The work of David Allison and his colleagues may be familiar to Retraction Watch readers. Allison was the researcher — then at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, now at Indiana University — who led an effort to correct the nutrition literature a few years ago. He and his colleagues are back, this time with what might be called the “Regression to the Mean Project,” an attempt to fix a problem that seems to vex many clinical trials. You may have noticed some items in Weekend Reads about letters to the editor that mention the issue. Here, Allison explains.
Does incorporating gardens and their harvest into school-based nutrition programs help children get healthier? A 2017 paper claims it does, but a group of outside experts disagrees — strongly.
The 2017 paper reported that adding gardens to schools and teaching kids how to cook the harvest, among other elements, helped kids learn about nutrition — and even improved their body mass index, a measure of body weight.
However, soon after the paper appeared, a group of outside experts told the journal the data reported by the paper didn’t support its conclusions — namely, the authors hadn’t shown that the intervention had any effect. The authors performed an inappropriate analysis of the data, the critics claimed, and the paper needed to be either corrected or retracted outright.
David Allison, the last author on the critical letter and the dean of the school of public health at Indiana University Bloomington, said he was surprised to see the journal chose to publish his critical letter, but not alter the paper itself:
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:
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.
The retracted paper — a 2012 research letter in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, now JAMA Pediatrics — reported that children were more likely to choose an apple over a cookie if the apple included an Elmo sticker. The same day the paper was retracted, Wansink and his co-authors published a replacement version that includes multiple changes, including to the methodology and the results.
The retraction notice lists the mistakes, which the authors say they made “inadvertently:”
On Friday, BMC Nutrition posted a brief notice about the 2015 paper, which examined whether people who pay different amounts for all-you-can-eat Italian buffets feel more or less guilty about how much they ate. The notice says the retraction stems from concerns about the data analysis, and the authors do not agree with the journal’s decision.
The new retraction is the second for Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell.
The researcher whose brazen theft of a manuscript he had reviewed prompted a “Dear plagiarist” letter from the aggrieved author once the deceit was discovered has lost a second paper for plagiarism.
International Scholarly Research Notices, a Hindawi publication, has retracted a 2012 study by Carmine Finelli and colleagues, citing widespread misuse of text from two previously published articles. The removal was prompted by the curiosity of a scientist in England who, on reading about Finelli’s first retraction, made the logical assumption: once a plagiarist, often a plagiarist.