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

Is science’s dominant funding model broken?

EXCERPT: The team delved into the structure and outputs of academic research. To their horror, the researchers uncovered a system that, in their words, “ends up rewarding administrators and empire-builders, not creative scientists actively engaged in research and mentoring”. They have much more to say in their report, A New National Purpose: Leading the Biotech Revolution, but this quote demonstrates their shock over how academia is structured and how it operates. The structure of academia is also attracting attention from high-level policymakers because science is increasingly seen as a way to boost economic growth... (MORE - details)
What a database of more than a thousand dismissive literature reviews can tell us

EXCERPTS: In academia, declarations of a void in the research literature are rarely challenged. As long as a few unknowing, uncaring, or otherwise cooperative reviewers and editors let the statement slide, it passes unimpeded into the world of scholarship and becomes what I call a dismissive literature review. No one with a self or public interest in countering the claim is offered an opportunity to challenge.

[...] For the most part, the list includes statements made by “serial dismissers,” scholars who dismiss repeatedly on a variety of topics. This is done to help counter the argument that they might be innocent, did try to look for previous research, and simply could not find it. In some cases, they dismiss a research literature that is hundreds or thousands of studies deep. And, when they do that repeatedly across a variety of topics, the odds their dismissive behavior could be innocent fade to miniscule... (MORE - details)

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Authors – including a dean and a sleuth – correcting paper with duplicated image

The corresponding author of a paper flagged on PubPeer for an apparently duplicated image will be asking the journal to publish a correction...

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Seventeen journals lose impact factors for suspected citation manipulation

Clarivate, the company that calculates Journal Impact Factors based on citations to articles, didn’t publish the metric for 17 journals this year due to suspected citation manipulation. That’s a substantial increase from last year, when only four were excluded...

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‘All authors agree’ to retraction of Nature article linking microbial DNA to cancer

A 2020 paper that claimed to find a link between microbial genomes in tissue and cancer has been retracted following an analysis that called the results into question...

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Journal retracts redundant case study of same patient from different authors

Cureus has retracted a 2024 case study after learning it had published a piece about the identical patient, by authors from the same institution, just months earlier...

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Paper recommending vitamin D for COVID-19 retracted four years after expression of concern

A paper that purported to find vitamin D could reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms has been retracted from PLOS ONE, four years after the journal issued an expression of concern about the research...
The Biden administration’s Scientific Integrity Task Force is rightly opposed by researchers on the ground.

EXCERPTS: In its first year, the Biden administration launched a fast-track Scientific Integrity Task Force, intended to “lift up the voices of Federal scientists of many perspectives and backgrounds” and put scientific integrity “paramount in Federal governance for years to come.” The task force took a “whole-of-government” approach to ensuring the scientific integrity of federally funded research and included representatives from the 21 federal agencies that maintain scientific-research programs. For those with a high pain threshold, the final report may be seen here.

Prominent among the move’s critics have been the Council on Governmental Relations (a consortium of research universities) and the Association of Research Integrity Officers...

[...] As with all things governmental, one looks at this spectacle and asks “why?” It’s not like anyone is in favor of scientific misconduct. ... Nor has there been an absence of means to detect and punish research misconduct...

[...] There is a bigger picture in play, however. As demoralizing as research misconduct is, we should hardly be surprised by its occurrence...

[...] Since 1950 ... the science ecosystem has morphed into a “big science cartel,” united through an interwoven network of self-aggrandizing actors who hold a common interest, not around science but around capturing research funds. University administrations are one such actor, but there are many others. ... includes universities who look with favor on representatives who can keep the research money flowing in.

Those 21 federal agencies represented on the task force constitute another crucial player: bureaucratic entities whose value and very existence is tied to capturing dollars from the federal budget.

[...] We can now begin to make sense of the dust-up between the bureaucracy-based Scientific Integrity Task Force and the university-based Council on Governmental Relations. Neither is concerned so much with protecting the integrity of science; they merely differ on who shall be the enforcers...

[...] while I’m no friend of the shenanigans of university administrations and the games they play, I’m far more concerned about the Biden administration’s move to complete the federalization of university science begun in 1950, which may finally squash the very people who are the most effective custodians of scientific integrity: scientists themselves.... (MORE - missing details)

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Federal funding for major science agencies is at a 25-year low

EXCERPTS: Government funding for science is usually immune from political gridlock and polarization in Congress. But, federal funding for science is slated to drop for 2025. [...] Federal funding for many programs is characterized by political polarization, meaning that partisanship and ideological divisions between the two main political parties can lead to gridlock. Science is usually a rare exception to this problem. [...] Ideally, all the best ideas for scientific research would receive federal funds. But limited support for scientific research in the United States means that for individual scientists, getting funding is a highly competitive process... (MORE - details)
Two reasons I’m sceptical about psychedelic science (Michiel van Elk)

My initial optimism about psychedelics and their potential has changed into scepticism about the science behind much of the media hype. This is due to a closer scrutiny of the empirical evidence. Yes, at face value it seems as if psychedelic therapy can cure mental disease. But on closer inspection, the story is not that straightforward. The main reason? The empirical evidence for the efficacy of and the working mechanisms underlying psychedelic therapy is far from clear...
How you can help improve the visibility of retractions: Introducing NISO’s Recommended Practice for Communication of Retractions, Removals, and Expressions of Concern (CREC)

In the majority of cases, retracted publications continue to be cited as if the retraction had not occurred. So how do we better disseminate the editorial status of retracted work?

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Elsevier withdraws plagiarized paper after original author calls journal out on LinkedIn

In late May, one of Sasan Sadrizadeh’s doctoral students stumbled upon a paper with data directly plagiarized from his previous work...

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‘A threat to the integrity of scientific publishing’: How often are retracted papers marked that way?

How well do databases flag retracted articles?

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Food science journal retracts 10 papers for compromised peer review

A research group based in Pakistan has had 10 of their papers retracted from Wiley’s "Food Science & Nutrition" based on flaws in the peer review process...

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‘We authors paid a heavy price’: Journal retracts all 23 articles in special issue

A journal has retracted an entire special issue over concerns the guest-edited papers underwent a “compromised” peer review process...
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The misplaced incentives in academic publishing

EXCERPTS: Lamentations over the current models of academic publishing come from all corners of the scientific community. How does the system work?

[...] The arguments against it are many but tend to focus on dubious features of peer review, and the business model of journals that publish peer-reviewed reports of new research...

[...] Despite the fact that the public funds much of this work, much of it remain behind a paywall, freely accessible only to those with affiliations at institutions that can afford subscriptions (and the rare individual who can pay themselves), thus eliminating most of the citizen-science public...

[...] But as damning as these charges are, they only capture one aspect of the hypocrisy and irrationality in the academic publishing model. Some of this only became apparent to me after I began to see the process from the other side — that is, as an editor at several journals. And this has forced me to conclude that many of the largest, under-appreciated sins of publishing do not arise from the journals themselves, but from the professional ecosystem that defines modern academia. The incentive structure encourages behavior that reinforces the current broken publication model... (MORE - missing details)
Journal retracts letter to the editor about predatory journals for ‘legal concerns’

A journal has retracted a letter to the editor and removed the online version from its website “because legal concerns were raised to the Publisher,” according to the notice. The retracted letter had referred to multiple journals as “predatory.” [/b]

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‘Rare’ criminal charges for data manipulation in Cassava case send a ‘powerful message’: lawyers

The recent criminal indictment of a medical school professor and former scientific advisor to Cassava Sciences on fraud charges for manipulating images in scientific papers and applications for federal funding is a “rare” outcome for such alleged actions that “sends a very, very powerful message.”

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Author blames retraction on ‘Chinese censorship’

A former assistant professor of international relations at Yibin University in Sichuan, China, said he was fired from his job and “forced” to retract a paper on COVID-19 because the article did not “paint a good picture of the Chinese government.”

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University president faces allegations of duplication, institution says no misconduct

The president of the Kyoto Institute of Technology (KIT) has corrected two of his papers and is set to correct another amid allegations of duplication – sometimes inelegantly referred to as “self-plagiarism” – despite a university committee clearing him of misconduct...

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The wolf in Scopus’ clothing: Another hijacked journal has indexed nearly 900 articles

A prolific hijacked journal has managed to breach the defenses of Scopus, one of the world’s leading academic databases. This time, the target is the award-winning journal Community Practitioner, the official publication of the UK-based organization Unite-CPHVA...
When scientific citations go rogue: Uncovering ‘sneaked references’

EXCERPTS: People are becoming more aware of scientific publications and how they work, including their potential flaws. Just last year more than 10,000 scientific articles were retracted. The issues around citation gaming and the harm it causes the scientific community, including damaging its credibility, are well documented.

[...] we found through a chance encounter that some unscrupulous actors have added extra references, invisible in the text but present in the articles’ metadata, when they submitted the articles to scientific databases. The result? Citation counts for certain researchers or journals have skyrocketed, even though these references were not cited by the authors in their articles... (MORE - details)
‘Mistakes were made’: Paper by department chair earns expression of concern as more questioned

A 14-year-old paper has earned an expression of concern after an anonymous whistleblower found evidence of image duplication in the work. The authors have had images from several more papers flagged on PubPeer...

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Supplement maker sues critic for defamation, spurring removal of accepted abstract

A Frontiers journal has taken down the abstract of a “provisionally accepted” article about harms from an herbal supplement after the company that sells the products sued the first author for defamation.

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Scopus is broken – just look at its literature category

As Retraction Watch recently reported, three of the top 10 philosophy journals in the highly influential Scopus database turned out to be fakes: Not only did these dubious journals manage to infiltrate the list, but they also rose to its top by trading citations. This news is embarrassing in itself, but it is hardly shocking. Our rankings-obsessed academic culture has proven time and again that it is prone to data manipulation. Rankings for both publications and institutions are routinely hacked by scholars, editors, and administrators who are ready to tweak or even falsify numbers as needed. The problems with the Scopus journal rankings, however, run much deeper...

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Exclusive: Kavli prize winner threatens to sue critic for defamation

One of the winners of the 2024 Kavli Prize in nanoscience has threatened to sue a longtime critic, Retraction Watch has learned. In a cease and desist letter, a lawyer representing Chad Mirkin, a chemist and director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University in Chicago, accused Raphaël Lévy, a professor of physics at the Université Paris Sorbonne Nord, of making “patently false and defamatory” statements about Mirkin’s research.

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Did Flint water crisis set kids back in school? Paper saying so is ‘severely flawed,’ say critics \

A paper finding kids did worse in school following the Flint water crisis is “severely flawed and unreliable,” according to critics who were deeply involved in exposing the crisis. The paper has now earned an addendum from the authors, but the critics say it should be retracted...
Is peer review failing its peer review?

INTRO: Ivan Oransky doesn’t sugar-coat his answer when asked about the state of academic peer review: “Things are pretty bad.”

As a distinguished journalist in residence at New York University and co-founder of Retraction Watch – a site that chronicles the growing number of papers being retracted from academic journals – Oransky is better positioned than just about anyone to make such a blunt assessment.

He elaborates further, citing a range of factors contributing to the current state of affairs. These include the publish-or-perish mentality, chatbot ghostwriting, predatory journals, plagiarism, an overload of papers, a shortage of reviewers, and weak incentives to attract and retain reviewers... (MORE - details)

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The history of peer review is more interesting than you think

EXCERPT: As with any human enterprise, peer review is far from foolproof. Errors and downright frauds have made it through the process. In addition, as Moxham and Fyfe note, there can be “inappropriate bias due to the social dynamics of the process.” (Some peer review types may introduce less bias than others.)

The term “peer review” was coined in the early 1970s, but the referee principle is usually assumed to be about as old as the scientific enterprise itself, dating to the Royal Society of London’s Philosophical Transactions, which began publication in 1665.

Moxham and Fyfe complicate this history, using the Royal Society’s “rich archives” to trace the evolution of editorial practices at one of the earliest scientific societies... (MORE - details)
What is it like to attend a predatory conference?

TAKEAWAYS: The supposed 25th Global Nephrology, Urology and Kidney Failure Congress listed several “renowned speakers”.

A Nature reporter attended the event, and found it to be shambolic. It was facilitated by a PhD student, who said that she had been asked by e-mail just a couple of days beforehand to take on the extra, unpaid role of delivering a conference speech.

The number of predatory conferences continues to grow, and their organizers are swift to change their practices to evade detection. It's believed that ‘vulture conferences’, to use a Japanese term, are now more plentiful than legitimate ones.

A key reason that they persist is that “researchers, especially those eager to strengthen their publication records, are sometimes lured by the promise of subsequent publication indexed in reputable citation databases”, such as in conference proceedings or in journals published by the conference organizer... (MORE - missing details)