Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘doing the right thing’ Category

Misidentified genetic sequence causes retraction of pathogen paper one month after publication

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Genome Announcements

The author of an article mapping the genome of an infectious bacterium is pulling the paper because — well, it wasn’t the bacterium she thought it was.

Study author Celia Abolnik is retracting her paper in Genome Announcements because it didn’t actually map out the DNA of Mycoplasma meleagridis, a bacterium that typically infects turkeys but has recently been found in chickens.

The trouble was, the sequence for Mycoplasma meleagridis in the National Institute of Health’s DNA database, Genbank, was actually a different variety of bacteria — Mycoplasma gallinaceum, another scourge of poultry.

Here’s the notice for “Complete Genome Sequence of Mycoplasma meleagridis, a Possible Emerging Pathogen in Chickens:”

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Rabbit redo: Paper on lepus hepatitis pulled for mutation that “was not supposed to be present”

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JGVThe authors of recent article about the rabbit hepatitis E virus have pulled the paper after discovering an unexpected mutation in their viral clone that likely affected the analysis.

They realized their mistake soon after the article, “RNA transcripts of full-length cDNA clones of rabbit hepatitis E virus are infectious in rabbits,” was published online in the Journal of General Virology in November, 2014. They withdrew the article before it made it into print.

The article came from a group led by Xiang-Jin Meng, of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, an offshoot of Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland.

Here’s the notice, which — tsk tsk — sits behind a pay wall: Read the rest of this entry »

The consequences of retraction: Do scientists forgive and forget?

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NBERHere at Retraction Watch, we are reminded every day that everybody  (including us) makes mistakes — what matters is, how you handle yourself when it happens. That’s why we created a “doing the right thing” category, to flag incidents where scientists have owned up to their errors and taken steps to correct them.

We’re not suggesting retractions have no effect on a scientist’s career — a working paper posted last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that principal investigators with retracted papers see an average drop of 10% in citations of their other papers, a phenomenon known as a citation penalty. But they face a bigger penalty if the retraction stemmed from misconduct, rather than an honest mistake.

This jibes with research we’ve seen before, which shows the scientific community can be forgiving when researchers own up to their mistakes – notably, a 2013 study that found scientists face no citation penalty if they ask to retract their own papers, rather than forcing the journal or publisher to act.

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Written by Alison McCook

June 16th, 2015 at 8:00 am

Fungus among us, but what kind? Typing error spawns retraction for mushroom paper

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natprodresAs every mushroom lover knows, weekend mycology is no sport for the lily-livered. Tasty species often look awfully like their deadly cousins. Turns out, typing can even be problematic for the experts.

Natural Products Research is retracting a 2014 paper on shelf fungus because… well, it wasn’t about shelf fungus after all.

The paper, “Chemical constituents: water-soluble vitamins, free amino acids and sugar profile from Ganoderma adspersum,” was written by Ibrahim Kivrak, a food chemist at Mugla Sitki Kocman University in Mugla, Turkey. It analyzed the nutritional components of G. adspersum, and found, per the abstract:

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“[T]hese things can happen in every lab:” Mutant plant paper uprooted after authors correct their own findings

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FrontiersThree biologists at Tokyo Gakugei University in Japan have retracted a 2014 Frontiers in Plant Science paper on abnormal root growth in Arabidopsis “in light of new experimental evidence” showing they fingered the wrong mutant gene. The journal editors are hailing the retraction as an “excellent example of self-correction of the scientific record.”

The paper, “Mechanosensitive channel candidate MCA2 is involved in touch-induced root responses in Arabidopsis,” described the abnormally behaving roots of a mca2-null mutant Arabidopsis plant.

A subsequent string of experiments by the same research team—including DNA microarrays, RT-PCR, and a PCR-based genomic deletion analysis—demonstrated that two other mutations that somehow creeped into their experimental populations may have been to blame for the abnormal root behavior.

It’s a notably thorough and informative retraction notice from Frontiers, an open-access publisher with a history of badly handled and controversial retractions and publishing decisions. The notice describes the new experiments and the previous, erroneous results: Read the rest of this entry »

Chip slip: Irreproducibility erases computer memory paper

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nanoscaleResearchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have retracted a paper in Nanoscale about an experimental computer chip after they were unable to recreate their published results.

“We retract this article to avoid misleading readers and intend to undertake further tests to confirm our previous results,” they write in the notice.

The scientists are working on developing a chip that uses resistive random-access memory, which allows a huge amount of information to be stored in a tiny package and accessed quickly while using very little power. A number of companies are working on the technology, but none have successfully commercialized it.

Here’s the notice for “High uniformity and improved nonlinearity by embedding nanocrystals in selector-less resistive random access memory” (free, but requires login): Read the rest of this entry »

The “worst moment of my scientific career:” Two bird migration articles brought down by analytical error

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JAvianBio_ak19Evolutionary and conservation biologists in Spain are retracting two articles – one from the Journal of Avian Biology and the other from Ardeola – because they discovered a fatal flaw in their analysis.

The Journal of Avian Biology article, “Are European birds leaving traditional wintering grounds in the Mediterranean?” aimed to determine whether the abundance of passerines had decreased in recent decades, but failed to control for birds that may have gotten killed by hunters. Although it was published in January, we can only find an abstract from its acceptance by the journal in November 2014.

The authors detail the saga of their error in the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

PNAS paper on dengue virus pulled due to contamination

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PNAS_ak11smThe authors of a paper on dengue virus vaccine design published last year in PNAS are retracting it after discovering that their experimental dengue virus was contaminated.

Although they are confident that the strategy is sound, the authors write in their commendably detailed retraction notice that the “inadvertent error” rendered the results “uninterpretable.”

Here’s the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alla Katsnelson

May 12th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Teflon toxicity paper fails to stick

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toxicological sciencesAn advanced online paper on prenatal toxicity of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), an industrial chemical used to make waterproof coatings and Teflon, is being retracted due to “some minor errors.”

High blood levels of PFOA have been tied to kidney disease in humans, as well as several cancers in animal models. The majority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisory board deemed PFOA “likely to be carcinogenic in humans” in 2006, though a decade later the EPA has yet to make a decision on regulations. The retracted paper found that exposing pregnant mice to PFOA altered hormone pathways in mammary glands.

According to the notice in Toxicological Sciences, there was a duplicated image in one of the figures, as well as “some minor errors.” Here’s figure 5B: Read the rest of this entry »

Molecular mixup burns chemistry paper

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advanced synthesis and catalysisChemists at Lanzhou University in China did the right thing last month, retracting a paper in Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis because of issues with a reactant that could only be corrected by changing “all the text and quantities.”

When the scientists were adding what was labeled Reactant 1 to the mix, they believed it was α-ethoxycarbonyl-α-azido-N-phenylacetamides. Unfortunately, what they were actually using was a decomposed version of the molecule, which threw everything off.

Here’s the notice for “tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide and Tetrabutylammonium Iodide- Promoted Free Radical Cyclization of α-Azido-N-arylamides”: Read the rest of this entry »