Here’s a mystery: How did a nonexistent paper rack up hundreds of citations?
Pieter Kroonenberg, an emeritus professor of statistics at Leiden University in The Netherlands, was puzzled when he tried to locate a paper about academic writing and discovered the article didn’t exist. In fact, the journal—Journal of Science Communications—also didn’t exist.
Perhaps Kroonenberg’s most bizarre discovery was that this made-up paper, “The art of writing a scientific article,” had somehow been cited almost 400 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.
In a letter, Ad Kaptein, a researcher at the Leiden University Medical Centre, in the Netherlands, wrote to say that a review and meta-analysis published by the journal that month hadn’t adequately cited the relevant literature in the field, including seven studies co-authored by Kaptein himself. The authors of the original paper say they had considered citing Kaptein’s work but decided against it, for various reasons.
The journal considered Kaptein’s complaint valid enough to publish his letter. But the letter carries the title “Expression of concern” — a term usually reserved for editorial notices issued by the journal to warn readers about some aspects of an article. But in this case, the author supplied the term, not the journal — yet the letter is tagged as an Expression of Concern on PubMed, giving the impression the paper has received a formal editorial notice.
The author of a high-profile book about the history of North Korea is issuing 52 corrections to the next edition, scheduled to appear this spring. The changes follow heavy criticism of the book, alleging it contained material not supported by the list of references.
An economics journal has corrected a paper for the second time for failing to cite previous studies — and said in a separate note that it no longer plans to publish similar errata, with rare exceptions.
In September 2015, we reported on the first erratum for “Incentives for Creativity” — a paper that analyzed ways of inspiring creativity in the workplace — after it failed to cite relevant papers. One year on, the same paper has another erratum for a similar reason: not citing relevant papers from another field.
Some scientists raise their eyebrows when they see a paper was accepted only a day or two after being submitted — which is exactly what happened during an academic debate over a controversial topic: e-cigarettes.
The editor of the journal that published both of the cited papers in question — Toxicology Reports — told us the papers were peer reviewed at Toxicology, but transferred to his journal as part of a process known as portable peer review.
We all make mistakes – but when it comes to the scientific literature, too many authors are making critical mistakes in their list of references, making it difficult for readers to retrieve a cited paper. We spoke with Marilyn Oermann, the Thelma M. Ingles Professor of Nursing at the Duke University School of Nursing, who has studied this problem extensively in the nursing literature.
An electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) journal has retracted two 2016 papers after uncovering problems in the data analyses, which the author says were due to language barriers.
Interestingly, two authors of the newly retracted papers — Yu-Tao Xiang from the University of Macau in China and Gabor Ungvari from the University of Western Australia — also recently co-authored another paper on an entirely different topic that has received a lengthy correction. That paper — on the use of organs from executed prisoners in China — raised controversy for allegedly reporting a “sanitized” account of the practice. The correction notice, in the Journal of Medical Ethics, was accompanied by a critics’ rebuttal to the paper.
According to Xiang, the newly retracted papers in The Journal of ECT — which examined the efficacy of ECT in treating schizophrenia — were pulled due to “genuine errors” resulting from differences in language. All the authors agree with the retraction, Xiang noted.