PNAS wouldn’t let authors cite unpublished manuscript. Now, it admits it was wrong.

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When researchers submitted a paper about a type of microparticle to PNAS, they wanted to give credit where it was due, and cite an unpublished manuscript that helped guide their work. But the journal’s policy forbid citing unpublished work, and the reference was removed before publication. Now, concerns from the authors of that unpublished work have prompted the journal to have a change of heart.  

Continue reading PNAS wouldn’t let authors cite unpublished manuscript. Now, it admits it was wrong.

The “phantom reference:” How a made-up article got almost 400 citations

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.

Anne-Wil Harzing, a professor of International Management at at Middlesex University in London, who recounted Kroonenberg’s discovery in her blog, wrote: Continue reading The “phantom reference:” How a made-up article got almost 400 citations

Miffed at exclusion from a meta-analysis, researcher writes own “expression of concern”

On June 10, Psycho-Oncology, a journal that publishes research on the “psychological, social, behavioral, and ethical” side of cancer, received a complaint.

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.

Journal Co-Editor Maggie Watson told Retraction Watch:

Continue reading Miffed at exclusion from a meta-analysis, researcher writes own “expression of concern”

Reader complaints prompt retraction of meta-analysis of heart-failure drug

A cardiology journal has retracted a 2016 meta-analysis after the editors had an, ahem, change of heart about the rigor of the study.

The article, “Ivabradine as adjuvant treatment for chronic heart failure,” was published in the International Journal of Cardiology, an Elsevier title.

The authors, a group at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil, concluded that: Continue reading Reader complaints prompt retraction of meta-analysis of heart-failure drug

Historian returns prize for high-profile book with 70+ corrections

A historian based at Columbia University has returned a 2014 prize after criticisms prompted him to issue more than 70 corrections to his prominent book about North Korea.

Charles Armstrong told Retraction Watch he returned the 2014 John K. Fairbank Prize he received for “Tyranny of the Weak” due to “numerous citation errors.” The book has faced heavy criticism, including allegations of plagiarism and using invalid sources.

The American Historical Society, which issues the Fairbank Prize, released a statement last week:

Continue reading Historian returns prize for high-profile book with 70+ corrections

High-profile book on North Korea earns 52 corrections

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.

Last month, author Charles Armstrong, a professor at Columbia University, announced on his website that he was issuing the changes after reviewing the book in detail, especially the footnotes. He writes:

Continue reading High-profile book on North Korea earns 52 corrections

We’re not “citation police:” No more errata for omitted citations, says economics journal

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.

You don’t often see two errata for the same mistake — omitted citations — on one paper. Even less often do you see journal editors co-publishing a note saying they don’t plan on issuing any more such notices. Here’s an excerpt from the editor’s note in Experimental Economics: Continue reading We’re not “citation police:” No more errata for omitted citations, says economics journal

Criticism swirls around high-profile history book about North Korea

80140100484410mAn award-winning account of North Korea during the Cold War has fallen under criticism, claiming the author included material not supported by the list of references.

One historian has uploaded a series of what he calls “noteworthy problems” with Tyranny of the Weak, winner of the John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian History in 2014. Balazs Szalontai of Korea University primarily accuses author Charles Armstrong of citing either irrelevant or non-existent sources to support his claims.

Armstrong, a professor at Columbia University, told us: Continue reading Criticism swirls around high-profile history book about North Korea

A paper on chemical safety was accepted one day after submission. Was it peer reviewed?

Toxicology Reports

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.

In 2015, a group of Harvard researchers published a paper in Environmental Health Perspectives suggesting the flavoring added to e-cigarettes could be harmful; the next year, another group criticized the paper in the journal, noting the chemicals may not be as dangerous as the original paper claimed. The Harvard researchers then fired back, noting that the criticism cited two papers that were accepted within one and three days after submission, and therefore “appear not to have been peer reviewed.”

However, a little digging suggests otherwise. 

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.

Here are more details from Lawrence Lash, editor-in-chief of Toxicology Reports from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan: Continue reading A paper on chemical safety was accepted one day after submission. Was it peer reviewed?

You cited which paper?? Reference errors are more common than many realize

Marilyn Oermann
Marilyn Oermann

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.

Retraction Watch: You’ve published multiple papers looking at reference problems in nursing research. What are the main types of “reference problems” that usually occur? Continue reading You cited which paper?? Reference errors are more common than many realize