Sometimes, things just don’t add up. Take this retraction notice, from the March 2011 issue of Applied Mathematics Letters:
This article has been retracted at the request of the editor as the authors have falsified mathematical findings and have made unsubstantiated claims regarding Euclid’s parallel postulate (Appl. Math. Lett. 23 (2010) 1137–1139. doi:10.1016/j.aml.2010.05.003). This article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.
There’s actually only one author, an M. Sivasubramanian, of Dr. Mahalingam College of Engineering and Technology, Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India, but we’re not PhDs in math, so we figured we were missing something important. Fortunately, Ben Steinberg, a high school friend of one of ours — Ivan’s — is a bit of a math rock star and a professor at Carleton University. We asked him for his take:
We find that near-complete lack of information frustrating, not to mention useless to the scientific community. Unfortunately, it’s par for the course when it comes to the JBC and Bulfone-Paus retractions. The other three said exactly the same thing.
With that in mind, we thought it would be worth looking at all 12 retraction notices, as a sort of case series in journals’ transparency. We often look at particular retractions in a vacuum, but here was a chance to look at 12 papers, all retracted for the same reason, to see how each journal reported the withdrawal.
Graham Ellis-Davies says January 25th was one of the worst days of his life. That was when the journal ChemBioChem retracted an article, published barely two weeks earlier, for a mistake Ellis-Davies blames squarely on himself.
Naoki Mori, of 16-retraction fame, believes he’s getting his job back at the University of the Ryukyus, which released him in August after learning that the cancer researcher had misused images in many of his publications.
As the news of Joachim Boldt’s staggering number of retractions leaps from Retraction Watch into the mainstream press, the consortium of journal editors retracting his studies has backtracked ever so slightly, announcing today that one of the 89 studies for which the German anesthesiologist lacked ethics approval in fact had such sanction.
There’s parsing a-plenty in the American Journal of Physiology Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology this month. The journal has retracted a 2010 paper by researchers at Chiba University in Japan, who lifted much of their manuscript from an article by other scientists in a different publication.
It’s official.* Joachim Boldt now holds the record for the most retractions by a single author.
As we reported the other day, a group of anesthesia journals was on the verge of revealing a list of 89 articles by Joachim Boldt that would require retraction because the German researcher had failed to receive proper approval from ethics officials for his studies. Today, the coalition issued a letter making the retractions official.
If a paper is retracted, should papers that cite it get retracted, too? We’ve been on the lookout for this kind of move, which we figure is consistent with cleaning up the scientific record. Today, one appears in Nature.