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

Nurse warns TikTok health trend causes 'explosive diarrhea'

Castor oil is taking TikTok by storm. [...] "The most dangerous myths we see, time and again on platforms such as TikTok, not just from creators themselves but especially in the comments, are that 1) castor oil is a cure-all for everything, including cancer, and that 2) castor oil is a miracle for weight loss," said Clarke. "There is no scientific evidence that castor oil will have any impact whatsoever on serious illnesses such as cancer. This is simply untrue and these myths are harmful." (MORE - details)
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Wilhelm Wundt and psychology's "replication crisis."

INTRO : The vibrations of the “replication crisis” continue to be felt throughout the social sciences, and particularly within psychology...

[...] Numerous theories have been suggested as to why this is the case within psychology ... such as the complexities of the human being rendering replication less reliable. Through the work of psychologist and historian Brian Hughes, I am putting forward another aspect to the story that could explain how we got here. This part of the story begins in the early days of the emergence of "University Psychology," with the man many label as the first psychologist, Dr. Wilhelm Wundt.

The short of it is, psychology’s replication crisis is partly due to the science being founded upon unreadily replicable experiments. Rather than effectively scrutinize this foundation, it has been more convenient for stakeholders in the field to push the narrative that it was founded on scientific rigor... (MORE - details)
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Damned in Amsterdam: A Bizarre Deplatforming

EXCERPTS (Jerry Coyne & Maarten Boudry): Like being struck by lightning, getting deplatformed—first invited to speak and then disinvited for your political views—is something you assume happens only to other people. But, unlike a lightning strike, it’s not a rare occurrence. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE)’s “campus deplatforming database” of US universities lists 626 successful deplatforming attempts since 1998. This year alone, there have already been 110 attempts to cancel talks, most involving speakers sympathetic to Israel. Neither of us, however, had ever personally experienced this kind of cancellation before.

[...] In the end, it was clear that the real reason for our cancellation had more to do with our support for Israel than with safety, which the university could easily have guaranteed. But all was not lost: the three-person conversation about “The Ideological Subversion of Biology” was eventually recorded behind closed doors at a private location in Amsterdam and can be viewed here. Since Betabreak wasn’t planning to record the discussion, one unexpected benefit of being deplatformed is that we will now hopefully reach a much wider audience (an instance of the Streisand Effect)..... (MORE - missing details)

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Vaccines don’t cause autism, but the lie won’t die—in fact, it’s getting worse

EXCERPTS: For years, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has bluntly stated the truth: "Vaccines do not cause autism," the agency affirms on its website. Yet, nearly a quarter of Americans still don't believe it. ... In all, it's a bleak finding that bodes poorly for the collective health of Americans, who are now seeing rises in cases of measles and other vaccine-preventable illnesses. ... The APPC tied the false beliefs to the retracted 1998 Lancet paper by notorious anti-vaccine advocate Andrew Wakefield. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has only stoked vaccine misinformation and more anti-vaccine rhetoric... (MORE - missing details)
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Elsevier journal issues 73 expressions of concern for manipulated peer review

An Elsevier journal has expressed concern over 73 papers with evidence of manipulated peer-review and rigged citations...

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Climate paper retracted from "Science" over miscalculations

The authors of a paper published in "Science" have retracted their article following the discovery of calculation errors...

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MDPI backtracks on claim that a thesis can’t be plagiarized

The publisher MDPI has reversed itself on one reason it said a paper does not need to be retracted following allegations the authors had plagiarized a thesis....

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Veterinary journal retracts pet food company’s paper about copper in dog food
https://retractionwatch.com/2024/06...food-companys-paper-about-copper-in-dog-food/

A veterinary journal has retracted a paper from a major pet food company after criticism prompted the authors to re-examine their data...

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A look at plagiarism at the Pontifical Gregorian University

Retraction Watch readers may recall the work of Michael Dougherty, who has established a reputation as a sleuth focused on plagiarism. We are pleased to present an excerpt of Dougherty’s new book, "New Techniques for Proving Plagiarism: Case Studies from the Sacred Disciplines at the Pontifical Gregorian University", Studies in Research Integrity, vol. 2 (Leiden: Brill 2024)...

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‘A disturbing experience’: Postdoc fights to have work that plagiarized her thesis retracted

While the corresponding author of the paper has called the omission of any citation to Saxby’s work “unfortunate” and said that she is working with Nutrients’ publisher – MDPI – to add one, the publisher said the behavior did not amount to plagiarism because the prior work was a thesis...
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Elsevier journal issues 73 expressions of concern for manipulated peer review

An Elsevier journal has expressed concern over 73 papers with evidence of manipulated peer-review and rigged citations...

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Climate paper retracted from "Science" over miscalculations

The authors of a paper published in "Science" have retracted their article following the discovery of calculation errors...

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MDPI backtracks on claim that a thesis can’t be plagiarized

The publisher MDPI has reversed itself on one reason it said a paper does not need to be retracted following allegations the authors had plagiarized a thesis....

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Veterinary journal retracts pet food company’s paper about copper in dog food
https://retractionwatch.com/2024/06...food-companys-paper-about-copper-in-dog-food/

A veterinary journal has retracted a paper from a major pet food company after criticism prompted the authors to re-examine their data...

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A look at plagiarism at the Pontifical Gregorian University

Retraction Watch readers may recall the work of Michael Dougherty, who has established a reputation as a sleuth focused on plagiarism. We are pleased to present an excerpt of Dougherty’s new book, "New Techniques for Proving Plagiarism: Case Studies from the Sacred Disciplines at the Pontifical Gregorian University", Studies in Research Integrity, vol. 2 (Leiden: Brill 2024)...

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‘A disturbing experience’: Postdoc fights to have work that plagiarized her thesis retracted

While the corresponding author of the paper has called the omission of any citation to Saxby’s work “unfortunate” and said that she is working with Nutrients’ publisher – MDPI – to add one, the publisher said the behavior did not amount to plagiarism because the prior work was a thesis...
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Regarding the article on Solange Saxby’s work being plagiarized, I call BS on the response she received. I don’t buy that it was an “oversight.” :rolleyes: Sometimes, it takes “unfortunate” experiences to bring about change, though. Glad she hasn’t stayed silent about it!
 
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Welcome to the age of space scepticism – and a growing revolt against elites

EXCERPTS: Over the past decade, a new form of scepticism about human activities in space has emerged. It seems to be based exclusively in the western world, and centred around the idea that increasingly ambitious space plans will damage humanity and neglect the Earth.

[...] The new era of space scepticism is at its core anti-elite. ... This new space scepticism movement also aspires to link up with the cause of indigenous peoples. [...The moon...] is a place they consider sacred. Their argument is increasingly being supported by space sceptics and others... (MORE - missing details)
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More generally, it just sounds like part of the continued self-loathing that the left intellectual class (humanities scholars) -- and its constituent followers -- have had for the West over several decades. This apparent merger of the anti-space movement with decolonization of knowledge isn't even that new necessarily. There's long been a ripple of elevating traditional cultural beliefs and knowledge in pseudoscience circles, but now shifted to that political context of such having been another victim of Western colonization and oppression, and trying to rectify that by conceiving it equal to or an alternative to methodological science.

Historically, the right was part of the anti-space movement, too -- with religious fundamentalists railing about going to the Moon, or whatever. But Christian ideology can't benefit much from the offshoots of postcolonial philosophy, since its missionary work was a cohort of or ally enabler of the Eurocentric domination of indigenous and Eastern cultures.
 
Dealing with air leaks on space station compromised by politics

EXCERPTS: NASA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, still have not solved a long-running and worsening problem with leaks on the International Space Station.

[...] NASA officials have downplayed the severity of the leak risks publicly and in meetings with external stakeholders of the International Space Station. ... there appears to be rising concern in the ISS program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. ... Their potential for "catastrophic failure" is discussed in meetings.

[...] US officials are likely remaining quiet about their concerns because they don't want to embarrass their Russian partners. ... The leaks are a sensitive subject. Because of Russian war efforts, the resources available to the country's civil space program will remain flat or even decrease in the coming years... (MORE - missing details)
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Taboos and Self-Censorship Among U.S. Psychology Professors (paper)

ABSTRACT: We identify points of conflict and consensus regarding (a) controversial empirical claims and (b) normative preferences for how controversial scholarship—and scholars—should be treated. In 2021, we conducted qualitative interviews (n = 41) to generate a quantitative survey (N = 470) of U.S. psychology professors’ beliefs and values.

Professors strongly disagreed on the truth status of 10 candidate taboo conclusions: For each conclusion, some professors reported 100% certainty in its veracity and others 100% certainty in its falsehood. Professors more confident in the truth of the taboo conclusions reported more self-censorship, a pattern that could bias perceived scientific consensus regarding the inaccuracy of controversial conclusions.

Almost all professors worried about social sanctions if they were to express their own empirical beliefs. Tenured professors reported as much self-censorship and as much fear of consequences as untenured professors, including fear of getting fired.

Most professors opposed suppressing scholarship and punishing peers on the basis of moral concerns about research conclusions and reported contempt for peers who petition to retract papers on moral grounds. Younger, more left-leaning, and female faculty were generally more opposed to controversial scholarship.

These results do not resolve empirical or normative disagreements among psychology professors, but they may provide an empirical context for their discussion.
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Undercover at the woo festival

INTRO: Here is a picture of my aura. I had it taken at a woo festival that I attended “undercover” with two goals: learn more about New Age beliefs and annihilate some surplus neurons I no longer needed. Underneath that winky face, resplendent in reds and yellows, is a pseudonym—a nom de bullshit—that I chose for the occasion.

The festival was a two-day event, and the booths were exactly what you’re imagining: psychics, mediums, clairvoyants, tarot readings, chakras, reiki. The whole gamut of New Age stuff. One booth promised quantum spirituality—you can tell that it’s scientific because of the word “quantum,” you see. Another booth offered visionary guidance on your life path. A third promised to combine energy and chakra healing with past life regression. (I passed on that one because my current life is regressed enough as it is, thank you very much).

But back to that winsome aura: one of the festival experts kindly interpreted it for me. You’ll be shocked, I’m sure, to hear that the reading was a meandering three-minute analysis in which I was fed a variety of feel-good platitudes and told that I was going to start a successful and lucrative company. The price tag for this reassuring pablum: $25.

With my future now secure and my pocket considerably lighter, I moved on to the next booth... (MORE - details)
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I went to a New Age festival once several years ago. I got my hand scanned and was given a photo of colorful aura-like fields all around my fingers. I was told by a woman there that I was special-- a Star Seed from a distant galaxy.. I was flattered but soon left the festival with my general skepticism confirmed.

From article: The first is our irrepressible human tendency to “see” patterns even where there are none. Humans are meaninghungry creatures; we constantly yearn for and seek meaning.

We shouldn't be so rash to knock this very human tendency to look for patterns in things. It is after all the root of all scientific inquiry and philosophical contemplation--to sift thru the random noise of our world and find nuggets of truths and meaning that help us to understand it all. When Einstein was formulating his ideas of relativity, I'm sure he was seeing connections between things and patterns and metaphors that would've looked to outsiders to be symptoms of mental illness. And his esoteric algebra of properties might've been seen as some advanced version of numerology! So thank goodness for this ability to see patterns in things. Within a certain amount of sane moderation, it can lead to a very fulfilling and meaningful life and even amazing discoveries.
 
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Undercover at the woo festival

INTRO: Here is a picture of my aura. I had it taken at a woo festival that I attended “undercover” with two goals: learn more about New Age beliefs and annihilate some surplus neurons I no longer needed. Underneath that winky face, resplendent in reds and yellows, is a pseudonym—a nom de bullshit—that I chose for the occasion.

The festival was a two-day event, and the booths were exactly what you’re imagining: psychics, mediums, clairvoyants, tarot readings, chakras, reiki. The whole gamut of New Age stuff. One booth promised quantum spirituality—you can tell that it’s scientific because of the word “quantum,” you see. Another booth offered visionary guidance on your life path. A third promised to combine energy and chakra healing with past life regression. (I passed on that one because my current life is regressed enough as it is, thank you very much).

But back to that winsome aura: one of the festival experts kindly interpreted it for me. You’ll be shocked, I’m sure, to hear that the reading was a meandering three-minute analysis in which I was fed a variety of feel-good platitudes and told that I was going to start a successful and lucrative company. The price tag for this reassuring pablum: $25.

With my future now secure and my pocket considerably lighter, I moved on to the next booth... (MORE - details)
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Yeah but this is shooting fish in a barrel, surely?. Nobody at this woo-fest is really pretending to use science. OK, there’s some Chopraesque quantum woo, but that’s pretty well boilerplate for these charlatans nowadays.
 
Revealed: tricks used by opioid giant to mold doctors’ minds

INTRO: Opioid giant Mallinckrodt, selling more than Purdue Pharma in the US, was forced by the courts to publish more than 1.3 million internal documents.

In The BMJ today, researchers Sergio Sismondo and Maud Bernisson sift through nearly 900 contracts which together reveal a carefully coordinated effort to shape medical attitudes toward pain medicine.

Pharmaceutical companies have a long history of managing physician and public opinion, explain the authors. For example, by recruiting physicians to serve as influencers, planting articles in scientific journals, coordinating conference presentations, and developing continuing medical education (CME) courses.

Amid surging concerns over an addiction crisis, Mallinckrodt faced growing hesitancy among frontline prescribers. But the contracts show how the painkiller manufacturer employed each of these tactics as it sought to reframe concerns about addiction as a phobia and muddle the very concept of dependence as “pseudoaddiction.” It even went so far as casting opioids as preventive medicine for chronic pain.

“It’s like they used every trick in the book,” says Robert Steinbrook, director of the Health Research Group of the advocacy organization Public Citizen. To many busy physicians, these messages would have appeared as trustworthy scholarship and evidence-based guidance, Sismondo and Bernisson explain... (MORE - details)
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China’s research clout leads to growth in homegrown science publishing

KEY POINTS: Over the past two decades, China has risen to become the world’s largest producer of scientific knowledge. The majority of this research was disseminated in journals published by companies based in Western countries, rather than China’s own domestic publishers.

China is making efforts to reverse that trend by launching several initiatives to build its portfolio of domestic academic journals. Those changes, albeit slow, could not only transform China’s publishing sector, but also have major effects on how international scientific collaboration is conducted and communicated.

Part of the motivation for this is economic. China is also motivated by a desire to move away from Western-dominated agendas in science and encourage more research that better serves the country’s needs. Beyond that, China wants to become more active in helping to shape how the global academic-publishing system works, and not always be following models and rules set up by Western countries.

Many Western scientists might be hesitant to publish in Chinese journals. Worries about political interference and policies in their own countries that discourage certain kinds of collaboration with China have cooled cooperation.

But China increasingly has a great deal of influence at the global level, especially in emerging economies such as those involved in its Belt and Road global trade initiative. Scientists from those countries might be more willing to publish in their Chinese partners’ preferred journals. This might especially be the case if Chinese partners are making the biggest financial contribution to the project.

Although changes to China’s domestic publishing landscape will take time, it is a process that can’t be ignored by researchers and publishers elsewhere... (MORE - missing details)

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(paper) Management of fraudulent participants in online research: Practical recommendations from a randomized controlled feasibility trial

ABSTRACT

Objective

Fraudulent participation is an escalating concern for online clinical trials and research studies and can have a significant negative impact on findings. We aim to shed light on the risk and to provide practical recommendations for detecting and managing such instances.

Methods

The FREED-Mobile (FREED-M) study is an online, randomized controlled feasibility trial to assess a digital early intervention for young people (aged 16–25) in England or Wales with eating problems. The trial involved baseline (week 0), post-intervention (week 4), and follow-up (week 12) surveys, alongside weekly modules provided over 4 weeks on the study website. Study completers were compensated with £20 shopping vouchers. Despite the complexity of the trial design, two instances of fraudulent sign-ups occurred in January and March 2023. To counter this, we developed a “fraudulent participants protocol” following internal investigations and discussions with collaborators.

Results

The implementation of prevention measures such as reCAPTCHA updates, IP address review, and changes in reimbursement effectively halted further fraudulent sign-ups. Our protocol facilitated the systematic identification and withdrawal of suspected or clear fraudsters and was demonstrably robust at distinguishing between fraudsters and genuine responders.

Discussion

All remote, online trials or studies are at risk of fraudulent participation. Drawing from our experience and existing literature, we offer practical recommendations for researchers considering online recruitment and data collection. Vigilance and the integration of deterrents, and data quality checks into the study design from the outset are advised to safeguard research integrity.

Public Significance

Fraudulent participation in digital research can have asignificant impact on research findings, potentially leading to biased results and misinformed decisions. We developed an effective protocol for theprevention, identification, and management of fraudulent participants. Bysharing our insights and recommendations, we hope to raise awareness of thisissue and provide other researchers with the knowledge and strategies necessaryto safeguard research integrity moving forward. (MORE - details)
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‘Perplexed’ author’s identity forged on plagiarized paper in ‘probably fake’ journal
https://retractionwatch.com/2024/06...n-plagiarized-paper-in-probably-fake-journal/

In February, Steffan Barra Googled his name. A clinician working in the field of forensic psychiatry, he was in the habit of periodically checking if anything negative had been written about him. What he didn’t expect to find was a plagiarized paper with his name attached to it.

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Brain tumor researchers lose second paper as UCSF investigates
https://retractionwatch.com/2024/06...chers-lose-second-paper-as-ucsf-investigates/

A research group at the University of California, San Francisco, under investigation for potential misconduct has had a second paper retracted...

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Editor and authors refuse to share data of paper containing alleged statistical errors
https://retractionwatch.com/2024/06...-paper-containing-alleged-statistical-errors/

Last July, David Allison and his students identified what they considered to be fatal errors in a paper that had appeared in Elsevier’s Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice...

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Two papers retracted for plagiarizing a 50-year-old thesis

A math professor in Poland has lost two papers because she plagiarized a doctoral thesis written before the United States had put a man on the moon...
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Chinese officials fret about the country's flood of low-quality science papers

INTRO: The post here last week about faked papers prompts me to mention this recent publication (which I learned about in Nature): an anonymous survey from inside several Chinese universities. It's quite interesting from that standpoint, and it shows that the Chinese institutions and authorities are indeed becoming worried about the increasing flood of low- (or zero-) quality papers that come from all sorts of Chinese sources. As everyone would have figured, this is a consequence of pressure to Publish, Publish, Publish, and Publish Some More:

  • . . .this article focuses on China’s plan to build world-class universities and disciplines, titled the World First-Class University and First-Class Academic Discipline Construction (known as the Double First-Class Initiative). The initiative offers significant incentives for individual researchers in elite Chinese universities to produce a rapidly increasing number of articles in top international journals, which has resulted in a swift rise in their world university rankings. On the other hand, the initiative provides ‘organisational reasons’ for wrongdoing, such as unethical research practices. . .

Airing this sort of dirty laundry is not something that any country or any institution ever likes to do, so the bluntness of this article is quite something to see. It takes what it terms "rampant research misconduct" in Chinese science as a given, and then goes on to ask how this spread and what can be done about it... (MORE - details)
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Elite researchers in China say they had ‘no choice’ but to commit misconduct

INTRO: “I had no choice but to commit [research] misconduct,” admits a researcher at an elite Chinese university. The shocking revelation is documented in a collection of several dozen anonymous, in-depth interviews offering rare, first-hand accounts of researchers who engaged in unethical behaviour — and describing what tipped them over the edge. An article based on the interviews was published in April in the journal Research Ethics... (MORE - details)

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I’ve Been Silenced, Censored, and Cancelled. The Reason Why, Matters.

EXCERPTS: Few genres of medical writing are more pathetic than the “I was cancelled” essay, especially because these pitiful pieces are almost always written by loud, famous, influential doctors who never treated a patient with COVID, but instead spread copious misinformation about it.

[...] So it is with some trepidation that I submit my entry into the “I was cancelled” category. However, it’s 100% true. I’ve been silenced, censored, and cancelled. I am writing about it not to bemoan my fate, but rather because of what my cancellation reveals about the sad state of our pandemic discourse.

I’m going to be vague about the details because I don’t blame the people who cancelled me, and I don’t want them to receive negative attention. In fact, I sympathize with their predicament...

[...] Yet, they cancelled my talk, noting that a powerful politician in their state was a close ally of a certain presidential candidate who has resumed making threats against vaccines. I don’t think this powerful politician or any outsider actively intervened to disinvite me, though I guess it’s possible. Rather, I think the conference hosts feared my talk might bring unwanted attention to their organization... (MORE - missing details)
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The advent of human-assisted peer review by AI

EXCERPT: This may all seem promising because of the seemingly unbound opportunities of pre-trained large multimodal AI models. But current problems — such as paper mills, falsification of data, plagiarism of ideas, the distortion of truth and the amplification of harm, and accessibility of state-of-the-art technology — may be exacerbated in the short term. [...] History, however, has shown that we will find ways to deal with these problems through the implementation and tweaking of safeguards within a regulatory environment that shouldn’t stifle innovation. As for the models, the hope is that they can learn to refrain from hallucinating also when interacting among themselves. The potential upsides may be truly worthy... (MORE - details)

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Recycling plastic is a dangerous waste of time (industry sci-tech subterfuge, greenwashing)

INTRO: By now, you probably know that plastic recycling is a scam. If not, this white paper lays out the case in devastating detail. To summarise, amid calls to reduce plastic garbage in the 1970s and ’80s, the petrochemical industry put forth recycling as a red herring to create the appearance of a solution while it continued to make as much plastic as it pleased. Multiple paper trails indicate that industry leaders knew from the start that recycling could never work at scale. And indeed, it hasn’t. Only about nine percent of plastic worldwide gets recycled, and the US manages only about six percent.

As bad as this is, the situation might actually be much worse. According to an emerging field of study, the facilities that recycle plastic have been spewing massive amounts of toxins called microplastics into local waterways, soil, and air for decades. In other words, the very industry created to solve the plastic-waste problem has only succeeded in making it worse, possibly exponentially so. While the study that kicked off this new field received some press coverage when it appeared last year, the far-ranging import of its findings has yet to be fully integrated into environmental science. If the research is even close to accurate, and to date it has not been substantively challenged, the implications for waste management policies across the globe will be game-changing.

For a start, no one has fully documented the massive amounts of microplastics (MPs) at issue here... (MORE - details)
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Journal investigating follow-up study that didn’t mention patients had died

While presenting a paper in journal club, neurology resident at Baylor College of Medicine, Peter Campbell, noticed a potential problem. Two infants in a 2018 paper were reported to have died, but their data also appeared in a follow-up study published two years later with no mention of them being deceased...

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‘Exhausting’: Author finds another’s name on an Elsevier book chapter she wrote

When Ina Vandebroek read the latest edition of Pharmacognosy, an Elsevier textbook to which she contributed a chapter for the 2017 edition, she was shocked. Although she had declined to write for the 2023 update, her chapter was still in the book, under a different author’s name...

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Elsevier reopens investigation into controversial hydroxychloroquine-COVID paper

A March 2020 paper that helped spur the discredited claim hydroxychloroquine could treat COVID-19 is under investigation – again – after some of its authors asked to take their names off the article...

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Nature retracts highly cited 2002 paper that claimed adult stem cells could become any type of cell

Nature has retracted a 2002 paper from the lab of Catherine Verfaillie purporting to show a type of adult stem cell could, under certain circumstances, “contribute to most, if not all, somatic cell types.”

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Journal hijackers still infiltrate Scopus despite its efforts

Last December, Elsevier’s Scopus index deleted all links to journal homepages in response to the widespread issue of journal hijacking, when a legitimate title, website, ISSN, and other metadata of a journal are taken over without permission. [...] Now, we have evidence hijacked journals remain in the database and continue to infiltrate it...

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Wiley journal retracts two papers it said were fine following criticism years ago

Two years after a journal told sleuths it wouldn’t retract flawed papers, it changed course and pulled them...
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