What happened appears to be a case of “he said, she said:” Littman asked to retract the paper after his lab couldn’t reproduce it, and Huang insists the data remain correct, saying the process had been “unfair and done without due process:”
Last year, chemist Marcus Tius at the University of Hawaii saw a paper describing the synthesis of some organic compounds, and was “struck by the implausibility” of the reported structures. So he joined up with some colleagues to try to replicate the data.
While Tius and his team were trying to repeat the experiment, however, in December 2017 the journal — Organic Letters — retracted the paper. The journal, published by the American Chemical Society, noted that the authors had not been able to produce crystal structures that confirm they had synthesized those compounds in particular. So Tius and his colleagues knew they couldn’t replicate the findings — but carried on their experiment anyway:
The authors of a highly cited 2016 research letter on a way to improve the efficiency of solar panels have retracted their work following “concerns about the reproducibility.”
Given the potential importance of the data, it would be nice to know what exactly went wrong, and why. However, the retraction notice doesn’t provide many details, and doesn’t even specify if the authors did indeed fail to reproduce the data.
A highly cited paper has received a major correction as a result of the ongoing battle over attitudes towards gay people, when a prominent — and polarizing — critic showed it could not be replicated.
In December 2017, researchers led by Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University corrected thepaper, originally published in Social Science & Medicine in February 2014, which showed that gay people who live in areas where people were highly prejudiced against them had a significantly shorter life expectancy. The corrigendum came more than a year after a researcher who has testified against same-sex marriage was unable to replicate the original study.
“Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations,” has been cited 102 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and attracted media coverage when it was published, from outlets such as Reuters andU.S. News & World Report.
It’s clear science has a reproducibility problem. What’s less clear is how to address it. Recently, the U.S. National Institutes of Health awarded the Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI) $2.34 million to train students in good experimental design (also covered by The Scientist). The first week begins June 2018 at Harvard Medical School. We spoke with Leonard P. Freedman, Founding President and Chief Scientific Officer of GBSI and Vivian Siegel, the education director of the program.
What Caught Our Attention: Soon after the paper appeared, the journal was alerted to the fact its findings were at odds with others in the field. When the editor approached the authors, everything fell apart: The authors couldn’t repeat the experiments, and “were also unsure of the molecular probes that were used in the study.” While it isn’t unusual to have doubts about data — since since research is a process of experimentation — it is odd not to know how your experiment was conducted. The paper was retracted less than two months after it was published. The manuscript was accepted two months after it was submitted in early May, theoretically giving reviewers enough time to catch these issues (along with the authors’ failure to cite relevant papers).
Science is retracting a 2014 paper from the lab of a Nobel winner after replication attempts failed to conclusively support the original results.
In January, Bruce Beutler, an immunologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, emailed Science editor-in-chief Jeremy Berg to report that attempts to replicate the findings in “MAVS, cGAS, and endogenous retroviruses in T-independent B cell responses” had weakened his confidence in original results. The paper had found that virus-like elements in the human genome play an important role in the immune system’s response to pathogens.
Although Beutler and several co-authors requested retraction right off the bat, the journal discovered that two co-authors disagreed, which Berg told us drew out the retraction process. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the journal waited for Beutler’s lab to perform another replication attempt. Those findings were inconclusive and the dissenting authors continued to push back against retraction.
Researchers have retracted a 2015 paper in Cell after an investigation revealed the first author committed misconduct.
According to the retraction notice, which first author Ozgur Tataroglu declined to sign, the researchers realized there was an issue with the 2015 paper when they were unable to replicate the findings. Corresponding author Patrick Emery and his team at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester reviewed the data and found “clear evidence” that Tataroglu — who had been a postdoc in Emery’s lab — “had repeatedly misrepresented and altered primary data,” the notice states.
UMass subsequently conducted an investigation in which it “concluded that the first author committed scientific misconduct.”
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: