Two years ago, I uploaded a preprint to arXiv.org describing what I considered serious problems, including apparently irreproducible results, that I had uncovered when analyzing a set of research articles published by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) NEOWISE project. NEOWISE is the largest scientific analysis of asteroids ever conducted; the researchers on the project have so far published estimated sizes of more than 164,000 objects in the solar system, estimates they have claimed were all derived by applying a standard approach to raw observations from the WISE space telescope.
The infractions occurred at The University of Texas Brownsville, which has since become part of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Once the issues were discovered, UTRGV had to make the reimbursements.
Normally, a withdrawal wouldn’t raise our eyebrows, but climate scientist Gavin Schmidt pointed out on Twitter that the authors’ names are eerily similar to another pair who have published climate papers together: Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller. Yes, that’s correct — Den Volokin and Lark ReLlez are Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller spelled backwards. Nikolov and Zeller are currently listed as a physical scientist and a meteorologist, respectively, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The notice doesn’t state the reason for withdrawal, and Pascal Willis, editor-in-chief of Advances in Space Research from the Earth Physics Institute in Paris, France, referred us to the study’s authors for more information. Elsevier, which publishes Advances in Space Research, confirmed that the paper was retracted due to an “authorship issue” — namely, that the authors had used pseudonyms.
If SciberQuest, Inc. is unable to pay back the money — the result of fraudulently obtaining government grants and contracts — then its CEO Homayoun Karimabadi will be personally liable, the lawyer for SciberQuest and Karimabadi told Retraction Watch.
A group of astrophysicists has notched a pair of corrections for papers on galaxy clusters, thanks to an error that affected several figures in the papers, but not the overall conclusions.
The errors came in the catalog of “mock” galaxies that first author Fabio Zandanel, a postdoc at the University of Amsterdam, created to model features that are found in clusters of galaxies. Two mistakes canceled each other out “almost perfectly,” says Zandanel, making the changes that resulted from them subtle.
An astrophysics journal is retracting a paper on black holes whose first author is a teenager about to earn his PhD, after learning the paper “draws extensively” from a book chapter by the last author.
Many papers are pulled for duplication, but few get a news release from the publisher about it. In a move that we approve of, the editors of The Astrophysical Journal announced the forthcoming retraction on the American Astronomical Society (AAS) website.
AAS is handling this very quickly. The paper was published in October, someone alerted the journal to the duplication on November 14, and the announcement of the retraction went up on the AAS website just ten days later.
Between Mars and Jupiter floats a little rock with big dreams.
For three whole weeks in January and February, it was designated as 2015 BS515, a near Earth object, one of the many space rocks that astrophysicists keep an eye on for their potential to strike our planet. But then on February 12 came the announcement: the Minor Planet Center (MPC) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics had downgraded the rock to a “routine main-belt object.” That means the asteroid is far enough away that we don’t have to worry about it hitting Earth any time soon.
The MPC gets sent two million observations of asteroids and comets every month. The five staff members then catalog these findings and figure out what’s new and what’s been seen before. The goal is to keep track of all near Earth objects, which make up about 1% of the observations the Center receives. It’s remarkable that there are so few corrections, given the 120 million observations on the MPC’s books.