Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘nature publishing group’ Category

“The data have spoken:” Controversial NgAgo gene editing study retracted

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The author of a 2016 paper describing a potentially invaluable lab tool has retracted it, following heavy criticism from outside groups that could not reproduce the findings.

The paper had already been tagged with an Expression of Concern by the journal, Nature Biotechnology, which included data from multiple groups casting doubt on the original findings. Although the authors, led by Chunyu Han at Hebei University of Science and Technology in China, produced data to support their original findings, the journal has concluded — following “feedback from expert reviewers” — that the additional data “are insufficient to counter the substantial body of evidence that contradicts their initial findings,” according to an editorial released today:

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Controversial CRISPR paper earns second editorial note

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Against the authors’ objections, Nature Methods has added an expression of concern to a 2017 paper that drew fire for suggesting a common gene editing technique could cause widespread collateral damage to the genome. The latest note — the second to be added in two months — alerts readers to an alternative interpretation of the findings.

When “Unexpected mutations after CRISPR–Cas9 editing in vivo” was published May 30, it immediately drew criticism from many of the top scientists working with CRISPR, including those associated with companies seeking to develop CRISPR-based therapies for humans. Share prices for the two largest companies pursuing CRISPR therapies, Editas Medicine and Intellia Therapeutics, dropped following publication of the article.

On June 14, the journal published a notice to alert readers to “technical criticisms” of the paper. Apparently, that wasn’t sufficient, because the journal is now providing more details on the nature of the criticisms, despite the objections of the paper’s authors:

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Months after neuroscientist flagged errors, Nature journal corrects them — and more

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When a neuroscientist noticed there were problems with his January 2017 paper in Nature Neuroscience, he didn’t wait for the journal to take action — instead, he published his concerns about four figures on PubMed Commons. Months later, the journal has issued formal corrections to those figures — along with several more.   

In February 2017, we praised Garret Stuber for alerting the scientific community to issues in his paper only 10 days after it first appeared online. On Twitter, he directed followers to the comment on PubMed Commons and asked them to retweet “for the sake of science integrity” — yet another example of how more researchers are taking matters into their own hands to alert readers to flaws in their papers. But according to the journal, the problems with the paper were more extensive than Stuber initially reported. Read the rest of this entry »

Nature Chemistry issues its first retraction

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For the first time in its eight-year history, Nature Chemistry has retracted a paper, citing “data integrity issues.”

The 2010 paper, which explored how various iron-based molecules interact with water and ethanol, was withdrawn after the authors uncovered possible duplication in two images.

According to the retraction notice, the authors could not provide the raw data to confirm their findings and could not reproduce the figures because the experimental set-up had been dismantled. The authors subsequently requested the paper be retracted because the issues undermined “our full confidence in the integrity of the study.”

Here’s the retraction notice for “Charge transfer to solvent identified using dark channel fluorescence-yield L-edge spectroscopy”: Read the rest of this entry »

Nature retracts paper by stem cell scientist appealing her dismissal

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Susana Gonzalez

A once-rising star in stem cell biology — who recently lost both her job and a sizable grant — has had a fourth paper retracted.

The notice — issued by Nature for a 2006 letter — cites duplicated images, and a lack of raw data to verify the findings. First author Susana Gonzalez — who was dismissed from her position at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain last February over allegations of misconduct — couldn’t be reached by the journal.

Here’s the full text of the retraction notice:

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Widely publicized Nature study on human age limit draws fire

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Statisticians are mounting a challenge to a much-publicized study suggesting that human lifespan has a limit of approximately 115 years — 125, tops.

Published last October in Nature, the study from scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York was the eleventh most talked-about piece of research in 2016, according to Altmetric. The paper is not yet indexed in Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

But now, multiple research teams have described what they see as flaws in either the statistical methods or underlying reasoning of the study. Today, Nature published five peer-reviewed rebuttals, in response to the study. Another scientist described his concerns about the paper in April in F1000 Research.

The five papers in Nature are published as Brief Communications Arising, the journal’s way of flagging an important debate over a paper. The short papers provide new data to challenge a central part of a paper’s conclusions. The study’s authors, however, have responded to all five, defending their methods, especially their controversial decision to rely in part upon a visual inspection of mortality data in concluding there is a limit to human lifespan. Senior author Jan Vijg, a geneticist, told Retraction Watch:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

June 28th, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Instead of retracting a flawed study, a journal let authors re-do it. It got retracted anyway.

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When a journal discovers elementary design flaws in a paper, what should it do? Should it retract immediately, or are there times when it makes sense to give the researchers time to perform a “do-over?”

These are questions the editors at Scientific Reports recently faced with a somewhat controversial 2016 paper, which reported that microRNAs from broccoli could make their way into the nuclei of human cells — suggesting that the food we eat could affect our gene expression.

After the paper appeared, researcher Kenneth Witwer at Johns Hopkins — who was not a co-author — posted comments on PubMed Commons and the paper itself, noting that the authors hadn’t properly designed the experiment, making it impossible for them to detect broccoli microRNAs. 

But instead of retracting the paper, the journal decided to give the authors time to do the experiments again, this time with correctly designed molecular biology tools. When that failed, they retracted it — and as part of the notice, reported the exact opposite conclusion of the original.

Witwer said the authors did a “tremendous job” with the follow-up study, but he still thinks the journal should have retracted the paper immediately. Letting the authors redo it is “a dangerous precedent to set,” he told us:   

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Journal alerts readers to “technical criticism” of CRISPR study

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A Nature journal has posted a editor’s note to a recent letter on potential unintended consequences of CRISPR gene editing, after an executive at a company trying to commercialize the technology said the paper should be retracted.

The original article, published on May 30 as a correspondence in Nature Methods, suggested that using CRISPR in mice can lead to unexpected mutations. But last week, the journal added an “Editorial note” online. Nature Methods says the notice is not an expression of concern, which would be a stronger suggestion that the paper is problematic; it simply wants to alert readers to the fact that, as the note states:

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NIH neuroscientist up to 16 retractions

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Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport just can’t catch a break.

Rapoport, who’s based at National Institute on Aging, is continuing to experience fallout from his research collaborations, after multiple co-authors have been found to have committed misconduct.

Most recently, Rapoport has had four papers retracted in three journals, citing falsified data in a range of figures. Although the notices do not specify how the data falsification occurred, Jagadeesh Rao, who was recently found guilty of research misconduct, is corresponding author on all four papers.

Back in December, Rapoport told us that a “number of retractions [for] Rao are still in the works:” Read the rest of this entry »

A university asked for numerous retractions. Eight months later, three journals have done nothing.

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Anil Jaiswal

When journals learn papers are problematic, how long does it take them to act?

We recently had a chance to find out as part of our continuing coverage of the case of Anil Jaiswal at the University of Maryland, who’s retracted 15 papers (including two new ones we recently identified), and has transitioned out of cancer research. Here’s what happened.

As part of a public records request related to the investigation, we received letters that the University of Maryland sent to 11 journals regarding 26 “compromised” papers co-authored by Jaiswal, four of which had been retracted by the time of the letter. The letters were dated between August and September 2016 (and one in February) — although, in some cases, the journals told us they received the letter later. Since that date, three journals have retracted nine papers and corrected another, waiting between four and six months to take action. One journal published an editorial note of concern within approximately two months after the university letter.

And six journals have not taken any public action.

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