In March, 2013, a graduate student joined the lab of a prominent researcher in Australia, investigating new therapies for Parkinson’s. A few months later, everything fell apart.
In September 2013, the University of Queensland (UQ) announced it was retracting one of the lab’s papers, returning the money used to fund the research and launching a fraud investigation. Since then, the scandal has grown to the point where the lead researcher and his co-author have been convicted of fraud in an Australian court.
Now, the graduate student is fighting back. After losing her research project and being escorted off campus for allegedly erratic behavior, she has appealed to UQ to reimburse her for tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, and is now awaiting a verdict from a government ombudsman. The graduate student goes by “Dominique,” which is not her real name; Retraction Watch is keeping her identity confidential to protect her privacy.Continue reading A grad student was caught in the crossfire of fraud — and fought back
According to a 2013 letter obtained by Retraction Watch through a public records request, the subject was admitted to a 10-day inpatient treatment program after exhibiting an increase in irritability and aggression, which prompted researcher Mani Pavuluri to notify the university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) in January of that year. As a result, the university halted three studies by Pavuluri, sent out letters to 350 research subjects, and launched a misconduct inquiry.
Researchers have retracted a systematic review that suggested that antipsychotic drugs are effective and safe for patients with symptoms of dementia — but claim their re-analysis of the updated data still comes to the same conclusions.
According to the retraction notice in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, some participants were incorrectly included twice in the meta-analysis.
The corresponding authors recently lost another paper for an entirely different reason — earlier this year, we reported on a retraction in Annals of Neurology for Jin-Tai Yu and Lan Tan, affiliated with the Ocean University of China, Qingdao University, and Nanjing Medical University in China. The authors pulled that paperafter appearing to pass off others’ data as their own.
A child psychiatrist has lost two papers after an institutional investigation concluded that she intentionally misrepresented children’s medication history in her research.
In November 2015, we reported on a retraction for Mani Pavuluri in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience following a probe at the University of Illinois at Chicago, her institution, which concluded that there was a “preponderance of evidence” that Pavuluri had committed misconduct.
After an “unanticipated event” took place during a study, three studies by Pavuluri were halted and a letter was sent out to 350 research subjects, informing them of errors in the work. At the time, the Illinois spokesperson noted that Pavuluri — who, according to her LinkedIn page, is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry — was also asked to retract two 2013 studies in the Journal of AffectiveDisorders. Those papers have now been retracted, noting that Pavuluri “intentionally and knowingly” misrepresented children’s medication history.
It turns out, snorting the so-called “love hormone” may not help reduce psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
At least, that’s the conclusion the authors of a 2015 meta-analysis, which initially found intranasal doses of oxytocin could reduce psychiatric symptoms, have now reached. After a pair of graduate students pointed out flaws in the paper, the authors realized they’d made some significant errors, and oxytocin shows no more benefit than placebo.
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.
Sometimes, the best way to expose a problem with the publishing process is to put it to a test — perhaps by performing a Sokal-style hoax, or submitting a paper with obvious flaws.
In 2014, that’s just what a researcher in Kosovo did. Suspicious that a journal wasn’t doing a thorough job of vetting submissions, she decided to send them an article of hers that had already appeared in another journal. Her thinking was that any journal with an honest and thorough peer review process would hesitate to publish the work. But this journal didn’t — at least at first. Though they retracted the paper this summer, it took a few twists and turns to get there.
The original paper concluded that in “families who moved out of high-poverty neighborhoods, boys experienced an increase and girls a decrease in rates of depression and conduct disorder,” according to a press release issued by the journal along with the paper (which also got some press attention from Reuters). But part of that conclusion is wrong.
Researchers have fixed a number of papers after mistakenly reporting that people who hold conservative political beliefs are more likely to exhibit traits associated with psychoticism, such as authoritarianism and tough-mindedness.
As one of the notices specifies, now it appears that liberal political beliefs are linked with psychoticism. That paper also swapped ideologies when reporting on people higher in neuroticism and social desirability (falsely claiming that you have socially desirable qualities); the original paper said those traits are linked with liberal beliefs, but they are more common among people with conservative values.
We’re not clear how much the corrections should inform our thinking about politics and personality traits, however, because it’s not clear from the paper how strongly those two are linked. The authors claim that the strength of the links are not important, as they do not affect the main conclusions of the papers — although some personality traits appear to correlate with political beliefs, one doesn’t cause the other, nor vice versa.
In total, three papers have been corrected by authors, and a correction has been submitted on one more.