What Caught Our Attention: After an expression of concern (EOC) is published in a journal, the usual procedure is to either publish a subsequent correction or retraction — or, unfortunately, leave it sit ad infinitum. But apparently, there’s another option. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Unusual — journal flags paper for concerns, then updates them
What Caught Our Attention: We’ve been following cancer scientist Fazlul Sarkar for years, as he (unsuccessfully) sought to expose the identity of a PubPeer commenter who he believes cost him a job offer. In November 2016, the ACLU released a copy of a misconduct investigation report compiled by Wayne State University, which concluded Sarkar ran a laboratory “culture” of “fabrication, falsification and/or plagiarism of data,” and recommended the retraction of 42 papers and correction of 10 papers. He’s now lodged his 19th retraction. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Researcher who sued PubPeer commenter draws 19th retraction
For some of the papers, the issues went beyond the single image. According to the retraction notice, several papers contained other duplicated images, as well as “overlapping text.” The notice, published in October 2017 in Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention (APJCP), is essentially a letter PLOS ONE wrote to several journals, informing them of the issues in the eight papers, all published between 2014 and 2016. The letter mentions that one of the papers—a 2016 analysis in Korean Journal of Physiology (KJPP)—had already been retracted earlier this year. One author of the retracted KJPP paper confessed to using a company to prepare and submit the manuscript. Continue reading One image was duplicated in eight papers. Yes, eight.
Carlo Croce, a cancer researcher who has faced numerous research misconduct allegations, recently accused a former lab member of misconduct. Although an institutional probe did not support that allegation, Croce’s efforts have led to a retraction.
In November 2015, Croce and another cancer researcher at Ohio State University (OSU), Ramiro Garzon, contacted PLOS ONE, alleging that the paper’s corresponding author, Stefan Costinean, published data without their knowledge or permission and without “accurately acknowledging their contributions to the research.” Although the PLOS ONE paper mentioned Croce’s and Garzon’s contributions in the acknowledgements section, the two were not included as co-authors. We have obtained a copy of the report describing OSU’s preliminary probe; it did not find evidence of misconduct, but recommended the paper be retracted for using data without permission. Although Costinean disagreed, the journal has since retracted the paper.
Croce has been on the other side of this process: Seven of his papers have been retracted for issues including manipulation and duplication. After a New York Times article, published in March, explored misconduct allegations against Croce, OSU said the university is “instituting an independent external review.” Croce is currently suing the New York Times, alleging that the newspaper defamed him in the story.
Researchers from the University of Kansas asked to retract their paper only days after the journal issued an expression of concern related to some of the images.
The retraction notice marks the close of an episode that started in June, but it doesn’t provide much closure: Figures in the paper apparently do not match primary data, but there’s no hint as to how that happened.
In a statement sent to JCS — just five days after the expression of concern came out — last author Kristi Neufeld, a cancer biologist at KU, wrote: Continue reading Researchers ask to retract cancer paper five days after it’s flagged by journal
What caught our attention: One year ago, a PubPeer user suggested an image from a 2008 paper looked similar to one from another paper. After the authors stated their belief in the soundness of the image, without providing the originals, the journal issued only an Expression of Concern for the paper. Some journals have issued retractions for lack of original data, some have issued corrections, and even fewer have published editorial notices. Expressions of concern usually indicate that some type of final resolution will be announced, but in reality, a significant proportion remain unresolved for years. Based on the wording of this notice, it may be around for a while. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Concerns about image in 2008 paper prompt editorial notice
The U.S. government biomedical research database MEDLINE no longer includes a cancer journal with a storied past.
Starting August 2017, researchers looking up journals indexed in MEDLINE (which is accessed via PubMed) could no longer find new articles published by Oncotarget, once included on the now-defunct list of possibly predatory journals compiled by librarian Jeffrey Beall.
Joyce Backus, the National Library of Medicine’s Associate Director for Library Operations, declined to say why Oncotarget had been deselected from MEDLINE:
In 2016, researchers published a paper showing that an RNA molecule may be overactive in breast tumor tissue. But after reading the paper, three biologists believed the data supported the opposite conclusion.
What happened after that is a tale of misunderstandings and unnecessarily bruised feelings. We’ve seen plenty of cases where researchers ignore criticism, which at first glance seemed to be the case here. But upon closer inspection, it wasn’t. Continue reading A journal printed a sharp critique of a paper it had published. If only it had checked with the authors first.
The data, published as an abstract in August 2015 in the journal Cancer Research, reported a therapeutic benefit of acalabrutinib in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer. The compound, developed by the company Acerta Pharma, has also been the subject of additional trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Blood in 2015. The 2015 NEJM study, which had several authors in common with the Cancer Research abstract, showed the agent had “promising safety and efficacy profiles in patients” with relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
But an investigation into the data underlying the 2015 abstract shows some were falsified, prompting the journal to retract the abstract.
Ed Tucker, senior vice president of Medical Safety, Quality and Compliance at Acerta Pharma, told us that in August 2016 the company identified an issue with the data in the Cancer Research abstract and started an investigation:
Addressed to the editorial office at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), the letter, parts of which have been published in a retraction notice, contained information concerning two papers on genetic risk factors for a type of kidney cancer and a type of uterine cancer, respectively, published in different AACR journals over a decade ago by researchers affiliated with the institutions.
The papers had been at the center of research misconduct investigations at both UCSF and the VA and the investigations came to the conclusion that both papers contained:
fabrication or falsification of data that constitutes Research Misconduct.
Though one of the papers has been retracted, it’s unclear what will happen to the other. [Note: See update at the bottom of the post.] Continue reading UCSF, VA investigations find “clear evidence” of misconduct in cancer papers