It’s a mind-boggling story: A United Airlines pilot claims to be a cardiologist and was eagerly sought after for medical conferences at which he taught doctors teamwork. He shared millions in grants, according to the Associated Press. But as the AP reports, William Hamman wasn’t a cardiologist at all, having never even finished medical school.
Hamman’s career seems to be collapsing, now that he resigned from his post as a researcher and educator at Royal Oak, Michigan’s William Beaumont Hospital once the hospital found out he had misled them. (Just last year, Beaumont touted a $150,000 grant Hamman nabbed with a colleague, Marc Abramson at Improbable Research notes.) United has also grounded him.
The storyline is reminiscent of 2002’s Catch Me If You Can, in which Frank Abagnale Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) forges millions of dollars’ worth of checks around the world, in the process impersonating a Pan Am pilot and a doctor. In Hamman’s case, there are apparently no questions over whether his pilot credentials are legit, according to the AP.
There’s a retraction in the issue of Neurology published this week. In a nutshell, a group of researchers had reported earlier this year that they had identified a genetic mutation potentially responsible for a rare neurological disorder called the filamin myopathy. But when another group tried to replicate those results, they found that the original tests were probably contaminated by a “pseudogene.”
In a letter from the second group:
Kono et al reported the effects of a novel c.8107del mutation in the filamin C gene (FLNC). We reviewed their results and concluded that the reported mutation was mistaken identity.
We have an update on the case of Olav and Axel Gressner, a father-son (or, in this case, son-father) pair of German liver researchers caught up in a fraud investigation. The inquiry focused on Olav, who left the University of Aachen under a cloud of suspicion. A 2008 research letter on which he was a co-author (his father was senior author) was retracted earlier this year by the Journal of Hepatology.
If a paper appears online but then is withdrawn — a kinder, gentler version of retracted — before it is “officially” published, did anyone hear it fall?
Oops, mixed metaphors again. And scare quotes! The latter, however, are because publishers seem to have varying opinions of whether or not something that is freely available online is published. And that has ramifications for whether you can retract a paper like that.
Thrombosis and Haemostasis has issued an “expression of concern” over a 2004 paper by Tunisian researchers:
Concerns have been raised by readers about the accuracy and validity of the data reported in the September 2004 article by Abdelkefi et al., entitled “Prevention of central venous line-related thrombosis by continuous infusion of low-dose unfractionated heparin, in patients with haemato-oncological disease. A randomized controlled trial” (Abdelkefi A et al.Thromb Haemost 2004; 92: 654–661).
In the trial, 108 patients with blood cancers reportedly received infusions of either saline or heparin, a blood thinner. Those given the active drug were far less likely to develop clots related to their catheters, according to the researchers, and no more likely to experience severe bleeding. In the report, the researchers write:
This is the first prospective, randomized study, which shows that low-dose of unfractionated heparin is safeand effective to prevent catheter-related thrombosis in patients with haemato-oncological disease.
The authors of a 2009 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have retracted the paper, which found a particular molecule could make breast tumors respond to a drug to which they’re not normally susceptible.
The paper — which has been cited five times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — was the subject of a fair amount of press coverage, although the molecule is not yet in clinical trials. In a Reuters story, lead author Caroline Ford said of the alleged tamoxifen-sensitizing compound, Foxy-5:
“It flips the switch basically,” Ford said in a telephone interview. “It makes breast cancer cells respond to tamoxifen in women who cannot be treated with the drug,” she added. “If you don’t have that molecule you can’t get tamoxifen because there is no target.”
Although some readers evidently have yawned at revelations that Vahdettin Bayazit, of Alparslan University in Turkey (and, we are tempted to assume, at least a few of his co-authors) appears to have plagiarized wantonly in numerous published articles, one follower of Retraction Watch was on to this case even before we were.
In an e-mail, the tipster laid out a picture of intellectual dishonesty audacious for both its scope and ham-handedness. The researcher, who wanted to remain anonymous, used Google to detect instances of plagiarism, just as we had, coming up with “more than 10” papers with passages stolen from the scientific literature and even Wikipedia, including not only lifted text but figures, too. And, just as in our case, the editors our source contacted about the misconduct have essentially ignored it.
The Office of Research Integrity has thrown a heavy book at Bengu Sezen, a former chemist at Columbia University, alleging that school and agency investigators turned up 21 instances of research misconduct by the disgraced scientist.
Over the past few weeks, you’d have been forgiven for wondering if the name of this blog should be “Plagiarism Watch” instead of Retraction Watch. Just take a look at all of the recent plagiarism cases:
That last example inspired this poll. When we brought an example of likely plagiarism by the same author to the attention of one journal editor, he was nonplussed. “[A]s all editors know there are rarely absolutely clear cut issues in which the line is unequivocally drawn in the sand,” said the editor-in-chief of Biomaterials, David Williams of Wake Forest. (Williams also suggested that the relative obscurity of the plagiarizers’ institution, and of the journal where they published, meant the case wasn’t worth investigating.)