Doing the right thing: Physicists retract paper after becoming aware of “a fundamental error”

prl-bannerThe authors of a paper in Physical Review Letters have retracted it, after another researcher pointed out a mistake.

F. Sattin and D.F. Escande write in the notice for “Alfvénic Propagation: A Key to Nonlocal Effects in Magnetized Plasmas” (which is behind a paywall) that after the paper was published, they “we became aware of a fundamental error in the normalization of our equations.” Excerpt:

It was an unfortunate coincidence that two sources of error largely masked each other in the final results, thereby allowing the model to provide seemingly accurate conclusions. The correction of this error implies that the alleged magnetohydrodynamics effects are actually still present but smaller by a factor β, and cannot account for the phenomenology observed. This invalidates our conclusions. Therefore, we ask to retract this Letter from scientific literature.

We thank E. Fable for directing our attention to the error in the normalizations.

Fable must have seen the error in the paper right away. The original article was published on March 4, and the authors had submitted their retraction by March 20. The authors have also noted the mistake in the arXiv version.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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2 thoughts on “Doing the right thing: Physicists retract paper after becoming aware of “a fundamental error””

  1. This was fast, but the authors understood their mistake, corrected it with a retraction – and acknowledged the scientist who pointed them to the mistake. I am wondering how long it usually can take to retract a paper, or to avoid acknowledging of the scientists pointing to similar mistakes. I guess, most papers published are not important enough to be critisized for mistakes.

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