The wheels of scientific publishing turn slowly … but they do (sometimes) turn.
In January, we reported on the case of a paper on global warming marred by several problems, including allegations of plagiarism and “false claims” by the authors — which readers had raised as early as 2014, with no result. (Find a discussion of those allegations here.)
How did a deeply flawed paper, which contradicts mainstream science on climate change, pass peer review?
That is what three editorial board members tried to figure out after the journal, Global and Planetary Change, faced heavy criticism for publishing the controversial paper last year. The board members published their findings earlier this month in a commentary.
Last year, the soil science community was rocked by reports that an editor, Artemi Cerdà, was accused of citation stacking — asking authors to cite particular papers — boosting his profile, and that of journals where he worked. (Cerdà has denied the allegations.) The case had some major fallout: Cerdàresigned from two journals and the editorial board of Geoderma, additional editors resigned from their posts, and a university launched an investigation. In the midst of the mess, a group of early career scientists in the field released an open letter, urging the leaders of the community “to establish a clear road map as to how this crisis will be handled and which actions will be taken to avoid future misconducts.” Today, Jan Willem van Groenigen, Chair of the Editors in Chief of Geoderma, along with other editors at the journal, published a response to those letter-writers — including a list of the 13 papers that added 83 citations the journal has deemed “unwarranted.” The editorial includes a list of “actions we have taken to prevent citation stacking from recurring and to further strengthen the transparency of the review process” — including monitoring editors and showing authors how to report suspicious conduct.
When Parisa Ariyawas invited to write a review for a special issue of the journal Atmosphere, she asked one of her former doctoral students to take the lead. But she soon regretted that decision after discovering Lin (Emma) Si had plagiarized and duplicated significant portions of the review.
Ariya, chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at McGill University in Montreal, told Retraction Watch that she believes it’s important to foster the careers of young women in science and was excited for her former student, Si, to take on the challenge of writing her first review. (Si was cc’d on our email communications with Ariya, but did not respond to our individual request for comment.) Continue reading McGill dept chair says she was blindsided by coauthor’s plagiarism
Last spring, a group of environmental scientists reported an impressive finding: Hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) in the Marcellus Shale region of the eastern United States was leaking enough methane to power a city twice the size of Washington, D.C. (We didn’t come up with that comparison, apt though it may be.)
Researchers are retracting a 2016 PNASpaper that described a way to create gasoline-like fuels directly from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Senior author Frederick MacDonnell, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), told us he originally thought his team had made a preliminary breakthrough that might “solve the world’s energy problems.” Instead, he said:
In 2016, researchers at Oregon State University published a paper in PNAS that surprised the research community. They showed that certain fish species travel with their siblings — even fighting against the currents of the Pacific Ocean to stay together.
Needless to say, the research community was skeptical, given how difficult a feat this would be. And their skepticism appears to have been warranted.
Recently, the authors — led by Su Sponaugle — retracted the paper, saying a re-analysis of their data using newly developed research tools has erased their confidence in the results. According to Sponaugle, the quick reversal was thanks to the new technology and open data sharing, which led their findings to be successfully challenged within months of publication. She said her team conducted the study with the “best available knowledge we had at the time,” including what they thought were the most advanced tools available to them: