It’s a busy week at Science. The journal is retracting a controversial paper about which it had previously expressed doubts, and has published an “Expression of Concern” about another article that looks like it might be headed for the same fate.
First, the retraction.
The move involves an October 2009 paper, on which we’ve previously posted, by European researchers who claimed to have made a major advance in the ability to watch how enzymes behave in cells — thereby giving scientists a new tool for monitoring the function of genes.
The journal Cell has retracted a paper on fruit fly genetics over concerns that the first author, a postdoc in a German laboratory, might have manipulated dozens of electron micrographs in the manuscript.
A leading German anesthesiologist with more than 200 papers to his name has been accused of misrepresenting critical aspects of a paper — possibly including the data itself — published late last year in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.
Both Retraction Watch bloggers are all too familiar with the artwork in dermatology journals. One of us, AM, used to write for Skin & Aging, while the other, IO, waited eagerly for issues of Cutissent to his pediatrician father to show up on the coffee table. And IO recently broke the incredibly important story of “Mexican beer dermatitis.”
One of the world’s leading cancer researchers, Axel Ullrich of Germany, has retracted two papers published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Ullrich, director of microbiology at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, has been a central figure in many groundbreaking discoveries, from the development of genetically engineered insulin to the identification of the breast cancer gene HER2. The founder of several biotech firms, he also runs an international consortium, the Singapore Oncogenome Project, looking for other so-called oncogenes linked to protein-tyrosine kinase, or PTK, an enzyme that regulates cell growth and which, when run amok, is implicated in a variety of tumor types.
Now comes news about another stem cell finding. The International Journal of Urology has retracted a 2009 paper by Japanese researchers who claimed to have used stem cells derived from fatty tissue to treat urinary incontinence in two men. The men had developed bladder problems after undergoing surgery to remove their cancerous prostates.
Authorship issues, sloppy science, deception — more often than not, at least one of these is at the heart of a retracted paper. But it’s rare when all three are involved. Which, of course, means that such a case is precisely what we’re about to deliver.
Most retractions happen in the dark: An article appears in print. One day it is withdrawn, with only a brief paragraph or two on the page to alert us to its fate.
On rare occasions, however, the process is more transparent, and when that happens it’s like the publishing equivalent of a supernova, a chance to glimpse in (here’s where the cosmic analogy stalls) almost real-time the retraction as it unfolds.
Here’s one of those unusual events.
The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology this week has retracted a March 2010 paper by Ni and colleagues in China, in which the authors reported that elderly women with osteoarthritis of the knee gained significant improvement in physical function and pain from a six-week course of tai chi. That claim is hardly controversial—other researchers have produced similar results and published studies of tai chi’s benefits for arthritis patients date back nearly a decade on Medline.