Archive for the ‘mega-corrections’ Category
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.
After the article was published in 2015, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) organized a letter signed by more than 100 researchers, urging the publication to retract the article. Today, the journal said it found “no grounds” to do so.
However, in a press release accompanying the announcement of the correction, the BMJ notes that some aspects of the CSPI’s criticisms were merited.
Editor in chief Fiona Godlee said in a statement:
A researcher charged with embezzlement — and now the subject of a multi-million dollar lawsuit — has earned another correction, again citing “unreliable” data.
But this doesn’t appear to be a run-of-the-mill correction notice.
Firstly, it affects a paper co-authored by Erin Potts-Kant and William Foster, former Duke employees now being sued (along with Duke) for including fraudulent data in $200 million worth of federal grants. Secondly, the notice in the Journal of Biological Chemistry is four paragraphs long, and includes six figures — it would normally be considered a “mega-correction.” But lastly, even though the notice is labeled a “correction,” it’s not immediately apparent which aspects of the paper are being changed.
The retraction includes some familiar names: The last author Steven Grant, senior author of the newly retracted study, is also the last author of 11 papers flagged in a report by the ORI in December, 2015. That report focused on Girija Dasmahapatra, a co-author of the 11 studies who was also based at at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Dasmahapatra left VCU in 2015, and is not listed on the latest retraction.
The retracted paper, published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), was also co-authored by Paul Dent, a biochemist at the VCU, who we mentioned last year when he offered to retract another paper in Molecular Pharmacology after concerns arose on PubPeer. The journal has instead issued a lengthy correction (what we call a “mega-correction”).
A VCU spokesperson told us:
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In April 2015, a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics welcomed the ban by the Chinese government as “a step in the right direction,” but noted that China remains plagued by a crucial shortage in available organs.
Some academics disagreed with the authors’ take on the issue, noting that the paper fails to note that many organs may continue to be harvested from Chinese prisoners of conscience; ultimately, the journal received a letter asking to retract the paper. The journal decided not to, and instead asked the authors to issue a lengthy correction, for instance changing the language about the government decision (“law” became“guideline”), and allowed critics to publish a rebuttal to the paper in May 2016. Read the rest of this entry »
Plant biologists have issued a major correction (what we dub “mega“) after realizing a significant mistake in their experiment.
The 2014 paper shows that a protein known as RAP plays a key role in chloroplast biogenesis. But as Ludwig Maximilians University-based authors Alexandra-Viola Bohne and Laura Kleinknecht continued to do their research, they found an error in the design of primers they used to synthesize the RNA for their experiments — and told us they are concerned other researchers could run into the same problem.
Although the authors considered retracting the paper, since its main conclusion was unaffected, they issued a correction notice, published in April in Plant Cell:
If 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 »
Kang Cheng prepared the gels when he was a research fellow in last author Sanjeev Gupta‘s lab at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Gupta told us he reviewed the original gels, and the errors didn’t affect the conclusions in the papers, which were reproducible. He noted he believes the problems are the result of honest mistakes:
The errors did not confer any benefits whatsoever either for the papers or for Dr. Cheng.
On PubPeer, commenters have raised questions about the now corrected papers — along with several others on which Gupta is the senior author, but Cheng is not a co-author.
Edward Burns, research integrity officer at Einstein, told us that the medical school looked into an allegation of misconduct against Gupta:
Two retractions and three corrections have appeared for a group of Duke researchers that already have 10+ retractions under their belts.
The reasoning behind them echoes that which we’ve seen before in notices for Michael Foster and Erin Potts-Kant: Following an inquiry from the university, the journals were informed that some of the data or results weren’t reliable, and not all of the experiments could be repeated.
A colleague aware of the case said that researchers are still working to repeat experiments from papers by Potts-Kant and Foster. It is not known how many more papers might be corrected or retracted. Duke University is fully supporting the validation of these experiments, the source told us.
Foster has retired from Duke, a spokesperson for the university confirmed. Read the rest of this entry »
A highly cited paper by a well-known scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies longevity could have aged better: The ten-year-old paper has earned its second correction.