Caught Our Notice: Hey peer reviewers — did you even read this paper??

What Caught Our Attention: A tree of life paper has been axed — and based on the information in the retraction notice, we’re wondering how it ever passed peer review.

Specifically, the notice states a review of the paper found “concerns regarding the study design, methodology, and interpretation of the data.” Overall, the research “contradict(s) a large body of existing literature and do(es) not provide a sufficient level of evidence to support the claims made in the paper.” Um, so what did it get right?

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Hey peer reviewers — did you even read this paper??

Authors claim clinical trial data came from one center. It came from three.

A BMJ journal has retracted a 2017 paper that made a false claim about the clinical trial in question. 

The Acupuncture in Medicine paper reported the results of a clinical trial about the impact of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine on stroke, gathered from one center. However, in November, the editors of the journal discovered that the authors had completed the trial at three centers, and had already published the data in Scientific Reports in 2016. The authors say the duplication and misrepresentation of the data stemmed from “confusion and misunderstanding.” Continue reading Authors claim clinical trial data came from one center. It came from three.

Ethics, authorship concerns sink homeopathy paper by researchers arrested last year

For a host of reasons, a journal has retracted a paper co-authored by a researcher who reportedly once faced charges of practicing medicine without proper qualifications.

According to the retraction notice for “Psorinum Therapy in Treating Stomach, Gall Bladder, Pancreatic, and Liver Cancers: A Prospective Clinical Study,” published Dec. 8, 2010 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the paper was plagued by:

Continue reading Ethics, authorship concerns sink homeopathy paper by researchers arrested last year

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

“The sampling had been compromised:” MD Anderson researchers retract cancer study

Erich Sturgis

Researchers from the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center have retracted a 2015 paper after they discovered their samples had been compromised.

Exactly how the samples were compromised, and how and when the researchers found out, remains unclear.

Originally published March 30, 2015, in Cancer, “Genome-wide association study identifies common genetic variants associated with salivary gland carcinoma and its subtypes” reported that at least three protein-coding gene variants were associated with rare salivary gland cancers. In the paper, the authors — all but one of whom are affiliated with MD Anderson — cautioned that they still needed to confirm the findings and figure out the mechanism by which the genes might increase the risk of cancer.

On Oct. 23, 2017, the researchers asked the journal to either correct or withdraw the paper. According to the retraction notice issued Jan. 9, the researchers had discovered: Continue reading “The sampling had been compromised:” MD Anderson researchers retract cancer study

Caught Our Notice: “Ironically,” same error in same journal “was noted last year”

Via Wikimedia

Title: Sleep quality and body composition variations in obese male adults after 14 weeks of yoga intervention: A randomized controlled trial

What Caught Our Attention: Last year, researchers led by David Allison at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health called for the retraction of an article linking weight loss and obese female yoga participants in the International Journal of Yoga, citing problems with randomization and baseline statistics. Despite the first author’s statement that he planned to retract the article, the journal refused to retract it.   Continue reading Caught Our Notice: “Ironically,” same error in same journal “was noted last year”

Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched

Via Wikimedia

Title: Molecular Characterization and Biological Activity of Interferon-α in Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

What Caught Our Attention: Soon after the paper appeared, the journal was alerted to the fact its findings were at odds with others in the field. When the editor approached the authors, everything fell apart: The authors couldn’t repeat the experiments, and “were also unsure of the molecular probes that were used in the study.” While it isn’t unusual to have doubts about data — since since research is a process of experimentation — it is odd not to know how your experiment was conducted. The paper was retracted less than two months after it was published. The manuscript was accepted two months after it was submitted in early May, theoretically giving reviewers enough time to catch these issues (along with the authors’ failure to cite relevant papers).  

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched

Caught Our Notice: Dear peer reviewer, please read the methods section. Sincerely, everyone

Via Wikimedia

TitlePlasma contributes to the antimicrobial activity of whole blood against Mycobacterium tuberculosis

What Caught Our Attention: A big peer review (and perhaps academic mentorship) fail.  These researchers used the wrong anticoagulant for their blood samples, leading them to believe that certain blood components were fighting microbes. The authors counted the number of colonies to show how well or poorly Tuberculin mycobacteria were growing in cultures — but blood samples need anticoagulants to prevent clots before analysis, and they used an anticoagulant that actually prevented the microbes from colonizing. The authors (and reviewers) should have known this from  Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Dear peer reviewer, please read the methods section. Sincerely, everyone

Retract, replace, retract: Beleaguered food researcher pulls article from JAMA journal (again)

Brian Wansink

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:

Continue reading Retract, replace, retract: Beleaguered food researcher pulls article from JAMA journal (again)