Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“Potentially groundbreaking,” “highly provocative:” Nature STAP stem cell peer reviews published

with 36 comments

nature 73014A day after we published the cover letter and peer review reports about the STAP stem cell paper rejected by Science, Science‘s news section has published the same material for the version rejected by Nature.

From Science‘s news story about the document:

The Nature reviewers call the manuscripts and the results they describe “very interesting,” “potentially groundbreaking,” “highly provocative,” and “truly remarkable.”  In the papers, Obokata, who works at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, and her coauthors claimed that bathing blood cells from newborn mice in a mildly acidic solution could prompt them to become powerful stem cells. They dubbed the phenomenon “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency,” or STAP.

All three Nature reviewers concluded that the data presented in the submitted manuscripts were not enough to support such radical claims. “I would recommend the authors to be extremely cautious in their claims …. The authors should look into the actual effect that the treatment elicits in the genome and they should assess genomic instability,” one writes. “There are several issues that I consider should be clarified beyond doubt because of the potential revolutionary nature of the observations,” writes another.

Read the entire set of reviewers’ comments here, and the whole story here.

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 11th, 2014 at 9:57 am

Posted in obokata

  • Scrutineer September 11, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Referees advise:

    “I would recommend the authors to be extremely cautious in their claims”

    “Of paramount importance for the legitimacy of this paper is that the authors provide a full step by step account of their method.”

    “STAP cells derived from BL/6 mice….chimaera is not black… Please explain.”

    Editors decide.

    Shame they ignored the advice concerning the step by step account of the method. It was indeed of paramount importance.

  • pchemist September 11, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    I am a physical scientist, and can’t interpret much of the referee reports. That said, I get the impression that the referee reports from Nature are saying many of the same things that were said by the referees from Science. There was an 8-month gap between decisions, which implies a similarly long gap between submissions of the manuscripts. Therefore, I have the impression that the authors of the STAP papers did not learn much from the first set of referee reports, despite having lots of time to think about them and do at least some of the requested experiments.
    Can anyone confirm this?

  • Dave September 11, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Someone owes me a kitchen sink!!!!

  • Rai September 11, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    The authors were clearly adverse to specificity in their writing. It is interesting how a resubmission only led to the their methods section being denoted as “magical,” which is not exactly a step up. This looks like another example of name recognition, sensationalism, and more scapegoating within academia.

    With such a groundbreaking study, how could this group not possibly have realized that an attempt to investigate or expand upon their findings, as well as examine and scrutinize every single citation, was not forthcoming? Was a fall person preemptively determined?

    Further, I realize that initial manuscripts are often far from perfect, but, it seemed odd that an initial Science reviewer was able to point out that the authors were unable to accurately grasp the final conclusions presented in the 2007 Jaenisch paper that they used to strengthen their evidence, which is a minor flaw, but still a red flag IMO, or at least in hindsight.

    Finally, could this also be attributed to the problem of journal article length or submission requirements, specifically the materials and method sections? Some of the current submissions preclude other researchers in various fields from reproducing an experiment within the exact parameters used by a certain lab, thus rendering any potential studies disproving a particular set of results open to scrutiny and an easy rebuttal. And yes, someone could contact a group of researchers for their exact steps, but even then, there is the strong potential to overlook something.Should it be a broad requirement that all relevant data be submitted and stored, especially within these prestigious journals that have such a strong influence in science? Surely their revenue would allow them to maintain some type of accessible database? (this is not my area of expertise though, so I can not say for certain though that such a project does not already exist)
    Also, Re:

    “Someone owes me a kitchen sink!!!!”

    -Next time I’d opt for the whole house.

  • FooBar September 12, 2014 at 12:24 am

    So: Nature rejected the initial version of the article, but encouraged a re-submission (something Science / Cell did not do).

    I assume that the reviewers were different the second time around (as it wasn’t a revision but, formally, a different paper, so there was a loophole). Wonder if the senior author asked the editor to provide less “biased” reviewers for the second version. Nature has a lot of explaining to do.

    • Robert Geller September 12, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Nature did not reject the paper. The reviews published by Science are dated April 4, 2013, whereas the “received” date in the final published paper was March 10, 2013. So despite the highly critical tone of the reviews, you can see this was treated as a major revision, not a rejection.

      • The Iron Chemist September 12, 2014 at 11:39 am

        Hold on, was the paper submitted to Nature while it was under consideration by Science? That’s not allowed.

        • The Iron Chemist September 12, 2014 at 11:42 am

          Nevermind, the April reviews are for Nature, not Science.

      • FooBar September 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm

        You’re right. That means that the same reviewers OK-ed the revised paper, therefore the editors are not to blame. Unless I’m still not understanding something.

        • JATdS September 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm

          OK, so who exactly are the reviewers? If the review reports can be released, they don’t just belong to some ghostly figure. It was specific scientists who were responsible for advising acceptance and for tilting the Nature editor board into accepting the flawed paper. Is that because a paper doesn’t have to be 100% perfect for it to be published? In fact, can anyone boldly claim that they have seen, or read, a “perfect” paper in any journal, by any publisher? Criticisms of the Nature editors/peers and on NPG have to be moderated relative to the reality in the surrounding scientific literature. I haven’t seen a single aper in my life-time that is perfect. That’s what ultimately defines science: the fact that nothing is perfect, which leads science to perfect itself, through scientists’ efforts. This, unfortunately, leaves a very ripe field for attack, and retractions. If we begin to demand the public release of peer reports from publishers, then should this also not be true of peer reviewers’ names (see f1000Research)? We definately need more leaks into the blogosphere to indicate those individuals respnsible for peer review. And this action MUST be retroactive, i.e., not only moving forward into 2015, but also looking as far back as possible before 2015.

          • bill October 4, 2014 at 8:12 pm

            The peer review process should change. The identity of all reviewers should be known to ensure transparency, fairness and accuracy. I am aware that sniping and back-stabbing is the norm in academia, but why would anyone that gave a fair critic be worried about having their identity revealed. The handling editor should also do their jobs, which clearly they don’t.

  • Exemplary peer reviewing September 12, 2014 at 5:49 am

    One important point should not be overlooked, namely the high quality of these reviews. Clearly the Reviewers were knowledgeable, fair and thorough. This also tells us something about the quality of the Editors who selected them. Much went wrong with this publication. Peer reviewing certainly did not. This should be remembered by certain Nobel laureates and those mere mortals that seem to think the indiscriminate bashing of traditional journals and their editors and reviewers is original and helpful.

    • FooBar September 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      “It is still not clear what happened between 4 April 2013 when Nature initially rejected the papers and 20 December 2013 when they were accepted. Teruhiko Wakayama, a co-author formerly at CDB now at the University of Yamanashi in Kofu, says that Obokata shared the reviewers’ comments with him and he made suggestions for revisions pertaining only to the chimeric mice experiments, which were his responsibility. He says he has no idea if the revised papers were again sent to reviewers.”

      The reviewers indeed took their job very seriously. However, the revised version was accepted. Why? Was it editorial pressure, or were the data massaged to be appear more convincing? It appears that, ultimately, the reviewers were either pressured or fooled into accepting the paper.

      • cghoogstraten September 12, 2014 at 5:04 pm

        Reviewers advise; editors decide. So editors don’t need to pressure reviewers, they can simply override their advice.
        Like others here, I am very impressed with the overall quality of the reviews of this paper from both Science and Nature that have become public. Those are the sort of thorough reviews I strive to write and hope to receive. So with the caveat that we haven’t seen the reviews of the revisions, it really looks like the pie in the face needs to be aimed at the editors. Science and Nature are unusual journals in explicitly applying a “general interest” criterion, which leads them to emphasize the sexy, headline-grabbing results in fields that happen to be receiving public attention or general buzz at the moment. (Which distorts science as a whole, when combined with so many institutions regarding papers in those journals as the sine qua non of high-quality research). This tends to lead to them publishing all sorts of questionable research — cough, life on Mars, cough, arsenic-based DNA, cough — that would actually get rejected from more specialized, lower-impact-factor journals that take their responsibilities as scientific gatekeepers more seriously.

        • FooBar September 12, 2014 at 5:50 pm

          Reviewers advise; editors decide. So editors don’t need to pressure reviewers, they can simply override their advice.


          Don’t really see how it is possible for an editor to go against the recommendations of the reviewers.

          I haven’t, ever, got a paper accepted with 3/3 negative reviews. With 1/3, sure. I could imagine acceptance with one strongly positive review and the other 2 ‘on the fence’, if the editor likes the work.

          So, in other words, a subset of the reviewers must have changed their opinion of the paper.

          • BioBrains September 13, 2014 at 6:39 am

            From reading the reviews I don’t get the impression that the reviewers necessarily reject the paper (i.e. that the reviews are ‘negative’). They just pose a lot of valid concerns (rightly so) that they feel need to be addressed. And they do this precisely because of the potential high impact (and accompanying high general interest) of these findings. There’s a decent chance that in their confidential comments to the editor (which you can almost always submit separately from the comments to the authors, i.e. the reviews we’ve seen) they wrote something along the line of: “if this is real, then it would be a splash hit and certainly of interest to the readership of Nature”. That is something the editors often explicitly ask you to weigh in on. Ultimately, the editor decides which of the reviewers’ comments the authors have to address in order for the paper to be accepted.

            What I find insulting is that the authors didn’t fix a few of the tiny things the Science reviewers pointed out (like the splicing). If they were pressed for time/competition (which clearly they weren’t because no one can reproduce what they were doing) they could at least have “fixed” the spliced gel problem by inserting a few lines in the figure. Or did they, since none of the Nature reviewers comments on that, and did they mistakingly upload an old image in their final submission?

          • Bobito September 13, 2014 at 10:45 am

            These read to me like extremely negative reviews written by experienced and careful reviewers. Writing reviews requires a delicate political sense, and the more so when reviewing for a top journal an article that makes surprising and potentially important claims. One cannot make accusations and bluntly call something fraud or incompetence. One can only indicate skepticism, ask questions, and point out errors. All these reviewers express a lot of incredulity at the claimed results – words like “extraordinary” are not thrown about in reviews – here they are used hyperbolically. The questioning of the experimental methods and the presentation and analysis of the data (what else is there?) is withering. The questions asked are not minor ones, and the reviewers do not propose many positive resolutions to most of the questions they raise. I’ve written strongly negative reviews that came nowhere near these. The tone of disbelief is palpable, and a word like “magical” is code for “possibly fraudulent”.

          • JATdS September 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm

            “Writing reviews requires a delicate political sense”. I have had some of the worst, most indelicate and reproachable peer reviewer comments imaginable. I am now making a compilation of some of those comments received over about a decade of publishing that will be released publically when ready. When editors rely on the judgment of “peers” that use bad or insulting language, or even totally false or incorrect assessments, should those editors not be called out publically? The great problem at the moment is that scientists are too afraid to speak out against the all-might editors simply because exposure of what they have decided, based on their own bad judgment or on the bad judgment of others, could lead to a ban of that scientist from that journal, or that publisher. And which scientist is going to risk his/her neck to expose faulty peer review? Almost none… until now. Dissent is currently the greatest taboo in science publishing, but it’s like a dormant volcano just waiting to blow its lid. Scientists have the fundamental responsibility of exposing bad or fraudulent peer review, or biased editors who make value judgments based on those very same flawed reviews. This is because, at least for the main-stream publishers, those papers then get published, copyrights get scalped from scientists and publishers then churn out so-called “peer reviewed” science for a profit. A rotten scientist, I believe, only becomes rotten when the environment he is inserted into is rotten. The publishers have created a niche that encourages all sorts of dishonesty and fraud, and now they are trying to do a 180-turn-around with a massive “ethics” campaign starting from the past 2-5 years, I estimate. Before then, it was almost like a harem of do whatever you please with “ethics” guidelines that were rarely enforced, or with peer review or editorial judgments that may have been challenged, but never publically exposed. I am VERY pro the release of peer reports that are faulty, biased, slanderous or otherwise sloppy, unprofessional, or useless. If we have a public listing of such peer review reports, in a type of web-site like PubPeer, in which such bad peer reports are listed based on publisher and journal, or editor, then we will start to see REAL accountability. These Obokata-related peer reports were leaked (by whoever), and will hopefully spur reviewers who have felt their judgment to be disrespected by the editors to release them, or scientists who have felt insulted, or unfairly judged by the editors, to release them.

          • Scrutineer September 13, 2014 at 11:34 am

            Foobar – in science, there are as many fraudulent reviewers as there are fraudulent authors: these being the same set of scallywags with two different hats on. Delaying and trashing a competitor’s paper is not considered a rare event. This is a key reason why editors must decide. Good editors try to deal with this. There are, though, persistent rumours that Nature let the big guys get away with trashing the papers of their less vaunted competitors.

            Back to STAP: We haven’t seen the later rounds of commenting and it is possible that referee criticism was reduced after revision. Or it might not have been.

            But the referees did get something very important done. They asked for the STAP cells to be genotyped. This was done in a different lab to the STAP cell creation, and it was done honestly using the STAP material they had. And when independent researchers got their hands on the NGS data, they found that the mouse strain and the sex were different (or sometimes mixed up) to those that were stated. And there was no T Cell DNA rearrangement. End of story for STAP.

            Most referees don’t expect all their criticisms to be met, but there are things they want to see. I would not criticise a referee for toning down the criticism, if they knew that vital info such as the NGS data that would unambiguously identify the cell origins was being made available to the research community. Job done.

            Of course, if an editor publishes a pile of ordure and his or her back is not covered by the referees, then people will naturally think that they are incompetent at their job. Although in this case that might be a misunderstanding, as their job is to maximise profits for NPG. Thinking this lot serve the research community is touchingly naive.

        • Maria September 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm

          Not sure about life sciences, but in my field it’s the case that the more specialized venues are considered “better” because the reviewers are more likely to be closer to the topic and therefore more likely to give meaningful feedback. Papers which appear in “broader” venues are definitely seen, by-and-large, as weaker, etc. Sometimes I see papers appear in PNAS (which I was not familiar with until recently) and wonder how they made it in at all :).
          More to the point, these were very negative reviews. It’s stunning a paper would be accepted with such reviews, though I guess editorial discretion is paramount ? and perhaps they took a chance on a “controversial” paper ?

        • bill October 4, 2014 at 8:15 pm

          “Like others here, I am very impressed with the overall quality of the reviews of this paper from both Science and Nature that have become public.” I am not.

    • cghoogstraten September 12, 2014 at 5:22 pm


  • ferniglab September 12, 2014 at 11:06 am

    So 3 reviews from Science, 3 from Nature, plus 3 short ones from Nature on the second paper and only one reviewer spotted the data manipulation. Expert reviews yes, but only 1/6 caught the data manipulation. Given recent examples of retracted papers being republished elsewhere, this leads to the simple conclusion: peer review is important, but it cannot provide anything other than a very preliminary filter. Post publication peer review is clearly much more important.
    Meanwhile, we await a statement form Nature relating to its responsibility in this sad affair.

    • Scrutineer September 12, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      All six referees worked hard to understand the science. To look for fraud requires switching out of the science mentality and going into sleuth mode. Highly sensitised individuals such as yourself might do so as a matter of course; most don’t. Even so, one of the Nature referees picked up on the dog that didn’t bark, er, the mouse that wasn’t black. (So actually 2/6 caught some naughtiness.) Something I wonder is whether Science provided larger higher resolution figures than Nature so the errant gel was easier to spot for the Science referees? Nature seems to regard figures as so much window-dressing to prettify their papers but not actually to be studied.

      “Meanwhile, we await a statement from Nature relating to its responsibility…”

      Well wouldn’t this be for the first time ever? It is well known that everything is always for the best in the best possible journal is their mantra. My lowly expectations are for something along the lines of “Nature exclusively publishes only the trendiest science. We create fashions in science where others only follow. In early 2014, white was the new black for chic young Chimaeras. Nature editors could not have foreseen that by mid-2014, the trend would reverse so rapidly and that black would be the new black.”

      • ferniglab September 12, 2014 at 3:32 pm

        You are right about Nature, but in this case someone has died, so perhaps they will wake up to the fact that they have responsibility. However, like you, I doubt it, which tells us a lot about Nature and why we should neither publish there nor read it until such time as they do accept that they have some responsibility in this matter.

        • JATdS September 12, 2014 at 3:47 pm

          When you say Nature, do you specifically mean Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and its entire fleet of journals, or only Nature? You cannot separate the head from the rest of the body, so your call for a boycott of this publisher’s journals might not be well received, especially because none of the other main commercial publishers like Elsevier Ltd., Springer Science and Business Media, Taylor and Francis and the Routledge Group, or Wiley, among other smaller players, have ever publically released peer review reports. Moreover, fragmentary evidence appears to support the fact that it was RIKEN management that was applying the pressure, suggesting that they were to hold greater responsibility than NPG. In all cases, only the authors are fully responsible for their papers’ content, although the editors, reviewers, journals and publishers also share a portion of the blame. We can bedevil the editors or reviewers for not discovering the errors, or for not preventing them from getting through, but ultimately, who made these errors were Obokata et al., including Sasai, Niwa, Vacanti and others.

          • JATdS September 12, 2014 at 4:44 pm

            Science is fascinating. And so is the power struggle that underlines it. This couldn’t be more evident than a new study by Takashima et al. [1] which is being touted as “a major step forward” and “opening up a new realm of research into the start of human development and potentially life-saving regenerative medicines” [2]. I think these hyperbolic descriptions give rise to problems. I am no specialist in human pluripotent stem cells, but as I look at this mega paper, in terms of sheer size and techniques employed, one simple thing stands out: why are there no statistical analyses for these types of data sets that seem to claim that treatment X is better / higher / lower / worse than treatment Y? For example, wouldn’t interpretation of Fig 3D, 4B, 6D, S6A/C, 7E/D/G/H, or S9B/C benefit from a simple, but perhaps enlightening statistical analysis?


        • Scrutineer September 13, 2014 at 10:18 am

          Like it or not, vanity scientific publishing is here to stay. It is promoted by editors, it flatters scientists and is bean counted by the science-light jobsworths infesting the institutes who confuse impact factor with research quality.

          What has changed though is that Nature and their ilk have lost control of scientific communication. Scurrilous or incompetent editorialship can now be exposed to tens of thousands of scientists and indeed the lay public. As the self-important prima donnas (er, that should read Nature editors) never have frank and open discussions with regular scientists, they may not be aware of the widespread negative perception about the actually quality of the work they publish. Science 2.0 is telling ‘em now though.

          Honesty is fundamental to the practice and dissemination of science. When Nature writes sanctimonious articles about their fair and impartial editorial and refereeing procedures, they do not admit to entering into bidding wars for “big articles” with Science and Cell. But they do this all the time. Hypocrites.

          I expect they are following the blogs covering the STAP disasters. They could come here and deny what is said in the paragraph above. But they won’t. Even they must realise the derision that that would elicit.

          If we are going to continue with the vanity journals (and I don’t think we have a choice), they must move to be more honest and maximise openness, information delivery and real value. Things as basic as providing the method in a methods paper (STAP). Things like making the review trail available (c.f. EMBO J). Things like making the figures big enough to be useful in the electronic publishing era (Science and Cell have done this for years). Things like publishing original gels in the supplements (as most NPG journals already do).

          We have now seen: whenever Nature emits a turd, they will be called stinky. There is no hiding place on teh intarwebs. They are not in control. Joe Scientist is in control now. They surely don’t know it yet but they are going to move to a more honest, transparent and scientifically useful publishing mode. PPPR will make them. It will happen and the only uncertainty is how long it will take. Any bets as to when?

          • JATdS September 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm

            A fabulous assessment and a slam-dunk critique of the establishment, Scrutineer! Joe the Scientist is still far from being in control, however. Imagine all scientists were to enforce a global boycott on NPG (or any other giant STM publisher) for a year. The company would go bankrupt and the publisher would then be on its knees to conduct publishing in the way that scientists need science to be published. It is precisely because of the glossy and faux rewards systems in place that we, the Joe the Scientists are simply sitting on the side-lines. Yes, public outrage, the exposure of fraud, errors, dishonesty and a massive discussion among academics over the past 2-3 years, fuelled by critical analysis on blogs like RW will bring us closer to usurping power from the current global publishing elite. But not too soon. This is a multi-billion dollar business whose most powerful players, including Thomson Reuters, Elsevier, Springer, and their associated “ethics” bodies, “ethics” software companies and a whole group of powerful marketing corporate elite are adapting, evolving and molding their business models to appear to be reflecting the voice of the Joe the Scientists, but in fact while retaining full control of the business platform, with much tighter norms than ever before. Think about it, how many open access journals have Elsevier and Springer begun to publish over the past 2-3 years, most likely to counter the rot of the “predatory” OA journals. They are not sleeping, they are constantly assessing (including with their irritating 10-minute online surveys with the chance of winning a 50 US$ Amazon gift card) scientists, scientists’ feelings and their needs, and evolving to please, and to ensure that the profit snow-ball keeps increasing to satisfy share-holders. Those scientists who still do not understand that we are the pawns of a very powerful chess-game (and have been for the past few centuries) are living on cloud 9, or have very comfortable positions embellished with generous grants often derived from the slaving tax-payers in the under-belly of society that props up this whole carcass called pseudo-science. There is no way to defeat this beast except through grass-roots revolution. The science spring will be a long process, and will take many seasons over many years because we have to first flush out an entire generation of establishment supporters. So, I bet that this could only take place when you and I are too old to ever read this screen any longer…

          • Scrutineer September 14, 2014 at 7:28 am

            I did not mean to imply that Joe Scientist controls the research institutes, or the publishers. Joe Scientist does not. But there is no doubt that Nature lost control of the STAP discussion. Bigtime. This was driven by the PPPR blogs and their allies and picked up gleefully by Nature’s rival publications. Nature’s news sections and own blogs have had to keep covering the unfolding disaster. This is, in my opinion, the first time that their “editorially independent” hacks have ever properly covered one of their own publishing disasters.

            NPG gets most of their dosh from library subscriptions. Each year they charge more, even in bad economic times. Only a broadly based institutional library boycott could hurt them. Mind you, they should give a rebate next year for all those retractions they have had to make in 2013 😉

            So your bet for vanity publishing reform is only in the rather long term? I hope not: note to self, must try harder.

          • JATdS September 15, 2014 at 8:33 pm

            Scrutineer, your note to self is a note that I have had on my wall for at least 10 years now, and the fruit that has been borne has been extremely bitter-sweet. These are all essential observations and the blog you refer to is only the beginning of the fermentation and eruption of a very angry and disappointed base that is beginning to express itself publically after shedding its fear of the establishment. Angry with other scientists, angry with the editors, angry at journals, angry at the system (including librarians that feed it), angry at the publishers. But, I argue that the base will stay angry, disappointed and disillusioned for a very long time because a wide swathe of the base (maybe the majority) uses and abuses the system to their advantage. So, you are not seeing masses of scientists moving away from the impact factor, they are tending even more towards it. You are subsequently seeing more faculties base tenure, grants, salaries and positions on the impact factor and other useless metrics. And Thomson Reuters just sits back in glee because they know they scientists will take their silly marketing tools forward and do the dirty work of global expansion for them. The publishing tyranny has bred a class of scientist that abuses trust and honesty to advance their careers and thus to ensure survival on this planet. So, dishonesty by scientists, as well as dishonesty by publishers (for example opaque traction notices, increasingly draconian systems, the failure to act when errors are reported to save their own reputations, etc.), is nothing more than a modern day Darwinian “survival of the species” in this sector of society. Actually, a lot of people are whipping Nature (or NPG), but my personal experience is that I have felt some of my “revolutionary” ideas submitted to Nature were rejected, but I often saw flawed analyses and “sensationalist” pieces being published. So, I felt that the system was unfair and this could be the start of the unravelling of Nature, but I think not. For example, I assume that you are observing things from the US perspective. Here in SE Asia and in fact most of the Indian subcontinent, not to mention the African continent, the impact factor has almost the power of a demi-god. If you start a conversation with a Chinese or Indian scientist and tell that that you have a new journal, you can bet your bottom dollar the almost the first question they will ask is if it has an impact factor. I assume that US scientists and others from the EU and UK will know better than to deify this useless object, but not so for great swathes of this planet. And when I say the impact factor, I mean traditional publishing status quo symbols like Elsevier, Springer, Nature, Science, etc. that have dominated for decades. On the issue of librarians being responsible, I had an argument with Jeffrey Beall about that once as he exposed the slack system in place to select books, journals, etc. That argument had evolved around the publisher, Nova Science Publishers based in New York. It’s always easier for people to squander money that’s not theirs, often driven by sleazy sales people with a smooth tongue and small gifts to pamper librarians (this is one dark under-belly of science publishing that is little known, and little explored).

          • Scrutineer September 15, 2014 at 3:54 pm

            Here is a contemporary (published yesterday) take on the efforts that scientific publishers make to limit information flow among scientists


            Many of the people who like to stop by here will be well informed about that stripy nanoparticles saga. But for those who have missed it, the “nanopoint” for NPG was reached when a Nature Materials editor was outed for astroturfing. Numerous comments on this curious behaviour can easily be found on the intarwebs, but this is as good a starting point as any


            So that is another discussion that Nature was not in control of. Maybe we should start collecting ’em – anyone have a suitable blog where we can collect the full set 😉

          • JATdS September 24, 2014 at 4:08 am

            What is the relationship, if any, between RIKEN and the Nature office in Tokyo? Also, it would be interesting to learn if any contacts were held directly between RIKEN and NPG, not at the editorial level, but perhaps at the management level.

  • JATdS May 21, 2015 at 8:36 am

    A brief update. Searchng the web using the terms “Obokata” and “current”, in Japanese of course, one finds a very interesting finding:
    The total cost of the experiments associated with STAP cells is a blistering 8360万円, or 83,600,000 Jpn Yen, which roughly translates into 690,310 US$ (using converter). Of that, Obokata was requested by Riken to return 60万円, or 600,000 Jpn Yen, which roughly translates into 4952 US$ (using converter). A measly pittance for misconduct. One could proverbially say that misconduct pays nicely, literally.

  • JATdS October 29, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Mainstream media in Japan is reporting that Waseda University decided yesterday (29 October, 2015) to withdraw Obokata’s PhD title. Exactly when this will take place has not yet been decided.

  • JATdS December 18, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Two papers that have corrected the STAP papers have themselves been corrected:


    “During extensive revisions of this BCA, we inadvertently omitted a citation by Takaho A. Endo that used variant calls from RNA-seq data to conclude that the purported Fgf4-induced stem cells (FI-SCs) described in Obokata et al.1 constituted a mixture of trophoblastic and embryonic stem cells2. Our analysis, performed independently, reached similar conclusions. We regret this oversight.”

    Endo, T. A. Quality control method for RNA-seq using single nucleotide polymorphism allele frequency. Genes Cells 19, 821–829 (2014)

    Obokata, H. et al. Bidirectional potential in reprogrammed cells with acquired pluripotency. Nature 505, 676–680 (2014)


    “In this Review, a sentence was added at proof stages and we inadvertently omitted a citation to a study from the laboratory of Jacob Hanna1. This reference citation should have appeared associated with the sentence: “The observation that naive cells tolerate depletion of epigenetic regulators supports the concept of naive pluripotency as a configuration with a reduced requirement for epigenetic repression compared to primed PS cells and somatic cells1.”

    Geula, S. et al. m6A mRNA methylation facilitates resolution of naïve pluripotency toward differentiation. Science 347, 1002–1006 (2015)

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