Although Retraction Watch might have been born just before yesterday, we find it instructive to look back in time for items we would have covered had we been around a bit longer. We’ll do this periodically to generate a “Best Of” collection of retractions that catch our eye both for what they might suggest about scientific publishing and for good old-fashioned interest. Here’s the first installment:
A furtive attempt to play politics with a galley proof led to the retraction of a paper on Middle East water policy a few months ago. The article, “Optimizing irrigation water use in the West Bank, Palestine,” appeared in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural Water Management, an Elsevier journal. Written by Palestinian and Dutch researchers, the article modeled various scenarios of water and crop policies in the West Bank in an effort to determine the most efficient use of resources.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the printer. The authors decided to make a political protest of sorts in the galleys, a ham-handed gesture that led to the retraction of the paper, as the journal explained in a note: Continue reading Best Of Retractions, Part I: Water, water, everywhere, except in “Historical Palestine,” aka Israel
Over the summer, while searching for some studies and evidence for various treatments, my wife, a television writer and producer, noticed something she thought unusual enough to flag for me. The titles of a number of Cochrane Library reviews started with “WITHDRAWN.”
The Cochrane Library is the world’s leading publisher of systematic reviews, which gather all of the high-quality evidence on a given subject and offer a rigorous analysis of whether a given test or treatment works. It’s an invaluable resource. (Shameless plug: Join the Association of Health Care Journalists, where I’m treasurer, and access to the $285-per-year Cochrane subscription is included.)
Retraction Watch was curious about what “WITHDRAWN” meant, since “withdrawal” is often used synonymously with retraction. Cochrane updates its reviews regularly, as new evidence surfaces, of course. But these abstracts didn’t say anything about new reviews.
We asked Jen Beal, who handles media relations for Wiley, the Cochrane Library’s publisher. She responded: Continue reading Progressive: How the Cochrane Library handles updates-in-progress
More on the case of Savio Woo, the New York gene therapy researcher who, as Retraction Watch reported this week, had several papers pulled by noted journals.
Two of Woo’s post-doctoral fellows at Mount Sinai School of Medicine were dismissed for “research misconduct,” said Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the institution. According to Michaels:
When Dr. Savio L C Woo came to suspect that two post-doctoral fellows in his laboratory may have engaged in research misconduct he notified the Mount Sinai Research Integrity Office. Mount Sinai immediately initiated institutional reviews that resulted in both post-doctoral fellows being dismissed for research misconduct. At no time were there allegations that Dr. Woo had engaged in research misconduct. As part of its review, the investigation committee looked into this possibility and confirmed that no research misconduct could be attributed to Dr. Woo, who voluntarily retracted the papers regarding the research in question. Mount Sinai reported the results of its investigations to the appropriate government agencies and continues to cooperate with them as part of its commitment to adhere to the highest standards for research integrity.
We have plenty of other questions for Mount Sinai about the details of the investigation—including when the post-docs were let go, which Michaels declined to answer—and will update when we learn more.
Research from the lab of Savio Woo, a leading U.S. gene therapy scientist, has come into question with the retraction by major journals of at least four of his articles.
The papers, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Human Gene Therapy, involve findings published between 2005 and 2009, address various aspect of gene therapy. Two of the articles boasted of potential breakthroughs, and even a possible cure, for diseases with extremely high rates of mortality.
The study in JNCI, for example, reported the finding of a genetically modified bacterium that showed promise for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, a particularly lethal malignancy, and other tumor types. Another, published in 2005 in PNAS, claimed to have discovered a possible cure for phenylketonuria, or PKU, in mice—a finding that was cited more than 30 times and trumpeted in the media.
However, in a retraction notice issued this month, Woo wrote that: Continue reading Work from noted gene therapy researcher Savio Woo under scrutiny with slew of retractions
In the world of scientific misconduct, it’s often worth keeping track of what happens to scientists whose papers were retracted because of falsified or otherwise fraudulent results.
Take the case of Hung-Shu Chang. Last week, the the federal Office of Research Integrity announced that it had closed its investigation into the scientist’s misdeeds. Chang was a visiting postdoctoral researcher from Taiwan who in 2005 had come to the renowned Skinner Laboratory at Washington State University to study the effects of endocrine disruptors — a class of compounds that includes BPA and which have been shown to disrupt the action of hormones — on sex cells.
Chang was accused of falsifying data in a 2006 paper in Endocrinology — later retracted — reporting the damaging effects of vinclozolin, a fungicide used to protect vineyards, on the genetic integrity of sperm cells.
According to federal and university investigators, Chang, who has since returned to Taiwan, “fabricated and falsified data” central to the authors’ claim that vinclozolin could alter sperm in such a way that the mutations could cause disease in future generations. Such mutations are referred to as epigenetic changes. Continue reading What happens after a retraction for falsified data? An example from Endocrinology
Last month, we wrote about the retraction of a 2005 paper suggesting that some adult stem cells might give rise to cancer. That, of course, would be a problem if researchers tried treating heart disease and other conditions with them. The paper’s authors retracted it, however, when it became clear that instead of being transformed — that’s the scientific word for “became cancerous” — the cells had simply become contaminated and overgrown with tumor cells used in research.
We had some questions for the authors of the original paper, and for the editor of the journal. Last week, we heard back from one of the paper’s authors, Javier Garcia-Castro, who had been on vacation without Internet access for weeks. In an email to Retraction Watch, Garcia-Castro wrote: Continue reading Update on stem cell-cancer link retraction: Why not everyone signed, and why authors ended up in another journal first
Citing “authorship” issues, a parasitology journal has retracted a paper by a Kenyan scientist which showed that Limburger cheese and milk cream may be effective mosquito bait.
The paper, by Eunice Owino, of the University of Nairobi, was published online in Parasites & Vectors this June but retracted in late August after the editors quickly learned that Owino had neglected to list several other authors on her manuscript.
According to Chris Arme, a parasitologist and editor-in-chief of the journal, the article began to smell like Lim … well, you know, immediately: Continue reading Missing authors: Journal retracts article showing stinky dairy products make good mosquito bait
Yesterday we reported on a retraction in a European liver journal involving post-acceptance shenanigans by a group of German researchers including a father and son, Axel and Olav Gressner. Well, it turns out there’s a bit more there there.
Didier Samuel, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Hepatology, where the team’s letter to the editor was retracted, tells Retraction Watch he was contacted earlier this year by the University of Aachen. The university was investigating potential misconduct by Olav Gressner. The journal launched its own inquiry, leading to the retracted letter, Samuel says.
Samuel’s journal has not pulled any other papers from the Gressners. However, the group “is not encouraged to submit to our journal” in the future, he says. Although the lab has claimed that “typewritten errors” were to blame for the alerted manuscript, Samuels says, “the editors were not convinced” of this explanation. Continue reading Update: German university investigating authors who retracted caffeine-liver fibrosis letter
Work from a prolific father-son team of liver researchers in Germany has come under scrutiny after accusations that they falsified data in a 2009 letter to the editor that appeared in the Journal of Hepatology.
The letter, retracted in the September issue (after an online notice in June), referred to a 2008 article in the journal by Axel Gressner, his son Olav, and their colleagues at University Hospital in Aachen in which the authors reported that doses of caffeine might be an effective treatment for liver fibrosis, scarring of the organ that results from chronic ailments such as cirrhosis or hepatitis.
Epidemiologic evidence has suggested that people who drink coffee are somewhat protected from liver fibrosis—although some experts dispute the purported connection—and the German group claimed to have been among the first to find a plausible molecular mechanism for the link. Their November 2008 paper on the subject has been cited 16 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Science, a hefty number for just 22 months.
In their follow-up letter, they went a step further, stating that injecting rats with caffeine blocked the expression of a key protein associated with growth of connective tissue necessary for the formation of liver scars.
But the evidence backing the letter appears to be far weaker than the researchers initially let on. Continue reading Liver spots: Hepatology journal yanks research letter on caffeine-fibrosis link, saying authors falsified data
Aging & Mental Health “welcomes original contributions” to fill its pages.
Or not so original. Last November, the journal published a study by two California researchers which looked at the possible effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on physical well-being in older women – and found no evidence of such a link.
Six months later, the journal published the findings again.
It issued a retraction earlier this month, which included the following: Continue reading Double trouble: Psych journal prints PTSD paper twice