Friday links: a very concerning cross-paper data duplication in EEB, and more

Also this week: review papers as “creative destruction”, The Ventures vs. “Wipeout”, and more.

From Jeremy:

Another Expression of Concern for a paper for which Denon Start collected and analyzed the data. This one is very concerning, as it involves duplication (and apparent mislabeling) of data across papers. The EoC is for Start 2018 Proc B. The EoC summarizes various concerns that have been raised about this paper. One of the concerns is to do with the “relationship” between the data associated with this paper, and the data associated with Start et al. 2018 PNAS. I was curious when I read that, so I had a look. It took me about 30 seconds to find a relationship (perhaps not the only one, I don’t know). Specifically, I found duplication of data across papers, together with apparent mislabeling. The PNAS paper provides mean activity levels (cm moved in 3 h) for each of 17 species of dragonfly larvae. The Proc B paper provides activity levels of 4-5 individuals of each of those same 17 species of dragonfly larvae. The “means” in the PNAS paper are identical with the activity levels of individuals from the Proc B paper–specifically, the individual of each species with the lowest ID number. Click those last two links if you want to check this yourself. I wrote to the EiCs of both journals, and to Start’s co-authors on the PNAS paper, as soon as I found the anomaly earlier this week. It’s clearly a very serious anomaly that needs explaining. I find it hard to imagine how a subset of the observations on individuals from one study could end up accidentally mislabeled as species-level means in a different study. Hopefully an explanation is forthcoming from Denon Start. Of course, journals aren’t obliged to wait forever for authors to explain serious anomalies. So I hope that both journals will move promptly to correct the scientific record, in the event that Denon Start does not explain this anomaly and the others referred to in the EoC.

And here’s an unusual correction to Start & Gilbert 2016. The correction is unusual because it’s from second author Ben Gilbert. First author Denon Start didn’t sign it.

In related news, citations to Denon Start’s papers are way down so far this year, compared to where you’d have expected them to be based on the annual growth rate of citations to his papers up through 2020. You’ll recall that the same thing happened with Jonathan Pruitt’s citations.

Have yet to read this new paper quantifying the effect of review papers on attention to primary research papers, but looking forward to doing so. Key result is that review papers don’t just suck citations away from the papers they review–they also increase citations for a subset of them. Here’s a blog post summarizing the paper, by the paper’s first author.

The US National Academy of Sciences has rescinded evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala’s membership for serial sexual harassment. This comes a few weeks after the Academy expelled astronomer Geoff Marcy for the same offense.

And finally, I only ever learned to play snare drum, which limited me to playing in this kind of band. And I was only ok. But I was good enough, and hung around enough drummers who were better than me, to have a greater-than-usual appreciation for just how frickin’ impressive the performance below is. Just a perfect marriage of technical skill, musicianship, and playfulness:

Back in middle school, my friends and I used to scoff at the original “Wipeout” drum solo for being too easy. We were idiots.

Have a good weekend. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Friday links: a very concerning cross-paper data duplication in EEB, and more

  1. In the PubPeer thread on the Start paper is a message (claiming to be) from Start, saying that he contacted the journal privately and they informed him that they were completely satisfied with his response and were closing the matter in February 2019, and that the anonymous complainant had apologized in private.

    I found this not believable at the time. Given how long the journal has taken to publish this EoC, possibly it could be true and they later changed their minds. But it’s overly convenient to claim that everyone was satisfied–even apologized–in private communications and thus you don’t have to answer any criticisms in public. Pretty close to “the lurkers support me in email.”

    • I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions here regarding what did or didn’t happen at the journal back in 2019. We don’t know for sure exactly what concerns were conveyed to the journal back in 2019, or if there were different concerns conveyed more recently.

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