A publisher wants to destigmatize retractions. Here’s how.

Erica Boxheimer

It’s no secret that retractions have a stigma, which is very likely part of why authors often resist the move — even when honest error is involved. There have been at least a few proposals to change the nomenclature for some retractions over the years, from turning them into “amendments” to a new taxonomy.

Erica Boxheimer, data integrity analyst at EMBO Press, and Bernd Pulverer, chief editor of The EMBO Journal and head of scientific publications for the Press, have suggested a related solution, which builds on a 2015 proposal:

We proposed to use the term “withdrawal” instead of the canonical “retraction” for an author‐initiated retraction based on “honest mistakes”. We are now using the terms “retraction” and “withdrawal” as formally distinct content types across EMBO Press in the hope that “withdrawal” attracts less stigma and encourages self‐correction. 

As they note in an editorial in the journal last month:

In a move to add transparency in a more systematic manner, we have begun trialing a “process file” for corrections—similar to the “review process files” on our published papers, which capture the review and editorial process at the journal—for corrigenda and retractions. 

Here’s one such “process file.” We asked Pulverer and Boxheimer to describe how the approach would work.

Continue reading A publisher wants to destigmatize retractions. Here’s how.

University of Kentucky moves to fire researchers after misconduct finding

Xianglin Shi

The University of Kentucky has started termination proceedings against a pair of scientists found guilty of “significant departures from accepted practices of research,” according to the institution. 

The scientists, Xianglin Shi, who up until now had held the William A. Marquard Chair in Cancer Research and served as associate dean for research integration in the UK College of Medicine, and Zhuo Zhang in the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology in the College of Medicine, have lost access to their laboratories, which are shuttered, and other university equipment, UK said in a statement. A third researcher, Donghern Kim, who worked under Zhang, already has been fired in the scandal. 

In October, the university told us that it was aware of the retractions but “not able to provide more information at this time.” The ongoing investigation was first reported in April by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

According to the UK’s announcement today, the inquiry, which began in June 2018, into Shi, Zhang and Kim found that: 

Continue reading University of Kentucky moves to fire researchers after misconduct finding

Forensics Friday: You’re the reviewer. How do you react to this image?

Ever wanted to hone your skills as a scientific sleuth? Now’s your chance.

Thanks to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), which is committed to educating authors on best practices in publishingfigure preparation, and reproducibility, we’re presenting the fourteenth in a series, Forensics Friday.

Take a look at the image below, and then take our poll. (We recommend using the Chrome browser.) After that, click on the link below to find out the right answer.

Continue reading Forensics Friday: You’re the reviewer. How do you react to this image?

U.S. government watchdog names investigative director

A week after news that the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) would have a new interim director shortly comes news that the agency will also have a new director of its investigative division as of early next month.

Starting August 4, Alexander Runko will be the director of the ORI’s Division of Investigative Oversight (DIO). He is already working at the agency as an investigator.

According to the ORI:

Continue reading U.S. government watchdog names investigative director

Should a paper on mindfulness have been retracted? A co-author weighs in

Myriam Hunink

Two weeks ago, we covered the retraction of a PLoS ONE paper on mindfulness following criticism — dating back to 2017 — by James Coyne. At the time, the corresponding author, Maria Hunink, of Erasmus and Harvard, had not responded to a request for comment. Hunink responded late last week, saying that she had been on vacation, and with her permission we are posting her comments — including a correction she and her co-authors had originally drafted –here in the spirit of what she called “a fair and open discussion on Retraction Watch.” 

We sent an email to PLoS ONE in response to their intention to retract our paper explaining why we disagree with retraction but it seems they did not change their statement and went ahead with retraction. We suggested that discussing the methodological issues is a more rational approach and beneficial than retraction but received no response.

In spite of its methodological limitations, we feel the paper is a valuable contribution. Continue reading Should a paper on mindfulness have been retracted? A co-author weighs in

Weekend reads: Stem cell trial halted; Nazi doctors in the literature; is it OK to cite a paper you haven’t read?

Before we present this week’s Weekend Reads, a question: Do you enjoy our weekly roundup? If so, we could really use your help. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to support Weekend Reads, and our daily work? Thanks in advance.

The week at Retraction Watch featured the story of how an editor solved a mystery about bad data, a new addition to our leaderboard, and a project designed to identify a common mistake in clinical trials. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Continue reading Weekend reads: Stem cell trial halted; Nazi doctors in the literature; is it OK to cite a paper you haven’t read?

Journal retracts 16-year-old paper based on debunked autism-vaccine study

Andrew Wakefield

Better late than never? Or too little too late?

Those are two different ways to look at a recent retraction.

Eight years after one of the most infamous retractions in science — that of the 1998 paper in The Lancet in which Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in the UK claimed a link between vaccines and autism — the journal Lab Medicine  is retracting a paper that relied heavily on the now-discredited work. The paper, by Bernard Rimland and Woody McGinnis, of the Autism Research Institute, in San Diego, California, begins: Continue reading Journal retracts 16-year-old paper based on debunked autism-vaccine study

More than a dozen papers by Sloan Kettering researchers have now been updated with financial disclosures

Michelle Bradbury, via MSKCC

On Wednesday, we reported that a month after media reports of undisclosed conflicts of interest by top brass at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a researcher there had corrected two papers to include financial conflicts of interest.

Today, The New York Times and ProPublica — which had broken the original story about former chief medical officer Jose Baselga — reported on at least 13 corrections made by Sloan Kettering scientists so far, including the two by Michelle Bradbury that we reported on Wednesday. And we have learned of another correction by Bradbury, bringing the total to at least 14 — and counting.

In addition to the two October 8 corrections in Chemistry of Materials, a correction appeared yesterday in Applied Materials & Interfaces for a paper in which Bradbury was one of three corresponding authors. The correction to “Melanocortin-1 Receptor-Targeting Ultrasmall Silica Nanoparticles for Dual-Modality Human Melanoma Imaging” reads: Continue reading More than a dozen papers by Sloan Kettering researchers have now been updated with financial disclosures

Wansink admits mistakes, but says there was “no fraud, no intentional misreporting”

Brian Wansink (far left)

Brian Wansink, the Cornell food marketing researcher who announced his resignation yesterday and has been found to have committed misconduct by the university, admits to mistakes and poor record-keeping in a statement released today.

But he insists that there was “no fraud, no intentional misreporting, no plagiarism, or no misappropriation.” (See entire statement below.) Continue reading Wansink admits mistakes, but says there was “no fraud, no intentional misreporting”

Cornell finds that food marketing researcher Brian Wansink committed misconduct, as he announces retirement

A day after the JAMA family of journals retracted six of his studies, Cornell food marketing researcher Brian Wansink tells Retraction Watch that he will be retiring next year.

And Cornell said today that it found that Wansink “committed academic misconduct in his research and scholarship, including misreporting of research data, problematic statistical techniques, failure to properly document and preserve research results, and inappropriate authorship.”

[See an update with a new statement by Wansink here.]

In a statement, Wansink said: Continue reading Cornell finds that food marketing researcher Brian Wansink committed misconduct, as he announces retirement