And then there’s uninformative as served up by the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
We’ve already recounted one teeth-grinding experience with the JBC, a publication of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The case involved two papers in JBC by Axel Ullrich, an esteemed cancer researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. According to Ullrich, one of his then-postdocs, Naohito Aoki, had manipulated figures that appeared in the papers, necessitating their retraction.
Remember Spirocor, the Israeli company that closed down a clinical trial involving its “respiratory stress” test for coronary artery disease because the data underpinning the validity of the method proved unreliable? The problem led to the retraction of two articles, about which we’ve previously reported. But we also found a study by some of the same researchers, who include scientists in Israel and the United States, that had been presented at the 2010 meeting of the American Heart Association and published in the journal Circulation.
That abstract, No. 14426 “Accuracy and Usefulness of Finger Pulse Wave Analysis during Brief Deep Breathing Exercise (Respiratory Stress Response) as a Marker of Significant Coronary Artery Disease,” has now been retracted — making, to our knowledge, the entire body of published research on the Spirocor product an editorial memory.
Regular readers of this blog by now know that one of our goals is to make retractions as open and informative as possible. Which is why when they’re not, we get irritated that not everyone seems to agree.
Last October, Retraction Watch readers will recall, up-and-coming stem cell researcher Amy Wagers retracted a study in Nature describing how her team rejuvenated blood-forming stem cells in older mice. Shane Mayack, a postdoc in Wagers’ lab who had been dismissed after an inquiry into what happened, did not sign that retraction. Since then, Mayack has not spoken to the press, except for a brief comment to Naturethrough her attorney.
Here, we present, unedited, Mayack’s side of the story. While accepting responsibility, she also has a number of suggestions for how universities and journals can handle these situations better. Shane can be reached at smayck[at]yahoo.com.
Since it was well covered by this blog, the readers of Retraction Watch are no doubt aware that in October 2010, a paper that I co-authored was retracted from Nature and a notice of concern was posted regarding a second paper published in Blood.
Have you read yesterday’s post on a retraction in Applied Mathematics Letters yet? (If you haven’t, you’ve missed the explanation of how “Both science and spirituality came from space,” along with other oddities. We’ll wait while you go read it.) But for those of you who have, it turns out that this wasn’t the first retraction of a bizarre paper in the journal this year.
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.