Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘nature retractions’ Category

Nature paper with massive correction can’t be reproduced, says independent group

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In 2011, authors of a Nature letter caught some flak for issuing a lengthy correction to a neuroscience paper that had raised eyebrows within days of publication — including some suggestions it should be retracted.

The correction notice, published months after the original letter, cited errors in image choice and labeling, but asserted the conclusions remained valid.

Now, those conclusions appear up for debate. In a recent Nature Brief Communications Arising (BCA) article, a team that raised concerns about the paper five years ago says they are unable to reproduce the results. But the authors of the original paper aren’t convinced: They argue that the BCA fails to cite important evidence, has a “complete absence or low quality of analysis,” and the scientists disregard some of their data.

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Investigation raises questions about top cancer researcher’s work

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Journal of Pathology

A prominent pancreatic cancer researcher has lost a meeting abstract and corrected a Nature paper following an institutional investigation.

Queen Mary University of London determined that, in an abstract by Thorsten Hagemann, “elements of the study summarised by this abstract are not reliable.” Hagemann has recently issued a correction to a 2014 Nature paper he co-authored, which also cited the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) investigation, noting there was reason to question the provenance of the data.

Hagemann is currently the medical director of Immodulon Therapeutics, and has long been recognized for his work in the field, including a three-year grant of £180,000 from the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund in 2013.

Here’s the retraction notice from the The Journal of Pathology, regarding an abstract from the 7th Joint Meeting of the British Division of the International Academy of Pathology and the Pathological Society of Great Britain & Ireland: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors pull Nature paper about DEET and flies

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Nature CoverAuthors have retracted a Nature paper which identified neurons that render flies sensitive to a potent insect repellent, after losing confidence in the findings. The first author, however, said she does not agree with the retraction, noting that she continues to believe the data are correct.

According to the notice, the remaining authors say they no longer support the claim that certain neurons in the antennae of fruit flies are repelled by DEET, the active ingredient in many insect repellents. The last author told us some of the paper’s results are not in doubt; nevertheless, he added, the paper would not have been published in Nature without the key conclusion, so he and most of his co-authors have pulled the paper in its entirety.

Alongside the retraction, the journal has also published a Brief Communications Arising article by scientists who were unable to reproduce the paper’s findings.

Here’s the retraction notice, published today:
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Should researchers guilty of misconduct go to “rehab”?

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A report on the first few years of “researcher rehab” suggests that three days of intensive training have a lasting impact on participants.

Specifically, among participants — all of whom had been found guilty of at least one type of misconduct — the authors report that:

A year later, follow-up surveys indicate that the vast majority have changed how they work.

The authors claim this shows the program is worth the time and investment — a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, and a cost of $3,000 per participant for the three-day course. Do you agree? Tell us what you think in our poll at the end of the story.

Infractions ranged from consent issues for human subjects, plagiarism, and outright fraud. Still, researchers who need this training aren’t much different from everyone else, the authors note in “Lessons of researcher rehab,” published today by Nature: Read the rest of this entry »

Structural biology corrections highlight best of the scientific process

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Nature_latest-coverIf you need evidence of the value of transparency in science, check out a pair of recent corrections in the structural biology literature.

This past August, researchers led by Qiu-Xing Jiang at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center corrected their study, first published in February 2014 in eLife, of prion-like protein aggregates called MAVS filaments, to which they had ascribed the incorrect “helical symmetry.” In March, Richard Blumberg of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues corrected their 2014 Nature study of a protein complex called CEACAM1/TIM-3, whose structure they had attempted to solve using x-ray crystallography.

In both cases, external researchers were able to download and reanalyze the authors’ own data from public data repositories, making it quickly apparent what had gone wrong and how it needed to be fixed — highlighting the very best of a scientific process that is supposed to be self-correcting and collaborative. Read the rest of this entry »

Nature fixes highly cited paper suggesting food additives hurt the gut

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Nature_latest coverA 2015 study about dietary emulsifiers has been corrected by Nature after another researcher pointed out a few ambiguities.

When it first appeared, the study — which showed emulsifiers cause inflammation in the guts of mice — received a fair amount of media attention, including from Nature’s own news department. But since publication, a researcher noted some imprecision around the ages of mice used in the sample, affecting the paper’s calculations of weight gain over time. Andrew Gewirtz, co-author of the study from Georgia State University, told us the change did not affect the conclusions of the paper.

Here’s the corrigendum for “Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome”: Read the rest of this entry »

How much does a retracted result pollute the field?

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Research Integrity and Peer Review

When a paper is retracted, how many other papers in the same field — which either cite the finding or cite other papers that do — are affected?

That’s the question examined by a study published in BioMed Central’s new journal, Research Integrity and Peer Review. Using the case of a paper retracted from Nature in 2014, the authors found that subsequent research that cites the retracted paper often repeats the problematic finding, thereby spreading it throughout the field. However, papers that indirectly cited the retracted result — by citing the papers that cited the Nature paper, but not the Nature paper itself — typically don’t repeat the retracted result, which limits its spread.

Here’s how the authors describe their findings in the paper: Read the rest of this entry »

Physicists retract Nature paper on Earth’s core after findings aren’t reproducible

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cover_naturePhysicists have retracted a highly cited paper from Nature on the behavior of electrons at the center of the Earth after other researchers could not reproduce their findings.

The 2015 paper earned coverage in Science News and Live Science, where co-author Ronald Cohen explained:

There was a big problem in how you generate a magnetic field, and now, because of our results, that problem has basically gone away.

Here are more details about what the original paper claimed, courtesy of a press release from The Carnegie Institution for Science, where co-authors Peng Zhang and Cohen work: Read the rest of this entry »

High-profile critic slams Nature letters about dinosaur growth following corrections

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cover_nature (1)Authors of a pair of letters in Nature that concluded dinosaurs reached their full size surprisingly quickly are standing by their conclusions, despite challenges from a high-profile critic.

In the letters, researchers led by first author Gregory M. Erickson, a paleobiologist at The Florida State University, concluded that massive dinos grew fast — for example, a 5.5 ton T-Rex could reach skeletal maturity in just two decades. However, when Nathan Myhrvold tried to reanalyze the data, he couldn’t replicate the results. The authors have issued corrections to address the small mistakes unearthed by Myhrvold’s analysis, but argue he couldn’t replicate their results because they hadn’t fully explained their methodology.

After Myhrvold attempted to replicate the findings of maximum size and growth rate for several papers, he found issues in many, including the two Nature letters, according to a press release on Myhrvold’s website: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shannon Palus

March 1st, 2016 at 9:30 am

STAP stem cell researcher Obokata loses another paper

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Nature protocols

The first author of two high-profile Nature retractions about a technique to easily create stem cells has lost another paper in Nature Protocols.

Haruko Obokata, once “a lab director’s dream,” according to The New Yorker, also had her PhD revoked from Waseda University last fall.

After learning of concerns that two figures are “very similar” and “some of the error bars look unevenly positioned,” the rest of the authors were unable to locate the raw data, according to the note. The journal could not reach Obokata for comment before publishing the retraction.

Reproducible subcutaneous transplantation of cell sheets into recipient mice” has been cited 21 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science. It was published in June 2011, soon after Obokata earned her PhD. 

Here’s the note:

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