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(China, Australia) Against the use and publication of contemporary unethical research: the case of Chinese transplant research (Papers: Wendy C Higgins, et al | July 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on July 9, 2020


This July 2020 paper examines the argument for and against the publication of new, or retraction of old research outputs, where the work utilised organs from executed prisoners.  This isn’t just about an intensely captive relationship.

Recent calls for retraction of a large body of Chinese transplant research and of Dr Jiankui He’s gene editing research has led to renewed interest in the question of publication, retraction and use of unethical biomedical research. In Part 1 of this paper, we briefly review the now well-established consequentialist and deontological arguments for and against the use of unethical research. We argue that, while there are potentially compelling justifications for use under some circumstances, these justifications fail when unethical practices are ongoing—as in the case of research involving transplantations in which organs have been procured unethically from executed prisoners. Use of such research displays a lack of respect and concern for the victims and undermines efforts to deter unethical practices. Such use also creates moral taint and renders those who use the research complicit in continuing harm. In Part 2, we distinguish three dimensions of ‘non-use’ of unethical research: non-use of published unethical research, non-publication, and retraction and argue that all three types of non-use should be upheld in the case of Chinese transplant research. Publishers have responsibilities to not publish contemporary unethical biomedical research, and where this has occurred, to retract publications. Failure to retract the papers implicitly condones the research, while uptake of the research through citations rewards researchers and ongoing circulation of the data in the literature facilitates subsequent use by researchers, policymakers and clinicians.

Higgins, WC., Rogers, W.A., Ballantyne, A., Lipworth, W. (2020)  Against the use and publication of contemporary unethical research: the case of Chinese transplant research. Journal of Medical Ethics. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-106044

(Australia) University recommends retraction of two computing papers for plagiarism – Retraction Watch (Leto Sapunar | June 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 6, 2020

Following an investigation prompted by a whistleblower, a university in Australia has recommended that one of its researchers retract two papers, Retraction Watch has learned.

The reviews, “Cryptography and State-of-the-art Techniques” and “An Advanced Survey on Cloud Computing and State-of-the-art Research Issues,” were both published in 2012 in the International Journal of Computer Science Issues (IJCSI). In a May 20 letter to the whistleblower in the case, the research integrity officer at Edith Cowan University in Perth wrote:

In reply to your query about the outcomes and actions from our preliminary assessment, I can inform you that of your 17 individual complaints, two were deemed to be breaches, four were considered to be minor breaches, eight were dismissed and three were referred to other centres within the University.  Actions arising included retraction of publications, where applicable, and training in the ECU online Research Integrity modules. I trust this satisfies your concerns. 

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(US) Authors questioning papers at nearly two dozen journals in wake of spider paper retraction – Retraction Watch (Adam Marcus | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 5, 2020

This case provides us with an opportunity to share two reflections: 1) Be careful when it comes to the reuse of data without explanation; and 2 the need for junior academics to check data provided by more experienced colleagues.  In this reported case, the colleague who is suspected of data manipulation has moved on to collecting data on spiders in Northern Australia.

The retraction earlier this month of a 2016 paper in the American Naturalist by Kate Laskowski and Jonathan Pruitt turns out to be the tip of what is potentially a very large iceberg.

This week, the researchers have retracted a second paper, this one in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, for the same reasons — duplicated data without a reasonable explanation.

Dan Bolnick, the editor of the American Naturalist, tells us:

After learning about the problems in the [2016] data set, I asked an associate editor to look at data sets in other publications in the American Naturalist [on which Pruitt was a co-author] and we have indeed found what appears to be repeated data that don’t seem to have a biological explanation.

He isn’t alone. Bolnick added:

I am aware that there are concerns affecting a large number of papers at multiple other journals, and at this point I’m aware of co-authors of his who have contacted editors at 23 journals as of January 26. 


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(China, Australia) Journals have retracted or flagged more than 40 papers from China that appear to have used organ transplants from executed prisoners – Retraction Watch (Ivan Oransky | April 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on May 29, 2020

Journals have retracted 30 papers, and added expressions of concern to 13 more, because the research likely involved organs from executed prisoners in China.

The issue surfaced as early as 2016, and two of the retractions occurred in 2017, but all of the other retractions, and all of the expressions of concern, happened after a February 2019 paper by Wendy Rogers of Macquarie University, in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues calling for the retraction of more than 400 papers

reporting research based on use of organs from executed prisoners, and an international summit to develop future policy for handling Chinese transplant research.

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