"Compromised science" news/opines (includes retractions, declining academic standards, pred-J, etc)

When does science self-correct? Lessons from a replication crisis in early 20th century chemistry

INTRO: Science is self-correcting—or so we are told. But in truth it can be very hard to expunge errors from the scientific record. In 2015, a massive effort showed that 60 percent of the findings published in top psychology journals could not be replicated. This was distressing news, but it led to several healthy reforms in experimental psychology, where a growing number of journals now insist that investigators state their hypotheses in advance, ensure that their sample size is adequate, and publish their data and code.

You might also imagine that the credibility of the non-replicable findings took a hit. But it didn’t—not really. In 2022—seven years after the poor replicability of many findings was revealed, the findings that had failed to replicate were still getting cited just as much as the findings that had replicated successfully. And when they were cited, the fact that they had failed to replicate was rarely mentioned.

This pattern has been demonstrated several times in psychology and economics... (MORE - details)
Did a prof in India steal his student’s work – or is he being framed?

It seemed like a solid case of plagiarism...

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Professor who sued employer for discrimination refiles after judge dismissed his suit

A professor at the University of Pittsburgh who sued the institution for racial discrimination and retaliation has refiled his suit after a federal judge dismissed his claims.
Why research fraud is getting worse

Until we disincentivize number-fudging, academic scientists will continue to cheat.

EXCERPT: In the past, universities were reluctant to hold their faculty accountable for misconduct because research brought in millions of taxpayer dollars. Schools still want the money, of course, but the fear of exposure on the Internet or consequences in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings has left them with little choice but to intervene. That explains what happened at Harvard, Stanford, and CUNY most recently. It also applies to the other elite universities, including Duke and Cornell, that have hosted misconduct over the past few years.

The best illustration of how the system works was seen in early October, when University of Pennsylvania researcher Katalin Karikó was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine despite a strained relationship with her employer. According to the Wall Street Journal, Karikó’s prize offered a glimpse into “the clubby, hothouse world of academia and science, where winning financial funding is a constant burden, securing publication is a frustrating challenge, and those with unconventional or ambitious approaches can struggle to gain support and acceptance.” It’s a flawed system—and one that occasionally presents researchers with incentives to fudge the numbers—but it is highly resistant to change. (MORE - missing details)

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Trust in science and vaccines continues to decline. Why?

Recent evidence shows that public trust in science and vaccines has declined markedly since the pandemic. Why is this, and is there anything we can do about it?

EXCERPT: Be that as it may, just answering misinformation with good information and talking to the public “like adults” will never be sufficient. I like to cite Brandolini’s law, which states that the energy required to refute misinformation is an order of magnitude greater than the energy required to create it, and then observe that Brandolini was an optimist. My observation has been that it often takes at least two or three orders of magnitude to refute misinformation compared to what it takes to create it. We will always be at a huge disadvantage as long as we take only the approach of debunking. That’s why I’m a big fan now of “prebunking,” which involves recognizing the common narratives and conspiracy theories behind antiscience misinformation and preemptively teaching about them and trying to provide critical thinking skills that allow one to recognize new forms of old misinformation when one sees them. (MORE - missing details)
As expected, when the initial news was posted here previously.

A 27,000-year-old pyramid? Controversy hits an extraordinary archaeological claim.

A headline-grabbing paper claiming that a structure in Indonesia is the oldest pyramid in the world has raised the eyebrows of some archaeologists — and has now prompted an investigation by the journal that published it, Nature has learnt.

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Is China emitting a potent greenhouse gas it agreed to curb?

Though the country agreed to limit a climate-warming hydrofluorocarbon, elevated concentrations persist in East Asia.

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Manufacturers need to be more open about a dangerous Alzheimer’s drug side effect

INTRO: Since the FDA’s approval of lecanemab (marketed as Leqembi) and Medicare’s recent decision to cover the drug, I have met with Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones who are anxious to know whether they may benefit from this new treatment. They come in hope that this new medication may slow the progression of a cruel memory-robbing and personality-eroding disease.

As a practicing physician who has cared for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias for more than two decades, it is important for me to present all the benefits and risks associated with any new medication fully and without bias. I want to empower my patients and their families to make the most appropriate and evidence-based decisions about their care. It is therefore concerning to me that while the modest benefit of Leqembi in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s has been highlighted both in medical journals and the media, relatively less attention has been paid to common side effects of the drug: brain swelling and bleeding that are together called amyloid-related imaging abnormalities, or ARIA, which have been found in all three drugs designated as “breakthrough treatments” by the Food and Drug Administration: lecanemab, aducanumab, and donanemab. I am especially worried about drugmakers’ lack of transparency in fully reporting all details of clinical outcomes related to ARIA... (MORE - details)
Related to Pinball1970's post #165.
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(Nov 17) 'No scientific evidence' that ancient human relative buried dead & carved art as portrayed in Netflix documentary

EXCERPT: A hit Netflix documentary featuring the discoveries, called "Unknown: Cave of Bones" (2023), dropped on July 17, less than a week after eLife posted the preprints and critiques...
Yes a few scientists have pretty much rubbished the claims and have slammed the quality of actual papers themselves.
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Elsevier investigating articles linked to controversial French researcher

The publisher Elsevier is investigating an unspecified number of articles by authors affiliated with a French research institute for concerns about “the appropriate conduct of research involving human participants.”

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Author of ‘gibberish’ paper admits to extensive plagiarism

A paper that claimed to have developed a new method to predict acid drainage from mines was not so novel after all, according to one of its authors.

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Professor in Jordan sues sleuth who exposed citation anomalies

A PhD student in Switzerland who blogged about a series of dubious conferences linked to potential citation fraud is being sued by one of the conference chairs, a professor of computer science.

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Purdue agrees to pay feds back $737,000 for grant submissions with fake data

Purdue University has reached a settlement with the federal government to pay back grant money the institution received through applications submitted with falsified data, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana.

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A new way to support Retraction Watch this Giving Tuesday

In nonprofit parlance, we’ve diversified, but we always face the risk that one or more of those streams may dry up. We have a few ways you can help.
Challenges posed by hijacked journals in Scopus

ABSTRACT: This study presents and explains the phenomenon of indexjacking, which involves the systematic infiltration of hijacked journals into international indexing databases, with Scopus being one of the most infiltrated among these databases. Through an analysis of known lists of hijacked journals, the study identified at least 67 hijacked journals that have penetrated Scopus since 2013.

Of these, 33 journals indexed unauthorized content in Scopus and 23 compromised the homepage link in the journal's profile, while 11 did both. As of September 2023, 41 hijacked journals are still compromising the data of legitimate journals in Scopus.

The presence of hijacked journals in Scopus is a challenge for scientific integrity due to the legitimization of unreliable papers that have not undergone peer review and compromises the quality of the Scopus database. The presence of hijacked journals in Scopus has far-reaching effects.

Papers published in these journals may be cited, and unauthorized content from these journals in Scopus is thus imported into other databases, including ORCID and the WHO COVID-19 Research Database. This poses a particular challenge for research evaluation in those countries, where cloned versions of approved journals may be used to acquire publications and verifying their authenticity can be difficult. (MORE - details)

RELATED: Predatory publishing
Truth and Scientific Consequences

An email from Dr. Shao, a professor at Indiana University School of Public Health, states that EPA’s current version of Benchmark Dose Software (BMDS) modeling is “extremely misleading and not scientifically justified.” It is very unusual for a scientist who has been deeply involved with the EPA in developing risk assessment modeling to openly criticize the EPA. This requires a deeper dive into this issue.
What's behind the holiday-suicide myth

INTRO: For more than two decades, the Annenberg Public Policy Center has tracked the ways in which news organizations erroneously link the year-end holiday season with suicide, perpetuating the false holiday-suicide myth. But as years of national data show, the winter holiday months usually have low average daily suicide rates, with December the lowest of all.

In our new media analysis, we find that of the newspaper stories during the 2022-23 holiday season that explicitly connected the holidays with suicide, 60% correctly debunked the myth while 40% incorrectly supported it.

But it’s not just the media that often gets it wrong. So does the public... (MORE - details)
Is AI leading to a reproducibility crisis in science?

EXCERPT: . . . “These examples might be amusing,” Shamir says — but in biomedicine, misclassification could be a matter of life and death. “The problem is extremely common — a lot more common than most of my colleagues would want to believe.”

A separate review in 2021 examined 62 studies using machine learning to diagnose COVID-19 from chest X-rays or computed tomography scans; it concluded that none of the AI models was clinically useful, because of methodological flaws or biases in image data sets. The errors that Shamir and Dhar found are just some of the ways in which machine learning can give rise to misleading claims in research.

Computer scientists Sayash Kapoor and Arvind Narayanan at Princeton University in New Jersey reported earlier this year that the problem of data leakage (when there is insufficient separation between the data used to train an AI system and those used to test it) has caused reproducibility issues in 17 fields that they examined, affecting hundreds of papers. They argue that naive use of AI is leading to a reproducibility crisis... (MORE - missing details)
Wiley to stop using “Hindawi” name amid $18 million revenue decline

Wiley will cease using the beleaguered Hindawi brand name, the publisher announced on an earnings call Wednesday morning. Wiley plans to integrate Hindawi’s approximately 200 journals into the rest of its portfolio by the middle of next year. [...] Hindawi’s journals have been overrun by paper mills and published “meaningless gobbledegook,” in the words of one sleuth, leading to thousands of retractions, journal closures and a major index delisting several titles.

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Third retraction imminent for Harvard-affiliated sports research group

Several sports physicians at Harvard have earned two retractions and await another after publishing work based on “unreliable” survey data that was misrepresented in the papers.

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Cyberstalking pits Harvard professor against PubPeer

A deluge of bizarre and malicious emails targeting a professor at Harvard Medical School has left him reeling, while raising questions about the smear campaign’s use of a popular online forum where scientists publicly critique research.
Surge in number of ‘extremely productive’ authors concerns scientists

INTRO: Up to four times more researchers pump out more than 60 papers a year than less than a decade ago. Saudi Arabia and Thailand saw the sharpest uptick in the number of such scientists over the past few years, according to a preprint posted on bioRxiv on 24 November. The increase in these ‘extremely productive’ authors raises concerns that some researchers are resorting to dubious methods to publish extra papers.

“I suspect that questionable research practices and fraud may underlie some of the most extreme behaviours,” says study co-author John Ioannidis, a physician specializing in metascience at Stanford University in California. “Our data provide a starting point for discussing these issues across all science.” (MORE - details)
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Prosocial motives underlie scientific censorship by scientists: A perspective and research agenda

ABSTRACT: Science is among humanity’s greatest achievements, yet scientific censorship is rarely studied empirically. We explore the social, psychological, and institutional causes and consequences of scientific censorship (defined as actions aimed at obstructing particular scientific ideas from reaching an audience for reasons other than low scientific quality).

Popular narratives suggest that scientific censorship is driven by authoritarian officials with dark motives, such as dogmatism and intolerance. Our analysis suggests that scientific censorship is often driven by scientists, who are primarily motivated by self-protection, benevolence toward peer scholars, and prosocial concerns for the well-being of human social groups.

This perspective helps explain both recent findings on scientific censorship and recent changes to scientific institutions, such as the use of harm-based criteria to evaluate research. We discuss unknowns surrounding the consequences of censorship and provide recommendations for improving transparency and accountability in scientific decision-making to enable the exploration of these unknowns.

The benefits of censorship may sometimes outweigh costs. However, until costs and benefits are examined empirically, scholars on opposing sides of ongoing debates are left to quarrel based on competing values, assumptions, and intuitions... (MORE - details)
Work of autism researcher questioned again

A neuroscientist whose work in autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder has previously come under fire is once again under scrutiny. Four studies, including results of a clinical trial, were flagged on PubPeer for a variety of criticisms.

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‘I felt like a fraud’: A biologist goes public about a retraction

Retractions are the stuff of nightmares for most academics. But they aren’t necessarily a career obstacle, and sometimes may be the only way forward, according to Andrew P. Anderson, a postdoctoral researcher in the biology department of Reed College, in Portland, Ore. Last month, the journal Evolution pulled and replaced a study Anderson had conducted as a PhD student under Adam G. Jones at the University of Idaho, in Moscow. The study’s findings suggested sexual selection shaped the responsiveness of the human genome to male sex hormones. Below is a lightly edited Q&A we did with Anderson about his experience.

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‘Trump’ vs. ‘Indiana Jones’: Paper reviving bitter quarrel over dino fossil pulled for murky reasons

Just four months after an allegedly stolen dinosaur fossil was returned from Germany to Brazil, a prominent European paleontologist published a paper bound to spark renewed controversy in an already-divided research community. [...] The reasons for the retraction are not entirely clear, but the journal may have faced external pressure, according to the paper’s author.

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Copy and euphemize: When ‘an honor mistake’ means plagiarism

Readers who have been with us for the long haul may remember we used to collect a catalog of our favorite euphemisms for plagiarism. That list died with the demise of Lab Times, for which we used to write a regular column (although we did write this piece a bit later) – but the magazine’s passing did not mark the end of journals that speak with mealy mouths. The latest such euphemism to catch our eye comes from the Journal of STEPS for Humanities and Social Sciences, which in 2022 published a piece by a pair of authors in Iraq about trauma fiction.

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Journal retracts 31 papers, bans authors and reviewers after losing its impact factor

A journal that lost its impact factor and spot in a major index this year has made good on a promise to retract dozens of papers with “compromised” peer review.

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‘A bit of a surprise’: Transportation officials pushed to retract archaeology article on work they funded

After bankrolling archeological work on a prehistoric site discovered during construction, a state department of transportation has successfully lobbied to retract an article about the researchers’ findings officials said were “published prematurely.”

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BMJ retracts article about effect of UK sugar tax after authors find error

The British Medical Journal has retracted an article that found UK households bought 10% less sugar in the form of soft drinks after the government started taxing the manufacturers on the sugar in their products.
Journals going rogue, authors beware

Pleading emails requesting papers are regular visitors to one’s inbox. These unsolicited and flattering requests promise rapid publication and tempt authors to part with their work. Even master’s and doctoral students, after graduation, receive sweet-talking requests to publish their dissertations as a book, a book chapter, or as a paper. Predatory journals and publishers are easy to spot and ignore at these low ends.

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Exclusive: Researcher outs Indian university’s publishing scam after it fails to pay him

On March 12, a senior administrator at a university in India sent a business proposal to a prolific economist in Ethiopia. If he joined the school’s stable of adjunct professors, the administrator promised, easy money could be made.

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What analyzing 30 years of US federal research misconduct sanctions revealed

A U.S. federal agency that oversees research misconduct investigations and issues sanctions appears to be doling out punishments fairly, according to researchers who analyzed summaries of the agency’s cases from the last three decades.

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Guest post: Why I commented on the proposed changes to U.S. federal research-misconduct policies – and why you should, too

Retraction Watch readers may know that the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, which has oversight of misconduct investigations of work funded by the National Institutes of Health, has proposed changes to its regulations. It’s the first such proposal since 2005, and has generated discussion in various quarters. We’re pleased to present this guest post by James Kennedy, a longtime observer of these issues.

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Hindawi reveals process for retracting more than 8,000 paper mill articles

Over the past year, amid announcements of thousands of retractions, journal closures and a major index delisting several titles, executives at the troubled publisher Hindawi have at various times mentioned a “new retraction process” for investigating and pulling papers “at scale.” The publisher has declined to provide details – until now.

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Former Stanford president retracts Nature paper as another gets expression of concern

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the former president of Stanford University who resigned earlier this year after an institutional research misconduct investigation, has retracted a paper from Nature. The journal’s editorial office marked another of Tessier-Lavigne’s articles with an expression of concern.

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Psychology professor earns retractions after publishing with ‘repeat offenders’

A psychologist in Australia has earned a pair of retractions after publishing several papers with international coauthors suspected of authorship fraud, Retraction Watch has learned.
Score-card wise, it's the moral posturing that counts. Not whether an altruistic effort or socioeconomic policy actually works or not.
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Trigger warnings: discredited but not discarded

INTRO: Many social programs are implemented with the best of intentions and later discovered to be either ineffective or, in the worst cases, counterproductive.

At the height of its popularity in the 1980s and ’90s, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program was used in 75 percent of American schools at a taxpayer expense of an estimated $200 million, but subsequent evaluations revealed that it didn’t work. Drug abuse was just as high in schools that received the program as those that did not. To add insult to injury, in the 2010s, the iconic D.A.R.E. t-shirt was adopted as an ironic emblem by members of the drug subculture (Wright 2017).

Similarly, after a decade or more of use, there is growing evidence that trigger warnings in college classes do not work as intended, but, for reasons I will explain later, I don’t think they are going away soon. [...] Although they have received some backlash, particularly in the conservative media, trigger warnings seem to be as popular as ever... (MORE - details)
Publisher donating author fees from retracted articles to charity

What should happen to the millions of dollars publishers rake in from authors whose work is later retracted? Guillaume Cabanac, one of the developers of the Problematic Paper Screener, has repeatedly suggested publishers donate such revenue to charity. And now one is doing just that.

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The year at Retraction Watch, 2023: Whew!

Earlier this month, Nature reported that journals retracted more than 10,000 papers this year – so many, in fact, that we have not been able to enter them all into The Retraction Watch Database yet, because each one has to be reviewed by hand. It’s not unusual for us to have to keep working into the following year to catch up, but the volume this year will mean that will all take longer.
A persistent rumor suggests this tree can walk around, but is it true?

To this day, rainforest guides in Latin America commonly tell tourists that walking palms can shift their position as much as 20 meters a year. But while a few individual scientists think there could be a grain of truth to the narrative, the tip-toeing nature of this tree is most probably a myth. When you look at the evidence, it doesn't really have legs to stand on.
Skeletons in the closet of Big Pharma

EXCERPT: . . . Gabapentin, now available generically is a good drug when used appropriately and may work for some of the conditions for which it was promoted off-label. It is now approved for the pain of shingles and nerve damage caused by diabetes. However, off-label prescribing is still extensive with physicians writing numerous scripts for anxiety, sleep disorders, migraine and chronic pain, conditions for which there is at least some evidence. It is also commonly prescribed off-label for bipolar disorder despite studies that have shown it works no better than placebo.

With the 2004 settlement, Pfizer promised to desist from off-label promotion, yet in 2009, charges were again brought against the company for the same offense. This time the drug in question was Bextra, approved for arthritis and menstrual problems, but promoted for the treatment of acute pain of all kinds to physicians who had been enticed to presentations at resorts with cash payments... (MORE - missing details)
‘We should have followed up’: Lancet journal retracts article on hearing aids and dementia after prodding

When Jure Mur, a postdoc at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, realized the replication of a published study he was working on as a “sanity check” wasn’t producing matching results, his first reaction was “annoyance,” he said. He assumed the mistake was his own, and he’d have to thoroughly check his work to find it. “Only after double- and triple-checking my code did I start suspecting an error in the original paper,” Mur told Retraction Watch. [...] The paper was retracted in December, but only after Mur pushed the editors to consider the implications of the authors’ response to his comment, which confirmed his findings and contradicted their original paper...

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Exclusive: MDPI journal undergoing reevaluation at Scopus, indexing on hold

Elsevier’s Scopus database has paused indexing content from Sustainability, an MDPI journal, while it reevaluates whether to include the title, Retraction Watch has learned. [...] Universities and funders use Scopus to create “whitelists” of journals in which authors are encouraged to publish, so removal from the index can influence submissions.