Bearly believable: Water bear paper retracted for missing lab notebooks

Water bear, via Wikimedia Commons
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Tardigrades, the most hardy animals on or off planet Earth, can survive boiling, freezing, and even the ravages of outer space.

Unfortunately, some data on water bears’ memories proved to be less long-lasting, earning a retraction for a George Mason University researcher who also published the paper without alerting her co-workers ahead of time.

Here’s the notice for “Suspended animation: effects on short-term and long-term positive associative memory in Hypsibius dujardini,” which first appeared in Invertebrate Neuroscience:

An investigation carried out by George Mason University revealed that the author could not produce any original laboratory notebooks or electronic copies of any of the data reported in this article. Hence, the validity of the results could not be verified and the suspicion of data fabrication could not be cleared. Moreover, the manuscript was submitted without knowledge of the author’s co-workers. The author has now retracted the article in line with the request of the author’s university and in consent with the Editors-in-Chief.

First author Alexandra Rosser, who starved tardigrades to see if it would affect their recall, was at George Mason until September 2012, according to her LinkedIn profile. The tardigrade paper was retracted in May 2013, and is no longer available online. Rosser, who goes by Sasha, is now a PhD student at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We’ve contacted both Rosser and her principal investigator at George Mason, and will report back with anything we learn.

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