Public health journal retracts paper on austerity for “inaccurate and misleading results”

A protest against austerity policies

The American Journal of Public Health has retracted a controversial 2018 paper on the effects of economic austerity in Spain because it contained “inaccurate and misleading” results linking  those policies to a massive spike in premature deaths.

The journal also has published a second piece, by a different group of authors, refuting the central claim of the now-retracted paper. Whereas the first article asserted that austerity in Spain during the mid-2000s led to more than 500,000 excess deaths, the new research says deaths in the country slowed during the country’s economic crisis.

The flawed article, “Austerity policies and mortality in Spain after the financial crisis of 2008,” was written by a group of researchers at the Hospital Universitario Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the Canary Islands. The authors claimed that their analysis of the years 2011 to 2015 showed that:

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Want to check for retractions in your personal library — and get alerts — for free? Now you can

We’re thrilled to announce a collaboration with Zotero,  the free and open-source research platform, that will allow its users to be alerted to retractions of any papers in their personal libraries.

As Retraction Watch readers know, making that kind of functionality possible has been our goal since we announced plans to create a comprehensive database of retractions. Once that database officially launched last October, in conjunction with an analysis of its contents by reporters at Science, we began discussions in earnest with potential partners who could make that happen.

We’re pleased that the first such collaboration is with Zotero, “a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share research” that “is open source and developed by an independent, nonprofit organization that has no financial interest in your private information.” Here’s a posting from lead Zotero developer Dan Stillman:

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“Permeable to bad science:” Journal retracts paper hailed by proponents of homeopathy

Poison oak

Eight months after publishing a paper claiming that homeopathy can treat pain in rats, a Springer Nature journal is retracting the work.

The move follows swift criticism of the paper in Scientific Reports, which was written by researchers from India and the United Arab Emirates about the use of Toxicodendron pubescens, “popularly known as Rhus Tox (RT),” which “is recommended in alternative medicines as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic remedy.” The species is also commonly known as poison oak.

Here’s the retraction notice:

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Study of a “nudge” to use hand sanitizer retracted

Image by Adriano Gadini from Pixabay

A group of researchers in the United States and China have retracted their 2018 paper on hand hygiene, admitting that they can’t account for “data anomalies” in their work.

The article in question, “The decoy effect as a nudge: Boosting hand hygiene with a worse option,” appeared in Psychological Science last May. Led by Meng Li, of the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver, the researchers reported results from experiments designed to increase the use of hand sanitizer in the workplace through the use of a “decoy” bottle:

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Weekend reads: Dean withdraws from post after retraction of Lancet book review; star researcher committed misconduct; a new way to game peer review?

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 a reminder that sometimes science just needs more bullshit; a call to make misconduct investigation reports public; and a puzzle about why retractions took so long. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

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Forensics Friday: What’s the best way to present these findings in a figure?

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 fifth in a series, Forensics Friday.

Take a look at the image below, and then take our poll. After that, click on the link below to find out the right answer.

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Chaos as Chaos retracts paper it apparently never should have published in the first place

Apologies in advance for the headache that might come your way after reading this post, but the journal Chaos has a mindbending retraction.

The editors have pulled an article they published in January 2019 over concerns about contaminated peer review and other problems. The paper, “Neglecting nonlocality leads to unrealistic numerical scheme for fractional differential equation: Fake and manipulated results,” was a broadside against an article that had appeared in a different journal.

According to the author, Muhammad Altaf Khan, of the City University of Science and Information Technology in Peshawar, Pakistan:

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Why did all of these retractions take more than three years?

via Flickr

In December 2015, a U.S. government watchdog said a researcher named Girija Dasmahapatra had faked data in 11 papers. Two of those papers were retracted by October 2016.

And then, until this year, nothing happened.

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“Our current approaches are not working:” Time to make misconduct investigation reports public, says integrity expert

C. K. Gunsalus

With the 6th World Conference on Research Integrity (WCRI) underway in Hong Kong, C.K. Gunsalus, who has served as a research integrity officer, expert witness in scientific integrity cases, and consultant, argues in Nature this week that universities should “Make reports of research misconduct public.” We asked her a few questions about why she has changed her mind about this issue.

Retraction Watch (RW): We have of course been campaigning for universities to release investigation reports for some time, and have published a number of them following public records requests and reviews of court documents. What led you to this call to make them public?

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Researchers retract a paper because it turns out not to be about bullshit

via Flickr

Sometimes what science really needs is more bullshit.

Just ask a group of environmental scientists in China, who lost their 2019 article on soil contamination because what they thought was manure was in fact something else.

The article, titled “Immobilization of heavy metals in e-waste contaminated soils by combined application of biochar and phosphate fertilizer,” appeared in February in Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, and was written a team from the South China Institute of Environmental Science and Sun Yat-sen University, both in Guangzhou.

According to the researchers:

Continue reading Researchers retract a paper because it turns out not to be about bullshit