A quick post this Sunday morning to draw your attention to two must-read items for anyone interested in the Anil Potti case or in how one goes about checking data. (A second paper by Potti et al was officially retracted on Friday.)
First, a terrific profile of Joyce Shoffner in the Charlotte News & Observer. Shoffner
was one of 110 Duke patients enrolled in three clinical trials based on the research of Dr. Anil Potti, who resigned in November as an associate professor at Duke.
Here at Retraction Watch, we obviously think all retractions are worth following. But we hope this story will convince those who shrug and say such items are inside baseball, or “none of your damn business,” that they need to re-evaluate their positions. This is where the rubber hits the road: A woman with cancer who now has to endure, as the News & Observer puts it, “a string of what-ifs.” Please read it.
If you’re up for a look at the scientific nitty-gritty of what was wrong with the Potti et al data, and how attempts to replicate it were stonewalled and ignored, view Keith Baggerly’s presentation from the MCMski conference in Park City, Utah, that just ended. Baggerly is the MD Anderson Cancer Center researcher who first raised questions about Potti’s work in 2007.
Inability to reproduce the researcher’s result is troublesome, because the whole point of the scientific method is to find results that other researchers can rely on.
The title of Baggerly’s presentation is simple, and hard to argue with: “Importance of Reproducible Research in Genomics.” The narrative — which is understandably full of jargon and sophisticated scientific detail — is straightforward. Baggerly warns us: “Hold on folks, the ride’s just beginning…” But he also explains how his team analyzes papers, and how we might avoid future such cases.
Set aside some time to read both.
A plug: Baggerly keynotes this year’s Council of Science Editors meeting in Baltimore. Ivan is on two panels there: “What can Editors do to Deter and Detect Scientific Misconduct?” and “Media Outreach: Tips for Getting Attention in a Wired World.”
Hat tip on Baggerly presentation: Xi’an’s Og.