In an interesting letter printed in today’s Nature, biologists Sophien Kamoun and Cyril Zipfel suggest that “failure by authors to correct their mistakes should be classified as scientific misconduct.”
They note that this policy is already in place at their institute, The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL).
We contacted Kamoun to ask what constituted a mistake, given that numerous papers have received queries, such as on sites like PubPeer, but it’s not clear whether those are legitimate mistakes. He told us:
The main point is that when someone points to an error or even a potential error it should be the author’s responsibility to address it promptly. I’m not sure how else to define an “error” or a “mistake” beyond the dictionary’s definition. The author may feel that the error/mistake is not valid or is irrelevant. But it remains the author’s responsibility to respond and not to ignore the criticism. The analogy would be the way authors would to pre-publication peer reviews. As we wrote, snubbing criticism by not addressing it promptly goes counter to our fundamental ethos as scientists and threatens to erode society’s trust in the scientific community.
I don’t think the author should wait until the error is independently validated before they react. But seeking independent validation could be part of the response of the author.
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