Last October, David Hawkes read a letter to the editor that shocked him: It alleged Hawkes and a colleague had lied about their professional affiliations.
Hawkes told Retraction Watch that he contacted the journal Toxicology on October 19 to complain that the letter contained “numerous factual errors that could adversely affect our professional standing,” and requested the journal retract it as soon as possible. Hawkes told the editors of Toxicology:
…the claims about both myself and Joanne Benhamu are factually incorrect and we have received professional advice that they could be considered slanderous.
A former NIH postdoc recruited to a tenure-track position last year committed multiple acts of misconduct in two papers, according to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity.
According to the new notice, issued by the ORI, Colleen Skau altered results and multiple figures across the papers, published in Cell and PNAS.
The misconduct occurred while she was completing a postdoc in the Cell Biology and Physiology Center at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Last year, The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced that Skau was among eight targets of a recruitment grant; the grant, totaling $2 million USD, was designed to help entice her to accept a tenure-track position at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. We’ve been unable to find a faculty page for Skau at UT Southwestern, and have contacted the university to determine whether she accepted a position there.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health is closing PubMed Commons, the feature that enabled readers to post comments on abstracts indexed in PubMed.
NIH announced it will be discontinuing the service — which allowed only signed comments from authors with papers indexed in PubMed, among other restrictions — after more than four years, due to a lack of interest.
According to the statement, the last day to post a comment will be February 15:
Here at Retraction Watch, we constantly receive emails from readers who are frustrated with a particular journal — perhaps it has ignored obvious problems in a published paper, performed only a cursory peer review, or takes months (or years) to take action on a problematic article. Many whistleblowers bring their concerns to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), which provides guidelines for best practices in publishing. But sometimes, those same whistleblowers complain to us that there aren’t adequate punishments for journals that ignore allegations or maintain improper practices — and COPE, though an important standard-bearer for the industry, lacks teeth. Did you know COPE can revoke a journal’s membership if it doesn’t uphold the organization’s ethical standards? This has always been possible, and a recently released COPE statement about its sanctions policy has tried to clarify its position. We spoke with COPE co-chairs Geri Pearson and Chris Graf about this and other recently announced changes.
It makes sense that scientists would adopt a sort of “buyer beware” attitude towards fraud — if researchers choose to collaborate with someone who’s been found guilty of some type of misconduct, their reputation among their peers might take a hit. But what about people who work with someone who is later convicted of misconduct — do they pay a price, as well? Yes, according to a preprint published recently by Katrin Hussinger and Maikel Pellens at the Centre for European Economic Research. We spoke with Hussinger and Pellens about how the “reputational damage” of misconduct can spread to prior collaborators.
RW: It’s not a surprise to think that people who collaborate with a known fraudster might see some impact, but were you surprised to see that people who worked with a “fraudster” in the past were potentially affected?
A former graduate student falsified or fabricated data in a manuscript submitted to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, according to the Office of Research Integrity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In a finding released Dec. 8, ORI said that Matthew Endo, a former graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” caused false data to be recorded, and “falsified and/or fabricated data and related images” by altering, reusing, or relabeling them.
Endo has agreed to a settlement, effective Nov. 16, which requires him to work under supervision for three years on projects supported by the U.S. Public Health Service, among other conditions.
The manuscript entitled “Amphotericin primarily kills human cells by binding and extracting cholesterol” was submitted to PNAS, but withdrawn prior to peer review.
When a paper is challenged on PubPeer, is a journal paying attention? A new feature recently unveiled by the site makes it easier to find out. The Journal Dashboards allow journals to see what people are saying about the papers they published, and allows readers to know which journals are particularly responsive to community feedback. We spoke with co-founderBrandon Stell to get more information.
Retraction Watch: Can you briefly describe the Journal dashboards and how they work?
The dashboards are a collection of features that we created to make it easier for journal editors to track and react to comments on their journal. The dashboards allow journals to create teams whose members receive immediate alerts to new PubPeer comments. They will also be able to access other information such as statistics of commenting trends across the journal. Specialized searches will also be available. At the moment the dashboards are available to journal editors only but we hope to offer a similar service for institutions in the near future.
RW: What prompted PubPeer to create the Journal dashboards?
Retraction Watch: You note that this newly retracted article was co-authored by the graduate student Wansink initially blogged about, but wasn’t as heavily scrutinized as the four papers about pizza consumption she also co-authored. Why do you think this paper wasn’t as closely examined?
Irene Hames: I don’t think that saying something is ‘peer reviewed’ can any longer be considered a badge of quality or rigour. The quality of peer review varies enormously, ranging from excellent through poor/inadequate to non-existent. But if reviewers’ reports were routinely published alongside articles – ideally with the authors’ responses and editorial decision correspondence – this would provide not only information on the standards of peer review and editorial handling, but also insight into why the decision to publish has been made, the strengths and weaknesses of the work, whether readers should bear reservations in mind, and so on. As I’ve said before, I can’t understand why this can’t become the norm. I haven’t heard any reasons why it shouldn’t, and I’d love the Retraction Watch audience to make suggestions in the comments here. I’m not advocating that the reviewers’ names should appear – I think that’s a decision that should be left to journals and their communities.