Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“Ephemeral nature” of samples — and co-author — leads to ninth Jesús Lemus retraction

with 7 comments

j app ecolJesús Lemus — the veterinary researcher whose work colleagues have had trouble verifying, including being unable to confirm the identity of one of his co-authors — has notched his ninth retraction.

It’s a clear and comprehensive notice, from the Journal of Applied Ecology, despite the bizarre nature of the case:

The following article from Journal of Applied Ecology, ‘Faecal bacteria associated with different diets of wintering red kites: influence of livestock carcass dumps in microflora alteration and pathogen acquisition’ by Guillermo Blanco, Jesús A. Lemus and Javier Grande published in Journal of Applied Ecology, 43, 990–998 (doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2006.01200.x), has been retracted by agreement between Guillermo Blanco, E.J. Milner-Gulland, the Executive Editor of Journal of Applied Ecology, and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

The retraction has been agreed following doubts raised by an investigation carried out by the Ethics Committee of the Spanish Superior Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) relating to the validity of the laboratory analyses conducted by Dr Lemus, as well as the existence of Dr Lemus’s collaborator, Javier Grande.

The Journal of Applied Ecology article did not form part of the CSIC investigation. However, following this investigation, the lead author of the article was unable to confirm the identity of the laboratories where Dr Lemus carried out the analyses or to identify the co-author.

Although the field and statistical procedures and the diet data reported in the paper are not subject to any concerns, there are doubts about the validity of the results on the bacterial flora composition, which were combined with the other data for overall analysis. Therefore, the overall findings of the study are cast into doubt.

Due to the ephemeral nature of the samples used (faecal swabs), the lead author cannot replicate the analyses with the same samples employed in the original study. As a result, Dr Blanco wishes to retract this article.

The paper has been cited 23 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Hat tip: Noam Ross

Comments
  • Toby White May 21, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Ah, yes. This was the paper which argued that the Spanish government must launch itself into the business of raising thousands of free-range, organic rabbits, then slaughtering them all and tossing the carcasses randomly about the landscape — lest Iberian buzzards be exposed to the horrific risks of eating pork raised for consumption by mere human beings. Undoubtedly this retraction will be a tragic set-back for environmental science.

  • BixoBrat May 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    To Be, or Not to Be: That is the co-author. And it’s a shame that it all relied on samples that turned to…oh, never mind.

  • BixoBrat May 21, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Note that another paper with Javier Grande was retracted as well: http://tinyurl.com/n79egz9 documents a 2007 paper in Environmental Microbiology, Volume 9, Issue 7, July 2007, Pages: 1738–1749.

    So far, a third (APMIS, Volume 114, Issue 9, September 2006, Pages: 663–665) has not yet been retracted.

    So Javier Grande is now Javier Pequeño…soon to become Javier Nadie?

  • puzzled monkey May 21, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    yes, yes, Javier Nadie…

  • YouKnowBestOfAll May 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

    “the lead author of the article was unable to confirm the identity of the laboratories where Dr Lemus carried out the analyses or to identify the co-author”

    One can wonder whether the paper is science or science fiction?

  • Booker May 22, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    I don’t think you’re title should have ‘ephemeral nature’ placed in quotation marks like that – it makes it seem as if they’re covering something up, like claiming the samples have a shelf life but don’t, when in reality obviously fecal samples aren’t going to keep to enable a repeat analyses, so the use of the term is perfectly justified. Even DNA samples degrade. There’s often good scientific reasons why you can’t repeat an analysis.

    I don’t know how other followers of the blog feel, but it seems to me a slightly disturbing trend where you guys are starting to have a cynical interpretation of everything that appears in a retraction statement. Sure, given the kinds of retractions that have featured here there’s no doubt that gross misconduct has been placed under euphamisms, or authors have offered explanations which appear frankly dishonest. But sometimes these statements may contain perfectly acceptable and valid reasons, and when this is the case I think you’re doing not only the authors, but also yourselves and the followers of this blog a dis-service by portraying perfectly acceptable reasons in such a negative light. A much more nuanced approach is needed, so that genuine answers and reasons are recognized as such; if anything, this will allow the dubious non-genuine material to stand out and receive more attention.

    How does anyone else here feel about this?

    • D G Rossiter May 25, 2013 at 2:32 am

      I agree with your statement about truly ephemeral samples. For example in soil science we tightly bag any field samples for which we want to analyze volatile forms of for example N, we put them immediately into a freezer box and keep them frozen till analysis. It is not common to keep part of the samples frozen for years until a journal article using those results might be published. What *is* done is to document lab. procedures and keep careful records. And of course the identities of the scientists and technicians are known and documented, these people can be found and interviewed. It seems in this case the ephemeral nature of the samples would not be a problem if the “co-author” could be found and if procedures had been well-documented.

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