Chopping broccoli: Researchers lose paper on florets after readers raise questions
With apologies to Dana Carvey, Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters has chopped a 2012 paper on the molecular constituents of broccoli florets after readers evidently were forced to do the job of reviewers and point out fatal flaws in the study.
The article, “Two novel bioactive glucosinolates from Broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica) florets,” came from a group in South Korea and has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. But according to the retraction notice, after publication critics pointed out serious problems with the work. To wit:
Concerning the above-mentioned paper, there were serious and severe comments from the readers as follows.
Glucosinolates (GLs) occurring in broccoli have been subjected to intense research for many years, and generally broccoli florets are known to mainly contain methionine-derived GLs such as 4-methylsulfinylbutyl GL and tryptophan derived glucosinolates such as 3-indolylmethyl GL (Bennett et al., 2004). We agree with the authors that search for additional GLs even in well investigated crops is relevant. But considering the aim of the research (‘to isolate and characterize glucosinolates from Brassica italica florets using different isolation techniques’, p. 5556) and the surprising structures reported we find it disappointing that none of the standard GL analysis methods was applied. And we wonder why a protocol employing a cation exchange material was selected for this purpose, apparently without testing the conventional (and logical) use of an anion exchange material.
After many discussions, it was decided that the authors were unable to answer all of the questions raised by the readers (particularly in relation to the structural elucidation of the reported compounds). Therefore, as the Asian Editor, I have decided to retract the above manuscript. The authors acknowledge their mistake and have offered their apologies to the readers.
Now, we’re by no means experts in this area — although we both are quite fond of broccoli and its cruciferous cousins — but we know enough to ask this: If a manuscript purports to analyze a particular chemical makeup of broccoli, shouldn’t it really show evidence of that the “standard” methods of analysis were in fact employed? We’re as big fans of post-publication peer review as anyone, but that doesn’t mean pre-publication peer reviewers should abdicate their responsibilities. It’s nice of the authors to apologize. Maybe, however, the reviewers and editors also owe the readership a “sorry!”