Saturday, April 6, 2024

Studies by 2 Columbia Univ. cancer researchers have been retracted because they altered data

Studies by two Columbia University researchers in have been pulled, further illustrating whaat experts say is the sluggishness of scientific publishers to address serious errors. 

That information appears in a recent story by Benjamin Mueller in editions of The New York Times, which also notes that the cancer scientists have now had four studies retracted and have had "a stern note added to a fifth accusing [them] of 'severe abuse of the scientific publishing system.'"

Last year, "a scientific sleuth in Britain uncovered discrepancies in data published by the Columbia lab, including the reuse of photos and other images across different papers," Mueller's article indicates, adding that the Times last month reported that a medical journal  the year before "had quietly taken down a stomach cancer study by the researchers after an internal inquiry by the journal found ethics violations."

Dr. David
The Times further reported that the pair — Dr. Sam Yoon, chief of a cancer surgery division at the university's medical center, and Dr. Changhwan Yoon, a more junior biologist there who's not related — have continued publishing studies with suspicious data. Since 2008, the story continues, the two "have collaborated with other researchers on 26 articles that the sleuth, Dr. Sholto David, flagged for misrepresenting experiments' results."

Experts, according to Mueller, charged that the incidents "illustrated not only the extent of  unreliable research by top labs but also the tendency of scientific publishers to respond slowly, if at all, to significant problems once they are detected."

For every paper that is retracted, opined Dr. Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which keeps a database of 47,000-plus retracted studies, "there are probably 10 that should be. Journals are not particularly interested in correcting the record."

Imaging experts, Mueller's story maintains, have claimed "some irregularities identified by Dr. David bore signs of deliberate manipulation, like flipped or rotated images, while others could have been sloppy copy-and-paste errors."

More information about scientific research — good and bad — can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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