OpinionQuality of science and science communication

Retracted Science paper highlights problems with universities and journals

The journal Science, considered to be one of the world’s leading academic journals, has this week retracted a widely reported study on the effects of microplastics on fish, in the wake of a damning statement by the Expert Group on Dishonesty in Research of Sweden’s Central Ethical Review Board. Retraction Watch reports that this comes after months of questions about the validity of the study data.

The Expert Group concluded that the study authors “have been guilty of scientific dishonesty”, and levels strong criticism at the journal Science for accepting the paper, and at Uppsala University for it’s poor investigation of the matter, stating that:

According to the Expert Group’s assessment, it is remarkable that the article, given [its] deficiencies, was accepted by the journal Science.


…the Expert Group finds it remarkable that Uppsala University, in its preliminary investigation of 31 August 2016, found no support for the presence of dishonesty in the research carried out by Peter Eklöv and Oona Lönnstedt.

Scientific dishonesty such as this acts to further undermine already eroded public confidence in science, giving a free kick to the legions of climate change deniers, evolution deniers, and anti-vaccination campaigners.

There will always be dishonest players in any profession, so institutions need to be set up to be able to readily detect dishonesty and to swiftly and firmly act on it when it is detected. The findings of the Expert Group in regard to this retracted paper show that both universities and journals are falling short of their responsibilities in this regard.

The message to universities and journals is clear: lift your game!

Article source: Retraction Watch.

Header image source: Old University of Uppsala by Vomir-en-costard is licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0.


Rate this post

Also published on Medium.

Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes (www.bruceboyes.info) is editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (www.realkm.com), and a knowledge management (KM), environmental management, and project management professional. He is a PhD candidate in the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group at Wageningen University and Research, and holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction. His expertise and experience includes knowledge management (KM), environmental management, project management, stakeholder engagement, teaching and training, communications, research, and writing and editing. With a demonstrated ability to identify and implement innovative solutions to social and ecological complexity, Bruce's many career highlights include establishing RealKM Magazine as an award-winning resource, using agile and knowledge management approaches to oversee an award-winning $77.4 million western Sydney river recovery program, leading a knowledge strategy process for Australia's 56 natural resource management (NRM) regional organisations, pioneering collaborative learning and governance approaches to support the sustainable management of landscapes and catchments, and initiating and teaching two new knowledge management subjects at Shanxi University in China.

Related Articles


  1. I find it rather odd that the linked Science page shows that the paper has been retracted, but the full text is still available and has all the appearance of a published paper. Surely if it should never have been published then it should now be removed.

  2. The author claims that “Scientific dishonesty in science…. is giving a free kick to the legions of climate change deniers..”.
    this is a dangerous accusation. There is a large number of prominent scientists who diasgree with SOME aspects of the “accepted” theory of global warming. Does the author imply that ALL of them are dishonest ?.

    Science is based on agreement, disagreement, discussions, arguments etc. This is important to the future of science.

    Galileo was also a “denier”, wasn’t he ??.

    What does the author think about the following ?

    1. Many thanks Eli for your comments. In regard to the issues you raise:

      1. My full statement in the article is “Scientific dishonesty such as this acts to further undermine already eroded public confidence in science, giving a free kick to the legions of climate change deniers, evolution deniers, and anti-vaccination campaigners.” This statement does not equate to saying that scientists who disagree with “SOME aspects of the “accepted” theory of global warming” are dishonest.

      2. No, Galileo wasn’t a denier. Quite the opposite actually: he pioneered the evidence-based scientific method followed by modern scientists (and by RealKM Magazine). See https://skepticalscience.com/climate-skeptics-are-like-galileo.htm

      3. In regard to the Observer article you linked, the claim made in the article that NOAA falsified data has been debunked by FactCheck.org, see http://www.factcheck.org/2017/02/no-data-manipulation-at-noaa/

Back to top button