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Top 5 Retracted Science Studies of 2016
Publish or perish: That's the mantra among academics. The pressure on researchers to publish new studies, however, may have turned this saying into "publish and perish," as more than 650 scientific papers were retracted in 2016, jeopardizing the integrity of scientists, and threatening the public's trust in their work.
Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications, according to a study published in 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled, well, "Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications." The authors sure didn't mince words. They found that only about 20 percent of retractions were due to honest error, whereas nearly 70 percent were due to scientific misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud, a tenfold increase since 1975.
And those fraud-related retractions were more likely to be in the most prominent journals, the study found, suggesting that the pressure to publish in so-called high-impact journals is tempting some scientists to cheat.
So, it's time now for our annual countdown of the more interesting journal article retractions of 2016, culled from Retraction Watch, a blog that has been reporting on scientific retractions since 2010.
5. The man who coughed peeSlide 2 of 13
5. The man who coughed pee
It was one from the annals of medicine: A 24-year-old man from the East Indies died after coughing up a liter of something that looked and smelled a lot like urine. The 1923 case report in the Dutch Journal of Medicine (Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde) stated that the man, inexplicably, had a kidney located in his chest cavity. He had gone to the hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia. The pneumonia then caused an abscess that ruptured the errant kidney, causing it to leak urine into the membrane surrounding the lung.
But alas, such a patient never existed. Keen on the fact that kidneys don't reside in chest cavities, the modern editors of the Dutch Journal of Medicine decided to investigate the case study's authenticity as they were preparing it for digital accessibility. After much probing, they found that the case study was a hoax perpetrated by some naughty medical students having fun after studying for a medical exam. The story was revealed in the autobiography of one of the medical students, named Arie Querido, who died in 1983.
Querido wrote that he and his fellow students were just goofing off, creating imaginary diseases. The "kidney in the chest cavity" concept took off, and they were so amused with themselves that they decided to submit the case study for publication. They never thought it would be published, Querido wrote. But it was. And now it has been retracted.Slide 3 of 13
4. Can't say he's not passionate about recyclingSlide 4 of 13
4. Can't say he's not passionate about recycling
With data this good, it seems a pity not to use them over and over and over again. Unfortunately for Shyi-Min Lu, a renewable-energy researcher from Taiwan, he got caught republishing the same research. This is different from self-plagiarism. When scientists submit a paper for publication, they must declare that the paper isn't under consideration for publication elsewhere and that any reuse of data must be cited explicitly. Lu failed to do so and submitted "recycled" papers about, ironically enough, energy recycling to various journals, often without his co-authors knowing.
Lu admitted to committing offenses in 10 papers, including reusing figures and plagiarizing others' work, according to Retraction Watch. Several of these papers have been retracted. Lu has since been fired from National Taiwan University, where he was a research assistant.Slide 5 of 13
3. Maybe they should have cited GenesisSlide 6 of 13
3. Maybe they should have cited Genesis
The editors of the respected journal PLOS ONE got an earful from their readers after publishing a paper about hand coordination that made several references to "the Creator." For example, in the paper's abstract, the researchers wrote, "The biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way." And, in the body of the paper, they wrote, "Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator's invention."
Intelligent design creeping into peer review? Or, was it a bad translation? (Three of the paper's four authors were affiliated with research institutions in China.) One of the authors, Cai-Hua Xiong, whose native tongue is not English, claimed that he didn't understand the meaning of the word "Creator" and had something more like "Nature" in mind. PLOS ONE editors retracted the paper nevertheless, writing that their evaluation revealed "concerns with the scientific rationale, presentation and language, which were not adequately addressed during peer review."Slide 7 of 13
2. Hey, thanks for the paper. Can I publish it?Slide 8 of 13