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Top retractions of 2010

A list of the biggest papers -- and scientists -- involved in retractions in the last year

By | December 16, 2010

Retractions are a scientist's worst nightmare. In the last 10 years, at least 788 scientific papers have been pulled from the literature, according to a study linkurl:published this year in the Journal of Medical Ethics.;http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2010/10/18/jme.2010.038125.abstract Whether it is a result of research misconduct, duplicate publication, or simply sloppy data analysis, a retracted paper can devastate a scientist's research, or even impact a whole scientific field. Here are 10 of the biggest retraction stories of the last year. Highly cited retractions
Image: Wikimedia commons, Tttrung
5. The mechanism of estrogen signaling -- that wasn't (232 citations)
Two papers on the mechanism of estrogen signaling linkurl:were retracted;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57380/ after a former Wyeth employee, Boris Cheskis, was found to have unreliable data. The papers, published in linkurl:PNAS;http://www.pnas.org/content/106/33/14180.4.full and one in linkurl:Molecular and Cellular Biology,;http://mcb.asm.org/cgi/content/full/30/6/1568 were together cited 232 times. 4. 10+ retractions from one Mayo lab (268 citations) A senior research associate in an immunology lab at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, linkurl:was found guilty;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57449/ of falsifying nearly a decade's worth of data, resulting in at least 10 retractions and the cancellation of a clinical trial. The researcher, Suresh Radhakrishnan, did not admit to the misconduct, and subsequently linkurl:authored an opinion article;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57557/ for The Scientist arguing that he, and others in his position, should not be blacklisted from science. The retracted publications accrued at least 268 citations. 3. I am a Rhodes Scholar...or not (perhaps up to 300 citations) Duke researcher Anil Potti posed as a Rhodes Scholar and apparently invented the statistical analyses used in his research on how breast cancer responds to chemotherapy. Last month, the Journal of Clinical Oncology pulled linkurl:his 2007 paper,;http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/25/28/4350/suppl/DC2 cited 50 times, and one of Potti's collaborators has requested the retraction of a 2006 linkurl:Nature Medicine paper.;http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v12/n11/full/nm1491.html The paper, cited 253 times, has already been the subject of two corrections, linkurl:according to Retraction Watch.;http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/another-update-on-anil-potti-co-author-asks-nature-medicine-to-retract-paper/ Potti has since stepped down from his position at Duke's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. 2. Stem cells turn cancerous? (317 citations) linkurl:A 2005 Cancer Research paper,;http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/65/8/3035.abstract which suggested that adult stem cells can spontaneously turn into cancerous cells and held safety implications for the use of such cells in research, was retracted in August. The actual finding may still be valid, however, as several other studies have found similar results, linkurl:according to Retraction Watch.;http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/its-not-a-tumor-authors-retract-2005-cancer-research-paper-linking-adult-stem-cells-to-cancer/ The paper was cited 317 times. 1. There is no autism-vaccine link. We repeat, there is no autism-vaccine link (640 citations) In February, linkurl:The Lancet pulled;http://www.the-scientist.com/community/posts/list/846.page a linkurl:controversial study;http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2897%2911096-0/abstract published in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues. Based on a sample of 12 children, the authors claimed to have found a link between autism and the widely used MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination. Ten of the paper's 13 authors had already acknowledged some of the problems with the paper, publishing a "retraction of an interpretation" in 2004. The paper was cited 640 times. Most notable retractors 5. Researchers retract reactome A powerful new tool known as linkurl:the reactome,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/56266/ developed by Manuel Ferrer of the CSIC Institute of Catalysis in Madrid and Peter Golyshin of Bangor University in the UK and collaborators, claimed to assess the functionality of hundreds of active proteins simultaneously, and stirred much excitement among the scientific community. But not long after its linkurl:publication last October in Science,;http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5950/252.abstract its validity was called into question. Though it has many supporters, including linkurl:Nobel Laureate Richard Roberts of New England Biolabs,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57615/ Science published an "'Editorial Expression of Concern" in January of this year, and finally retracted the paper in November, after an investigating committee convened by CSIC found that it did not provide sufficient evidence for its conclusions. It was cited 18 times in its short tenure in the literature. 4. A whoops from gene therapy expert As a result of data irregularities and duplicated figures, six papers by notable gene therapy researcher Savio Woo of The Mount Sinai Medical Center were retracted this year, including two that claimed to have found potential breakthroughs -- even a possible cure -- for high-mortality diseases such as pancreatic cancer, linkurl:according to Retraction Watch.;http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/work-from-noted-gene-therapy-research-under-scrutiny-with-slew-of-retractions/ The papers, published in linkurl:Molecular;http://www.nature.com/mt/journal/v18/n12/full/mt2010198a.html linkurl:Therapy,;http://www.nature.com/mt/journal/v18/n12/full/mt2010199a.html linkurl:PNAS,;http://www.pnas.org/content/102/43/15581 the linkurl:Journal of the National Cancer Institute;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2720732/ and linkurl:Human Gene Therapy,;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829288/?tool=pubmedpaper were cited a total of 60 times. 3. Cognition expert takes hard look at his data Well-known psychologist and author of the book "Moral Minds" Marc Hauser is taking a year of leave from his position at Harvard University after an internal investigation found linkurl:evidence of scientific misconduct.;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57730/ The questionable data also led to the retraction of a linkurl:2002 Cognition paper,;http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T24-46MBHN2-7&_user=10&_coverDate=11%2F30%2F2002&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=ea02f877a69d5ab04c3fbfd3ebb3b742 cited 38 times, which demonstrated that, like human infants, cotton-top tamarins have the capacity to generalize patterns. 2. Rising stem cell star stumbles Amy Wagers, a stem cell biologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, retracted a linkurl:2010 Nature paper,;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7280/full/nature08749.html cited 13 times, that found factors in the blood of young mice could rejuvenate blood stem cells in older mice after linkurl:discovering issues with the data,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57748/ including a duplicated figure. A second paper, linkurl:published in Blood;http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/content/short/112/3/519 and cited 28 times, is under review. Wagers, a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, was dubbed a linkurl:"Scientist to Watch";http://www.the-scientist.com/2008/01/1/57/1/ by The Scientist in 2008. While a postdoc in Irving Weissman's lab, she earned a reputation for putting other people's findings to the test. She is the author of a series of highly cited papers in the stem cell field, including a 2002 Science paper cited 828 times, a 2004 Nature paper cited 727 times, and a 2004 Cell paper cited 412 times. 1. More retractions from Nobelist Nobel Laureate Linda Buck linkurl:retracted two papers;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57699/ from prominent journals because she was "unable to reproduce [the] key findings" of experiments done by a former postdoc, according to a statement made by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), where Buck worked at the time of the publications. The retractions, a linkurl:2006 Science paper;http://www.sciencemag.org/content/311/5766/1477.abstract?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Combinatorial+Effects+of+Odorant+Mixes+in+Olfactory+Cortex&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT and a 2005 linkurl:PNAS paper,;http://www.pnas.org/content/107/40/17451.extract?sid=ed6b3a62-2baa-407a-9af8-2f21a76759fa are tied to yet another Buck retraction -- a linkurl:2001 Nature paper;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v414/n6860/full/414173a0.html that she pulled in 2008 for similar reasons. The three retracted papers have been cited 291 times.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:High-profile paper retracted;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57748/
[15th October 2010]*linkurl:More retractions from Nobelist;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57699/
[23rd September 2010]*linkurl:10 retractions and counting;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57449/
[26th May 2010]
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Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 3

December 16, 2010

"In February, The Lancet pulled a controversial study published in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues."\n\nThe story gets better. Wakefield was stripped of his UK medical license in May, and shortly thereafter fired from the quack autism clinic he started in Texas. He remains unapologetic, even as his fan base shrinks. A rally held in his honor last May in Chicago's Grant Park drew about 100 fans. A talk he gave in Denver last month drew about half that number.
Avatar of: Larry Kedes

Larry Kedes

Posts: 3

December 16, 2010

I retired last year from experimental lab science and in over 40 years and 200+ papers there were no retractions or errata (that I can recall). But that is just luck. Many of the lab heads in the list cited by the Scientist were victims of disingenuous but clever students or post docs. Many of the scientists cited in your "honors" list remain upright scholars and your failure to distinguish them from the charlatans does them a disservice.
Avatar of: Mike Waldrep

Mike Waldrep

Posts: 155

December 16, 2010

Interesting!
Avatar of: Shi Liu

Shi Liu

Posts: 32

December 16, 2010

I wrote on behalf of "Responsible Science" at the Science webpage for "Name the 2010 Breakthrough" the following statement:\nThe real Breakthrough of the Year is the significantly increased retractions by CNS which stands for Correcting Non-sense in Science.\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 25

December 16, 2010

\n\nDid any of the scientists involved returned the funding that was obtained through "untrue" data? Other people did not get funded because of them!!!!
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 28

December 16, 2010

I looked at the paper and statement of retraction. The explanation for the retraction is not convincing:"Interpretation: We identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a group of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers". This explanation can not exclude the possibility of link between autism and vaccination (also a environmental trigger). Is there any presure behind the retraction? \n\nSicence! Science! Science!!!\n\nIt is worth to pay attention that the vaccines caused side-effects; otherwise, the authors should provdie more detailed to data to explain why the paper needs to be retracted!!!\n\n\n\n\n\n1. There is no autism-vaccine link. We repeat, there is no autism-vaccine link (640 citations) \n\nIn February, The Lancet pulled a controversial study published in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues. Based on a sample of 12 children, the authors claimed to have found a link between autism and the widely used MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination. Ten of the paper's 13 authors had already acknowledged some of the problems with the paper, publishing a "retraction of an interpretation" in 2004. The paper was cited 640 times. \n
Avatar of: Bjoern Brembs

Bjoern Brembs

Posts: 14

December 17, 2010

These analyses of the skyrocketing development of retractions provide some statistics for the examples:\nhttp://nsaunders.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/analysis-of-retractions-in-pubmed/\nhttp://bjoern.brembs.net/comment-n683.html
Avatar of: Bort Edwards

Bort Edwards

Posts: 1

December 19, 2010

Is there any suggestion that retractions are related to the growing pressure to publish, and publish quickly??\nIt strikes me that most of these retractions/dodgy data are in the medical field where pressure is intense to be first in for the scoop and for funding (or is it just that we take more notice of retractions in such 'important' fields??).\nMaybe a little more prudence and patience from collaborators, supervisors and reviewers could go a long way...
Avatar of: Bjoern Brembs

Bjoern Brembs

Posts: 14

December 20, 2010

Dear Bort Edwards, please see my second link in the post right below your comment for correlational evidence that external pressure may be partially to blame (correlation does not immediately imply causation, though!).

December 20, 2010

Reearch papers that mention their mother institution(s) must be controlled by an organism (A Board, Council or something similar from same institution),elected and instaured by researchers to operate as a sort of controlling mechanism that should scrutiny data and progress reports, according to norms that should avoid undesirable intrusions by controllers and do provide flexibility in case of faulty data or procedures on the researchers side. What I mean by that, is for the researchers to have the possibility to correct errors "intramurally" before the paper leaves the home grounds. This is important for most of the time, when a paper is retracted, the Institution from which the paper was issued, is the one to receive the full load (Mainly, when researchers outside the US, receive the news).
Avatar of: PAUL STEIN

PAUL STEIN

Posts: 61

December 20, 2010

Dr. Kedes states, "Many of the lab heads in the list cited by the Scientist were victims of disingenuous but clever students or post docs. Many of the scientists cited in your "honors" list remain upright scholars and your failure to distinguish them from the charlatans does them a disservice."\n\nI'm sorry, I don't buy any part of the argument. Indeed, as with the infamous John Darsee affair, one journal put the blame squarely on the principal investigator's head. There are no "victims", only people who lack the ability, conviction, or time to control what leaves their laboratory.\n\nImplementing institutional controls ARE probably the only way to reverse the exponential increase in the number of retractions. For every paper submitted for publication, the principal investigator must fill out a form stating that every data point, figure, table, microscopic or gel photograph, etc. has been verified as being truly associated with the paper.\n\nBecause the "upright scholars" simply are NOT DOING THEIR JOBS, it's time for their parent institutions to force responsibility where it should lay.\n\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

January 18, 2011

It makes me shake my head when I see people blaming their students or postdocs in incorrect or falsified data. First of all, a principle investigator is responsible for the work published under his name. He is the one looking at the figures, analyzing the data, deciding on conclusions and implications. An second, as far as I have seen it in many universities and especially in big labs of distinguished scientists, often students are pretty much forced into falsifying the data. They are pushed to the limit by pressure to publish. Their PI (especially a "big" one) rarely has time to discuss the data with them. I personally heard people tell their students that since the data they obtained does not fit hypothesis, they'd better redo it. SO IT FITS. \nI see many young people lose their interest in science because they "burn out" as grad students, trying to beat the competitors in publishing and by 7th or so year in grad school they start only caring about getting out. No matter how. Yes, falsifying data is shameful. But it's even more shameful when a "big" scholar blames his students and postdocs publicly in a paper for giving him inaccurate results. I know, he is the first to blame. I hope so does the rest of the scientific community.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 7

January 18, 2011

Climate Change scientists have done to science, what abusive priests did to religion. Why are climate scientists not brought in court for not only discrediting science, but for leading the world to war against a false enemy and condemning billions of children worldwide to a death by CO2. This costly and needless panic and fear need not go unpunished with criminal charges.\nPressure from the same voters that ended carbon taxes will rise in wave of anger and see justice done to these criminal scientists.\n
Avatar of: Steve Summers

Steve Summers

Posts: 28

January 29, 2011

Dr Wakefield demands retraction from BMJ after documents prove innocence from allegations of vaccine autism data fraud\n\nhttp://www.naturalnews.com/031117_BMJ_Dr_Andrew_Wakefield.html\n\nThis article points out that BMJ is "largely funded funded by vaccine manufacturers".\n\nNot covered in this article, it was also found that the journalist, Brian Deer, who `uncovered' the `dirt' on Wakefield falsified his `data.'\n

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