A highly cited paper has received a major correction as a result of the ongoing battle over attitudes towards gay people, when a prominent — and polarizing — critic showed it could not be replicated.  

In December 2017, researchers led by Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University corrected the paper, originally published in Social Science & Medicine in February 2014, which showed that gay people who live in areas where people were highly prejudiced against them had a significantly shorter life expectancy. The corrigendum came more than a year after a researcher who has testified against same-sex marriage was unable to replicate the original study.

“Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations,” has been cited 102 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and attracted media coverage when it was published, from outlets such as Reuters and U.S. News & World Report.

Continue reading Study that said hate cuts 12 years off gay lives fails to replicate

Caught Our Notice: Oops, wrong species

Title: Virulent Diuraphis noxia Aphids Over-Express Calcium Signaling Proteins to Overcome Defenses of Aphid-Resistant Wheat Plants

What Caught Our Attention: Sadly, it’s not uncommon for researchers to mistake the identity of what they’re working with — but not everyone comes clean and works to transparently correct the record. So it’s nice to see some authors among a group based in the US and India take the initiative to retract their paper after realizing they had based some of their conclusions on the wrong species of aphid. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Oops, wrong species

“A painful lesson:” Authors retract paper after discovering mislabeled mouse lines

Neuroscientists have retracted a 2016 paper examining the genetic underpinnings of a degenerative motor neuron disease, after discovering that two mouse lines had been accidentally mislabeled.

According to the retraction notice, published in December in Acta Neuropathologica Communications, mice engineered to have a specific genetic mutation were mislabeled as the normal or wild type group.

The notice cites an investigation by the University of Florida; we asked the university for a copy of the report. The university sent us a redacted document, which a spokesperson told us was a self-report from the researchers regarding the mislabeling. The spokesperson explained: Continue reading “A painful lesson:” Authors retract paper after discovering mislabeled mouse lines

Caught Our Notice: Doesn’t anyone do a literature review any more?

Via Wikimedia

Titles: (1) Whole-Genome De Novo Sequencing of the Lignin-Degrading Wood Rot Fungus Phanerochaete chrysosporium (ATCC 20696)

(2) Structure revision of aspergicin by the crystal structure of aspergicine, a co-occurring isomer produced by co-culture of two mangrove epiphytic fungi

What Caught Our Attention: Two articles by different groups of authors recently suffered from the same (fatal) flaw: A poor literature review. The article, “Whole-Genome De Novo Sequencing of the Lignin-Degrading Wood Rot Fungus Phanerochaete chrysosporium (ATCC 20696),” claimed to have sequenced a strain already sequenced in 2004 and published in a well-cited article.  According to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, the 2004 article was cited 474 times before the now-retracted article was published. And that 2004 article appeared in a highly-cited journal, Nature Biotechnology. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Doesn’t anyone do a literature review any more?

Caught Our Notice: Oops — 10-fold error reverses heart warning for Ghanaians

Via Wikimedia

Title: Ghanaians Might Be at Risk of Inadequate Dietary Intake of Potassium

What Caught Our Attention: Potassium-rich diets are thought to be “heart-healthy,” and after examining the average dietary habits of Ghanaian adults, researchers determined the average potassium (K) intake to be well below global standards.  However, the authors’ calculations of potassium intake per capita were too low by factor of 10, resulting in the incorrect conclusion that the average potassium intake was only 856 mg per day, an amount substantially lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 3510 mg/day.  The new calculations show an average K intake of 8,560 mg/day, well over the WHO guideline.  

We asked the corresponding author, David Oscar Yawson, about the source of the error, and he responded:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Oops — 10-fold error reverses heart warning for Ghanaians