Statisticians clamor for retraction of paper by Harvard researchers they say uses a “nonsense statistic”

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“Uh, hypothetical situation: you see a paper published that is based on a premise which is clearly flawed, proven by existing literature.” So began an exasperated Twitter thread by Andrew Althouse, a statistician at University of Pittsburgh, in which he debated whether a study using what he calls a “nonsense statistic” should be addressed by letters to the editor or swiftly retracted.

The thread was the latest development in an ongoing disagreement over research in surgery. In one corner, a group of Harvard researchers claim they’re improving how surgeons interpret underpowered or negative studies. In the other corner, statisticians suggest the authors are making things worse by repeatedly misusing a statistical technique called post-hoc power. The authors are giving weak surgical studies an unwarranted pass, according to critics.

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Catholic medical journal pulls paper on conversion therapy over statistical problems

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The journal for a religious medical group is retracting a paper that supported the discredited practice of conversion therapy for homosexuals over concerns about the statistical analyses — or lack thereof — in the research.

The paper, “Effects of therapy on religious men who have unwanted same-sex attraction,” was published last year in The Lincare Quarterly, the official journal of the Catholic Medical Association. (According to its website: “LQR explores issues at the interface of medicine and religion, focusing on bioethics and also exploring medical topics which have an ethical dimension.)

So, what were those effects? Pretty darn good, according to the article. Per the abstract:

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An author told a journal their institution had no one who handled allegations. Turns out that wasn’t true.

Istituto Superiore di Sanità

Should journals always take authors at their word?

Take the case of a recent expression of concern in the Journal of Cell Science following concerns about image manipulation in a 2006 paper, “Inhibition of TPO-induced MEK or mTOR activity induces opposite effects on the ploidy of human differentiating megakaryocytes.”

Here’s the notice:

Continue reading An author told a journal their institution had no one who handled allegations. Turns out that wasn’t true.

Weekend reads: How much is integrity worth?; killing the science poster; future of megajournals in doubt?

Before we present this week’s Weekend Reads, a question: Do you enjoy our weekly roundup? If so, we could really use your help. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to support Weekend Reads, and our daily work? Thanks in advance.

The week at Retraction Watch featured a big announcement: You can now receive alerts about retractions in your database of references if you use Zotero, the free, open-source research platform. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

Continue reading Weekend reads: How much is integrity worth?; killing the science poster; future of megajournals in doubt?

Forensics Friday: Notice anything odd about this figure?

Ever wanted to hone your skills as a scientific sleuth? Now’s your chance.

Thanks to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), which is committed to educating authors on best practices in publishingfigure preparation, and reproducibility, we’re presenting the sixth in a series, Forensics Friday.

Take a look at the image below, and then take our poll. After that, click on the link below to find out the right answer.

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Public health journal retracts paper on austerity for “inaccurate and misleading results”

A protest against austerity policies

The American Journal of Public Health has retracted a controversial 2018 paper on the effects of economic austerity in Spain because it contained “inaccurate and misleading” results linking  those policies to a massive spike in premature deaths.

The journal also has published a second piece, by a different group of authors, refuting the central claim of the now-retracted paper. Whereas the first article asserted that austerity in Spain during the mid-2000s led to more than 500,000 excess deaths, the new research says deaths in the country slowed during the country’s economic crisis.

The flawed article, “Austerity policies and mortality in Spain after the financial crisis of 2008,” was written by a group of researchers at the Hospital Universitario Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the Canary Islands. The authors claimed that their analysis of the years 2011 to 2015 showed that:

Continue reading Public health journal retracts paper on austerity for “inaccurate and misleading results”

Want to check for retractions in your personal library — and get alerts — for free? Now you can

We’re thrilled to announce a collaboration with Zotero,  the free and open-source research platform, that will allow its users to be alerted to retractions of any papers in their personal libraries.

As Retraction Watch readers know, making that kind of functionality possible has been our goal since we announced plans to create a comprehensive database of retractions. Once that database officially launched last October, in conjunction with an analysis of its contents by reporters at Science, we began discussions in earnest with potential partners who could make that happen.

We’re pleased that the first such collaboration is with Zotero, “a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share research” that “is open source and developed by an independent, nonprofit organization that has no financial interest in your private information.” Here’s a posting from lead Zotero developer Dan Stillman:

Continue reading Want to check for retractions in your personal library — and get alerts — for free? Now you can

“Permeable to bad science:” Journal retracts paper hailed by proponents of homeopathy

Poison oak

Eight months after publishing a paper claiming that homeopathy can treat pain in rats, a Springer Nature journal is retracting the work.

The move follows swift criticism of the paper in Scientific Reports, which was written by researchers from India and the United Arab Emirates about the use of Toxicodendron pubescens, “popularly known as Rhus Tox (RT),” which “is recommended in alternative medicines as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic remedy.” The species is also commonly known as poison oak.

Here’s the retraction notice:

Continue reading “Permeable to bad science:” Journal retracts paper hailed by proponents of homeopathy

Study of a “nudge” to use hand sanitizer retracted

Image by Adriano Gadini from Pixabay

A group of researchers in the United States and China have retracted their 2018 paper on hand hygiene, admitting that they can’t account for “data anomalies” in their work.

The article in question, “The decoy effect as a nudge: Boosting hand hygiene with a worse option,” appeared in Psychological Science last May. Led by Meng Li, of the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver, the researchers reported results from experiments designed to increase the use of hand sanitizer in the workplace through the use of a “decoy” bottle:

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Weekend reads: Dean withdraws from post after retraction of Lancet book review; star researcher committed misconduct; a new way to game peer review?

Before we present this week’s Weekend Reads, a question: Do you enjoy our weekly roundup? If so, we could really use your help. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to support Weekend Reads, and our daily work? Thanks in advance.

The week at Retraction Watch featured a reminder that sometimes science just needs more bullshit; a call to make misconduct investigation reports public; and a puzzle about why retractions took so long. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

Continue reading Weekend reads: Dean withdraws from post after retraction of Lancet book review; star researcher committed misconduct; a new way to game peer review?