JACS, Science retracting three papers from leading Emory chemist Craig Hill

The Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) and Science are retracting three papers by Craig Hill and colleagues which, we’re told, have been the focus of intense scrutiny within the field since they first appeared in the mid-2000. Hill is an internationally renowned expert in catalysis who has won a slew of awards for his work.

JACS has acted first, issuing two notices recently about the papers it published. The first notice, for 2005’s “A Palladium-Oxo Complex. Stabilization of This Proposed Catalytic Intermediate by an Encapsulating Polytungstate Ligand,” states:

The formulation [for the chemical complex in the paper] is incorrect. The experimental data collected, including single crystal X-ray and neutron diffraction … NMR spectroscopy,  extended X-ray absorption fine structure, and several other techniques, are correct. The interpretation and conclusion that a terminal palladium-oxo moiety was present in this complex is incorrect. As a result the authors withdraw this publication.

The paper has been cited 57 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

So it goes for the second retraction notice, of 2007’s “Terminal gold-oxo complexes,” cited 38 times. Again, the formulations are said to be incorrect, while the data are correct.

The interpretation and conclusion that terminal gold-oxo moieties were present in these complexes is incorrect. As a result the authors withdraw this publication.

Both notices refer readers to a paper by Hill and colleagues in Inorganic Chemistry, another publication of the American Chemical Society. However, that article does not yet appear to be published. We have asked the editor of the journal, Richard Eisenberg, for a copy but have yet to receive it.

Meanwhile, Science will be retracting a 2004 paper by Hill’s group, “A Late-Transition Metal Oxo Complex: K7Na9[O=PtIV(H2O)L2], L = [PW9O34]9-

Science tells us that Hill has notified the journal of his desire to retract the paper, which has been cited 98 times, although the details haven’t been finalized.

We attempted to reach Hill but have not heard back from him yet.

Co-author Travis Anderson, a former post-doc in Hill’s lab who now works at Sandia, hadn’t heard about the retractions when we contacted him this week, but said he wasn’t surprised by the news.

I knew [Hill] was fighting with it but I never got the details.

We’re told that the work upon which these papers were based sparked immediate controversy when Hill first presented the data in 2004 at a meeting in Japan.

One source told us:

They were a big deal in the inorganic chemistry community, of which I am a member.  I saw Hill give a talk on them and he detailed the scrutiny he encountered to get them published because they broke through a very significant and long-standing paradigm in the field of metal-oxo complexes.  I am very curious to learn what went wrong.

The source continued:

Almost cryptically, the retractions state that all of the data in the original papers is correct, it is the interpretation that is wrong.  That’s a bit weird considering the entirety of both papers are being retracted.  I do not suspect any wrong doing here, this might be a case of science working correctly, but we’ll have to wait for the Inorg Chem article to appear to tell.

We also learned that at least one scientist in particular, from Germany, has been been vocal about the unreliability of the papers, and we wonder why it has taken the journals as long as eight years to resolve the issue.

We’ve contacted JACS for comment.

38 thoughts on “JACS, Science retracting three papers from leading Emory chemist Craig Hill”

  1. “and we wonder why it has taken the journals as long as eight years to resolve the issue”.
    Trench warfare?

    “Almost cryptically, the retractions state that all of the data in the original papers is correct, it is the interpretation that is wrong. That’s a bit weird considering the entirety of both papers are being retracted.”
    It was probably the conclusions that sold the papers to JACS and Science. If there was nothing remarkable about the complexes, then there was nothing remarkable in the manuscripts.

  2. I don’t have specifics in this case, but I do have concerns regarding the large number of likely foreign nationals who are pictured and listed on the Craig Hill Group at Emory University page. http://www.chemistry.emory.edu/faculty/hill/hillgroup/members.htm It was not always like this in the U.S.

    Sadly, in the U.S. particularly since 1976, there has been a system of government-sanctioned foreign hiring preferences. These are called work visa programs. Since these programs were designed by employers, they include provisions for the almost immediate deportation of a foreign national if their job is cut. These programs also include the potential for employer sponsorship for permanent residency. The combination of “sticks and carrots” give employers strong leverage regarding those visa recipients, making them docile regarding salary demands and working conditions. Work visa recipients are discouraged from “making waves” or objecting to improper conduct by their superiors. One illustration was the behavior of likely work visa recipients was in the control room of the electrical power oversight authority (a so-called ISO) during the series of failures that led to the 14 August 2003 Northeast blackout.

    The short-term cost advantages offered by work visa recipients make Americans uncompetitive in many cases. Even more astounding, government bodies such as the National Science Foundation anticipated that these post-1976 policies would drive American citizens from STEM fields, particularly at the Ph.D. level – and thought this was a desirable outcome! Note the immigration benefits available to foreign nationals and their families are non-fungible to U.S. citizens

    I have twice testified regarding this topic in the U.S. House of Representatives and will supply a bibliography on request.

    Here are some foreign-origin researchers who are the subject of recent investigations regarding research integrity – and recent blog entries at Retraction Watch:

    Anil Potti, M.D., formerly of Duke University
    Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D. of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
    Soo-Kyung Kang, Professor of Veterinary Biotechnology, University of Seoul
    Dipak K. Das, University of Connecticut researcher

    I note that some U.S. citizens conduct research fraud. However, the U.S. citizen does not have to deal with the powerful influence that the work visa programs exert regarding their future, particularly if their nation of origin is in the developing world. That is the core of my concern. However, there are also cultural factors that may influence professional conduct. I cannot imagine a scenario described in the news article below occurring in the United States:


    Ocala Star-Banner, Wednesday, June 1, 1994 Page 7A

    Indian Students Riot Over Exams; 4 killed

    NEW DELHI, India – Four students reportedly were killed Tuesday when college freshmen clashed with police who tried to stop them from cheating on exams.

    The melee occurred in the town of Dalsingsarai in Bihar state after the students opened their books and notes during finals, Press Trust of India said.

    The students threw explosives at a government jeep and tried to set fire to the railway station. Police opened fire, killing four of them, the news agency said.

    Students in Bihar maintain they need their books and notes because they have been so poorly taught.


    Unfortunately the behavioral norms regarding research integrity that are accepted in the United States are not characteristics of all societies. The Google search on the two phrases “India” and “Academic dishonesty” yields 754,000 results on 08 June 2012. Here is one of the first entries

    Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
    Year : 2004 | Volume : 50 | Issue : 4 | Page : 281-284

    Academic dishonesty in Indian medical colleges

    B Gitanjali
    Department of Pharmacology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research, Pondicherry – 605006, India


    Integrity is a necessary attribute expected in practitioners of medicine. Unfortunately there is evidence on hand that academic dishonesty is widely prevalent in many Indian medical colleges and that a proportion of students seem to think that there is nothing wrong in participating in such acts. This practice needs to be discouraged as those indulging in unethical acts during student days are likely to indulge in similar practices while dealing with their patients. It is, therefore, necessary that teachers in medical colleges show ‘zero tolerance’ to such acts. There is a need for faculty and administrators to be above board in their actions and be role models for ethical behaviour. Hence, acts of academic misconduct committed by faculty and administrators should also be dealt with quickly, fairly and firmly. A milieu of transparency, fairness and student awareness will go a long way in minimizing this pervasive malady.

    1. If you want to find good old US-based fraud go dig deeper into the Harvard Medical School and similar institutions. There, you will find, good old American MDs with all sort of nasty links with big pharma pushing for drugs and phony diagnostic tools that benefit their own pockets.

    2. drgenenelson: Where did you find 754,000 results for “India” and “Academic Dishonesty”? I found 257,000. For “USA” and ” Academic Dishonesty” I find 1,360,000 results??? May be try searching with new terms.

      Your are citing a isolated incident (1994 newspaper article) of student riots to prove your point!!!

      I agree with Jon Beckmann comment “Generally, American researchers are better at hiding fraud, generally because Americans are better trained at selling snake oil”.

      1. “Where did you find 754,000 results for “India” and “Academic Dishonesty”?”
        As if it mattered. Drawing any conclusions based on a number of hits one gets in Google is insane.

      2. I challenge you to provide an example during the history of the U.S. where U.S. students rioted because they were barred from cheating – and in the ensuing riot any U.S.students were killed.

    3. Where I come from, Americans are foreigners. This kind of jingoistic bollocks has no place on this site.

      1. Since the American taxpayer is footing almost the entire bill for this enterprise, they should have some say regarding the outcome. The late U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas is one of the sources I draw upon. He advocated for “economic nationalism.” As an example of this policy, the government of India, a nation with four times the U.S. population, protects its workers by limiting the number of work visa admissions to about 30,000. In contrast, the U.S. admits a far larger number each year, about 1 million. The U.S. policy is causing economic harms to the middle class, which currently has over 22 million unemployed or underemployed citizens. BTW, I think it is a good policy to not resort to name calling, even if I had to Google the phrase used to determine exactly what it meant.

    4. People see what they want to see yet overlook what they want to ignore. Drgenenelson seems to see this as a U.S.-versus-foreign conflict, while my prism turns it into a boss-versus-worker conflict or a reality-versus-appearance conflict. Having seen the power of the conditional visa, I have no doubt that drgenenelson has a point. But he seems less worried about the welfare of the exploited foreign researchers and more concerned about the reduced availability of jobs for U.S. citizens. In addition, while he has a good point about the need for research integrity, this is lost in the effort to label furriners as the main violators.

      All underlings, in whatever job sector, want to stay on the good side of the boss and are reluctant to “make waves” about unsavory goings-on for fear of losing their job or causing long-term damage to their career. Just two posts ago (http://www.retractionwatch.com/2012/06/07/faseb-j-retracts-15-year-old-study-after-author-comes-forward-but-universities-decline-to-investigate/), Valerie O’Donnell was quoted as saying, “I did not act on it at the time because I was a junior fellow and worried about the implications of raising the issue.” Her picture and her name probably would not trigger drgenenelson’s “foreign national on a work visa” radar, but she was vulnerable to the same pressures that he worries about with foreign nationals.

      When the boss makes it clear what kind of result s/he expects, whether it is a particular finding of fact or simply any amazing discovery that will bring fame and fortune, underlings will try to comply, regardless of national origin, national culture, or visa status. I would be more inclined to blame the native Murrican boss instead of the work-visa-holding underlings. The boss should be close enough to the workings of the lab and knowledgeable enough about the subject to spot deception and honest misinterpretation. S/he should also model scientific integrity, not just say the words or print the phases in the employee guidelines.

      I’ve seen plenty of U.S. citizens who operate according to the standards that drgenenelson imputes to foreigners, so I don’t buy the notion that foreign researchers are polluting our ethical scientific programs with their lax, un-American standards. Drgenenelson’s careful selection of RW posts featuring foreign-sounding names of people from developing nations proves nothing. What about Joachim Boldt, the world record holder in retractions, who comes from the decidedly developed and western country of Germany, a powerhouse of scientific research for centuries and one of the cultural forefathers of the America that traditionalists believe in? What about Andrew Wakefield from England, another indisputably developed, western country that contributed much of the foundation of our culture? As another commenter has pointed out, posts on the internet are not valid measures of the prevalence of scientific misconduct. If they were, I would point out that RW currently has 143 posts about scientific misconduct in the United States, far and away the highest number for any country on earth. Examples of scientific misconduct can be found in abundance everywhere. Americans are in no position to point fingers at individuals and institutions of developing nations. When I was young and naive, I believed snooty U.S. professors who talked about the inconsistent standards associated with degrees from foreign universities. Then I saw what American universities will do. If our aim is to have science that is about truth and not about promotions and prestige and money, let’s apply the same rules to everybody, not just everybody else except ourselves. And let’s return to that old ideal of science as an international activity. There is no them and us. There’s just us.

      1. JudyH: well said ! I congratulate you for wise reply.

        drgenenelson: I advise you to check/search the names of American /English/western sounding researchers for misconduct. You will be surprised by the long list….it will be also good for your prejudiced mind..

      2. I’ll focus on the oppressive H-1B Visa aspect of JudyH’s response. One of my best friends first worked in the U.S. under the authority of a H-1B Visa. He came from northern Europe. He said that he had fears about the potential of his boss to cut his job so that he would then face the potential of deportation. He has very glad to later obtain his permanent residency.The H-1B program has been described by critics as a system of indentured servitude, so it worsens the power mismatch that JudyH discusses.

        Read through the excellent coverage of Dipak K. Das, Ph.D. at Retraction Watch http://www.retractionwatch.com/category/by-author/dipak-das/ and the sources cited via links to the stories. I have no doubt that Dipak exploited the indentured nature of H-1B Visa holders while he was a tenured professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center. The H-1B Visa system was established via an unethical House of Representatives Chair, Joshua Eilberg with the passage of the 1976 “Eilberg Amendment.” Rep.Eilberg received yet-undisclosed considerations from the Association of American Universities (AAU.) Colleges and universities were (and still are) able to hire unlimited numbers of foreign national researchers and professors, among other occupational categories. For a short history, see “Issues of Legislation and Merit in Scientific Labor Markets” a Sloan Workship by Eric Weinstein, Ph.D. at http://www.nber.org/~peat/PapersFolder/Papers/Sloan.html

        The indentured servant nature of work visa employment (via H-1B or the new OPT program) facilitates opportunities for research misconduct. That is one of the arguments for the repeal of these work visa programs.

      3. I wonder if JudyH saw the power of the conditional visa from a first-person perspective. If so, I hope that she concurs that the terms of the H-1B visa are oppressive – and very much at odds with American ideals of personal freedom.

    5. Emory University makes strong use of the controversial H-1B Visa. Running a few queries at http:www.MyVisaJobs.com shows that the employer “Emory U” obtained authority to hire 3,187 H-1B Visa holders between 2001-2009. Cheap labor is the norm. For example, in 2010, they could hire a Biochemistry or Biophysics Postdoc for $37,000. It is important to know that Emory University’s hiring behavior is typical of U.S. institutions of higher education.

      1. Upon more careful examination of the U.S. Department of Labor LCA wage disclosure date for FY 2010, an Emory University Biochemistry or Biophysics Postdoc for a mere $35,607 was located. This is a very low wage for a Ph.D. holder who is expected to work long hours. A strong employer-interest market intervention, endorsed by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) yielded this outcome. Some historical background is found at “How and Why Government, Universities, and Industry Create Domestic Labor Shortages of Scientists and High-Tech Workers” By Eric Weinstein, Ph.D. http://users.nber.org/~peat/PapersFolder/Papers/SG/NSF.html#SG Please refer to Section 5. The NSF’s Real Shortage Study. You will learn that in the mid 1980s, the NSF wanted to discourage American ciitzens from pursuing Ph.D.s and instead sought liberal immigration policies to restrain wage growth. The policy changes represent an occupation-specific tax on American citizen science and engineering Ph.D.s, including myself.

      1. Regarding the Penn State riots, please explain the connection to academic dishonesty. Nothing about students dying in the headline, either. Here is a story from India from February, 2012. There are many more examples regarding students from India and China who have practiced various forms of academic dishonesty. There is a connection between academic dishonesty as a student and subsequent research fraud.


        AIIMS scam: Net widens for four more
        Dwaipayan Ghosh, TNN | Feb 3, 2012, 01.18AM IST

        NEW DELHI: Nearly a month after busting an examination cheating racket at AIIMS [All India Post Graduate Medical Entrance Examination – GN], cops believe they are zeroing in on four other accused, who played an active role in running the racket in Delhi, UP and MP and Haryana.

        Seven people, including two doctors, had been arrested for leaking MD examination question papers through high-tech gadgets. This includes two doctors, an MBBS student Ravi Atri and Jagdish, who played the role of a middleman between the applicants and the gang.

        MBBS students Mohit Chaudhry and Ravi Atri were running the racket in collaboration with others. While Mohit is in custody, Ravi and Jagdish are on the run. Ravi, a resident of Baghpat in UP had gone missing a few days back. The crime branch had sent a team to Palwal but it returned empty handed.

        Bank accounts used by the accused, including one used by a UP Assembly election candidate to fund his poll campaign, have been identified.

        Police teams have been dispatched across four states to nab the accused. Ravi, a first-year student of PGI Medical College, Rohtak, may have roped in his own gang of doctors.

        “This means that the number of aspirants in touch with the gang automatically goes up. We can get further inputs on this only after Ravi’s arrest,” said a source.

        The total number of doctors under scanner is now 11, said a crime branch source.. “Jagdish managed the clients as a single-window reference. His job also included projecting Ravi as the man who can secure admissions to any professional course for students of Indore,” said the source.

        However, cops also fear that those arrested may have destroyed some crucial evidence in the form of special T-shirts that came fitted with Bluetooth devices, earphones and SIM cards.

      2. DrGeneNelson should also take a look at this topic page of the NY Times:


        One must note: One of the most widely read newspapers in the US is dedicating a full special section to this topic. Cheating is evidently prevalent wherever there is an advantage to be gained from test/competition results – from LI prep schools to the Port Authority. And I am sure we can find examples of this in any country.

        In regards to what Penn State riots have to do with the riots in India: It is merely a juxtaposition of what evokes emotional responses in student populations in different countries. In India, it is/was crackdown on exam cheating. In Quebec, it is the raising of tuition fees. In the US, it is the firing of sports coach who did nothing to further the prosecution of a child rapist. Just an observation of some examples, which perhaps highlight the different priorities different populations have…

  3. I am horrified by the above comment on so many grounds. Perhaps “drgenenelson” can start by telling us all how he can identify a “likely foreign national” from a photograph. I am sure large numbers of Americans of different ethics origins would be facinated by the answer.

    I also fired up google and searched for “American” and “academic dishonesty” and got 441,000 results, while “Peru” and “academic dishonesty” had a mere 59,000 results and “Monaco” and “Academic dishonesty” a mere 38,100 results. I shall now assume based on drgenenelson logic that scientists from Peru and Monaco are nearly 10 times more honest than American researchers.

    1. You need to normalize by number of scientists, of course. Generally, American researchers are better at hiding fraud, generally because Americans are better trained at selling snake oil.

      1. Dear Jon Beckman,

        There has been a string of retractions by people of all nationalities, in all countries, and in “cross-over events”. Germany has had its share, Bulfone-Paus, Joachim Boldt, the batriatric surgeon Edward Shang . Singapore has featured, alirio Melndez. The U.K. is not immune, Melendez again. Japan has featured quite a lot. S Kato, Mori. The best at hiding fraud are the ones we do not hear about. China is not without retractions, Tan Jinquan. Retractions may be a sign of maturity. France and Russia have hardly featured. Perhaps we should look there? You make me sound PC!

      2. To Clare Francis,

        The way scientific research is organized in France is a bit different from other countries. The vast majority of scientific researchers are civil servants and because of that the pressure to publish at all costs is lower in this country. There are also many intramural ethics committees which review research data before they go out for publication. This may explain the fact that there are less retractions in this country. Also, in the French culture keeping strong ideals ( Enlightenment’s ideals still exist in France) is much more important than other values like making a lot of money or having 100 times your name in a 1 year-publications cycle.

    2. Your response which ignores the paper “Academic dishonesty in Indian medical colleges” by B. Gitanjali seems to be a deflection from my main point. In this paper, a Professor in India is saying that there is a big problem with academic dishonesty in India. Zero tolerance should be the norm. If one learns to practice academic dishonesty as a student, I think it is reasonable to expect that the moral barrier against subsequent research fraud will be lessened.

      1. One could argue that in the US academic dishonesty is conducted by the academic institutions and lecturers/professors on behalf of the students through grade inflation:


        After all, any statistician will tell you that this distortion of grades does not represent a normal distribution, which one could sensibly expect when measuring variables such as academic grades…

  4. I don’t know about the US but in the UK, “oxo” is a brand of concentrated gravy cubes. So it’s no surprise these papers were retracted. The idea of chemists researching palladium and gravy is just silly 😉

  5. Wow, how did this conversation degenerate so far??? To me, the curious issue is the retraction itself. Recall what C. Darwin said:

    “False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.” — `The Descent of Man’ (1871)

    As I read this, there was no fraud in the experiments nor data reporting. So the proper action is for this author or anyone else to re-interpret the data in a new paper. The Joliet-Curies had plenty of wrong interpretations of so-called “transuranics” before Meitner and Frisch re-interpreted the Hahn experiments as fission of Uranium — they did not (I think) retract any papers!!

    1. Indeed, the conversation has diverged far from the original post, and we have mostly been attempting to counter the totally unsupported speculation that allegedly low standards of foreign scientists are to blame. Thank you for approaching the discussion from another perspective; the speculation that wrong-doing has occurred is just as unsupported as the speculation that foreign scientists are to blame for what has occurred (whatever that is).

      Nevertheless, it is important not to let nationalistic comments go unanswered, lest our silence be interpreted as agreement. So I don’t think the electronic ones and zeros have been wasted. But I agree that getting back to the original topic would be a good idea. It will be interesting to hear how the incorrect interpretations and conclusions were arrived at.

  6. “The H-1B program has been described by critics as a system of indentured servitude”

    Right, unlike the entire tenure system… More generally, our entire society could be called a system of indentured servitude. Try missing a few mortgage bills or credit card payments. Plus, when your health care depends on you having a job, doesn’t that give employers immense power over people? The H-1B program is a drop in the bucket, and besides, if they don’t like it they can stay in their home country, right?

    1. What is unique about U.S. work visa programs are that they are recent creations (post 1976) of the economic and political elite. The preferential hiring of work visa recipients because they are perceived to be less expensive and more willing to bend to the will of the hiring manager implies further erosion of the principle of meritocracy. Note also my previous comments regarding the fungibility (significant economic value) of being able to immigrate with their family to the U.S. from the developing world.

      1. Short answer to DrGN… Rule 14 (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=rule%2014).

        Long answer (thereby breaking rule 14)…. (i) Overlooking the simple difference of 3-8 generations, YOU are an immigrant. The US was founded on immigration. (ii) “Native” US birth rates have been declining for decades. Immigration is the only way to stop us shrinking into oblivion. (iii) Given the necessity of immigration, who would you rather have? Highly educated PhDs from up-and-coming BRIC nations, or people with no qualifications? (iv) Immigrants pay taxes. Lots of taxes. They also get to pay into socal security but get none of it back unless they become citizens. (v) Racism comes in many shapes and sizes, and I do not care for your particular brand of it. Being a troll, it does not surprise in the least that you have played the terrorism conspiracy card in your racist ramblngs.

      2. vhedwig’s “sound bites” seem plausible until subject to scrutiny. There is no nation on Earth that is not a “nation of immigrants.” As a native-born U.S. citizen, I obect to the declining wages and increasing cost of living caused by historically unprecedented levels of immigration to the U.S. Deception and corruption were significant political tools employed to accomplish these post-1976 policy changes. Furthermore, as noted by U.C. Davis Computer Science Professor Norm Matloff at his Georgetown University Law School Presentation on 17 March 2011, employer abuse of work visa programs has facilitated employment age discrimination, yielding a historically unprecedented “internal brain drain” as highly-qualified Americans, even those with Ph.D.s, are callously discarded by employers. http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/georgetown.pdf

        Perhaps you are a young beneficiary of these policies. I offer the caution summarized in the title of a 1992 article, “Today’s Immigrant, Tomorrow’s Victim.” Robert Rector recently provided U.S. Congressional testimony that debunks the “taxpaying immigrant” claims. In summary, most immigrant families receive far more in taxpayer-funded benefits than they pay in taxes. Again, calling me names only draws attention to the weakness of your claims.

      3. Ivan: is it time to monitor this discussion? We are actually deviating from the retraction watch issues with this kind of arguments…scientific misconduct is more serious.

  7. Come on people, there is certainly a place to debate the academic system, the use or misuse of foreign nationals in the USA (and by the way this is not a USA-specific site!! retractions can come from anywhere), but it is not here. I read and comment on Retraction Watch for my interest in scientific misconduct. If there is a direct link with the system, to some degree that’s fair game (for example, publish-or-perish, or the Chinese system of paying directly for publication in prestigious journals). But that discussion should be limited to things like pressures that may have caused retractions — not the whole system. Judy H, I do agree, we can not stay silent in the face of xenophobic speculation. But let’s try to keep focus more or less on the retractions and issues around that.

    And in that light I ask again, was there any actual misconduct here? Or is the author just trying to expunge his mis-interpretations from the record?

    1. The various comments that RW has collected might point both ways. This is the opposite of the usual case in which the authors change their supporting figures but insist that the mistakes have no effect on the conclusions. Here, the authors claim the supporting data are correct but the conclusions are wrong. Other sources suggest that there was controversy all along, but won’t specify exactly what was the problem. Does anyone know who the “vocal” German source is? That person’s comments, if s/he was “vocal” on the internet, would suggest some ideas. Retracted articles often are merely stamped in red on the internet page but not actually expunged from the record, and this one is a print journal, so asking for a retraction might not achieve the effect of hiding an initial misinterpretation from posterity.

      1. Chem. Eng. News, 2007, 85 (38), 5–36 published this:
        “A MONUMENTAL research effort has yielded unprecedented gold-oxo complexes, those in which one ligand is a single oxygen atom multiply bonded to gold. These complexes, once thought improbable if not impossible to make, could provide new insights into the mechanisms of catalytic oxidation reactions. The work might also help inorganic chemists further utilize specialized ligands to coerce transition metals into doing more of the unexpected.
        Synthesizing and characterizing the gold-oxo complexes involved 18 chemists from seven research groups in North America, Europe, and Asia, according to Emory University’s Craig L. Hill, who directed the project. Each member of the team “contributed top expertise in 16 different confirmatory spectroscopic, physical, and chemical methods to be sure of these unusually controversial compounds,” Hill told C&EN.”

        Apparently, despite the enormous effort and being cognizant of the controversy, the authors still got it wrong. One of the retraction notices says the authors had an X-ray single-crystal structure of the palladium complex. The crystallographer must have botched something, then. I m sure the JACS and Science papers were just the beginning of this journey into dire straits, so the retraction saga might not end here.

      2. The “vocal” German source is a well-respected inorganic chemist who was “vocal” in the chemical literature. See DOI: 10.1002/anie.200804795.

  8. Here are some links interested readers can follow to find out more about this.

    Kortz publishes a paper about similar compounds, mentioning Hill et al’s work:
    Hill responds to the Kortz paper, partly to discuss Kortz’s work and partly his own previous papers:
    Kortz responds:

    The latter one is the paper commenter AGD linked to, but I thought people might appreciate the full story.

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