When geophysicist Craig Jones realized a figure in one of his published papers contained an error, he was on the fence about what to do. It was a clear mistake, but he’d seen much larger mistakes go uncorrected by other authors. Unsure if it warranted a correction, Jones polled readers of his blog to see what they thought.
In 2016, three researchers published data they had collected on a series of devastating earthquakes that hit Japan earlier that year.
But, in late September 2017, one of the authors—Hiroyuki Goto—revealed that the Kumamoto Earthquake data contained “wide reaching errors”—and an outside expert had warned him the data might be problematic nine months earlier.
Goto, an associate professor in the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at Kyoto University, issued two statements in which he acknowledged the errors, but did not indicate how they occurred. According to The Japan Times, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is investigating whether the data “was falsified or fabricated due to inconsistencies with other readings taken nearby.” A report in another Japanese paper, The Mainichi, notes that Osaka University—where one of the authors, Yoshiya Hata, works—is looking into the matter as well.
In February 2016, Albert Jambon received some puzzling news.
Several colleagues had alerted him to a paper, published online in late December 2015 in the Journal of African Earth Sciences (JAES), reporting the discovery of a rare mineral, which Jambon had been analyzing.
When Jambon read the paper, he realized it was a modified version of a paper he had been working on for almost eight years. Impatient, one of his co-authors, Ahmad Bilal, had published his own version of the manuscript and listed himself as the sole author.
Jambon, a professor at Pierre and Marie Curie University, believes that Bilal’s paper plagiarized his manuscript, but Bilal disputes this allegation. Bilal–who works at Damascus University in Syria–says he couldn’t wait any longer to publish the manuscript, so wrote “a completely new version.” Since the authors couldn’t resolve the authorship dispute, in August 2016, the journal issued a “temporary” expression of concern, alerting readers to the authorship concerns. Now, a year and a half later, a spokesperson for the publisher says it’s going to be retracted.
Eight years is a long time to work on a paper.
The editor of the journal Land Degradation & Development has stepped down amidst an investigation into citation problems at the journal.
The editor, Artemi Cerdà of the University of Valencia in Spain, has also disappeared from the list of editors at two journals published by the European Geosciences Union, which recently announced that one of its editors had engaged in citation manipulation.
Here’s a statement we just received from a spokesperson for Wiley, which publishes Land Degradation & Development:
A 2016 paper has been retracted at the request of a company that provides geoscience solutions because the authors—who are employees of the company—included proprietary information and didn’t obtain proper permission.
Often in extenuating circumstances such as publishing something without permission, the article is taken offline. But this article, which according to the retraction notice “contains information, data and intellectual property belonging to the company and its client,” remains available. What’s more, the authors seem to think they had the company’s okay to publish.
Here’s the complete retraction notice for “High resolution seismic imaging of complex structures: a case study of the South China Sea data” published by Marine Geophysical Research:
Women don’t peer review papers as often as men, even taking into account the skewed sex ratio in science – but why? In a new Comment in today’s Nature, Jory Lerback at the University of Utah and Brooks Hanson at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) confirmed the same trend in AGU journals, which they argue serve as a good proxy for STEM demographics in the U.S. What’s more, they found the gender discrepancies stemmed from women – of all levels of seniority — receiving fewer invitations to review (both from male and female authors). And when women get their invites, they say “no” more often. We spoke with Lerback and Hanson about what might underlie this trend, and how the scientific community should address it.
Retraction Watch: What made you decide to undertake this project?
A U.S. Congressional subcommittee is investigating two cases of fraud affecting one Colorado lab run by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The misconduct occurred in two separate cases, taking place between 1998 and 2014. We covered the most recent incident, in which a chemist doctored data in up to 24 projects supported by more than $100 million in federal funding.
A letter from the Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to USGS director Suzette Kimball details another incident that took place in the Energy Resources Program (ERP) Geochemistry Laboratory in Lakewood, Colorado, in which another worker manipulated data for more than a decade.
The letter notes that, although the incidents were reviewed by the Department of the Interior (DOI) Scientific Integrity Review Panel and its Office of Inspector General (OIG): Continue reading U.S. Congress investigating misconduct at Colorado geochem lab
In January, we reported that six of 10 papers flagged by an investigation into author Shyi-Min Lu have either been retracted or withdrawn. Now, Lu has lost another paper that was not among the previous ten — again, for reproducing figures from earlier works without seeking permission from original authors. This paper was on a hot topic: gas hydrates, considered to be a potential new energy source to replace oil in the 21st century.
The investigations into Lu’s work took place at the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Hsinchu, Taiwan, where he was formerly based, and the National Taiwan University, in Taipei, Taiwan, which fired Lu from his position at the university’s energy research center.
Here’s the retraction notice in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, issued last month: Continue reading Renewable energy researcher with troubled record loses another paper
With so many retraction notices pouring in, from time to time we compile a handful of straight-forward retractions.
Once again, this list focuses on duplications — but unlike other duplications, these authors were not at fault. Rather, these retractions occurred because the publishers mistakenly published the same paper twice — the result of a transfer between publishers, for instance, or accidentally publishing the unedited version of the paper. We’re forced to wonder, as we have before, whether saddling researchers’ CVs with a retraction is really the most fair way to handle these cases.
So without further ado, here’s five cases where the journal mistakenly duplicated a paper, and had to retract one version: Continue reading You’ve been dupe’d: Results so nice, journals published them twice
Misconduct by a chemist at a Colorado lab run by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has potentially affected 24 research and assessment projects, supported by $108 million in federal funding, government officials have disclosed.
According to a June 15 statement from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the USGS, the operator of a mass spectrometer in the Inorganic Section of the Energy Resources Program’s (ERP) Energy Geochemistry Laboratory in Lakewood has been accused of scientific misconduct and manipulating data. The unit is responsible for conducting coal and water quality assessments in projects both in the United States and abroad.
The inorganic section closed following the discovery of the misconduct, and we have yet to learn the fate of the employee involved. As the statement notes, problems with the lab’s data were common knowledge among workers at the facility: Continue reading More than $100M worth of research may be tainted by govt lab misconduct