Molecular mixup burns chemistry paper

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”:

The above article in Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis, published online on September 21, 2014, in Wiley Online Library (, and in print Volume 356, Issue 14–15, 2014, pages 3148–3156 (DOI: 10.1002/adsc.201400420), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor, Joe P. Richmond, and Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. The retraction has been agreed to for the following reasons. During further investigations, the authors found that the reactants 1 in the title paper were not α-ethoxycarbonyl-α-azido-N-phenylacetamides, but actually the decomposed 2-imino products from α-ethoxycarbonyl-α-azido-N-phenylacetamides. The latter were the proposed intermediates towards the cyclization products reported in the paper. In order to correct the paper, all the text and quantities would need to be changed, and also all of the starting materials characterized. A retraction was therefore considered more appropriate.

We’ve reached out to the corresponding author and the editor, and will update if we learn more.

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