Bielawski and Wiggins retraction count grows to six

chemical scienceA group of chemists whose work was investigated by the University of Texas-Austin has had another paper retracted, this one of a Chemical Science study previously subjected to an Expression of Concern.

That makes six retractions for Christopher Bielawski and Kelly Wiggins.

Here’s the notice for “Homonuclear bond activation using a stable N,N′-diamidocarbene”, signed by all three authors of the paper:

The Royal Society of Chemistry hereby wholly retracts this Chemical Science article with the agreement of Christopher W. Bielawski, Jonathan P. Moerdyk, and Kelly M. Wiggins due to data fabrication as detailed below. This retraction supersedes the information provided in the Expression of Concern related to this article.

The Royal Society of Chemistry has been contacted by the corresponding author of this article and the Research Integrity Officer at The University of Texas at Austin regarding concerns of scientific misconduct affecting this article. The Research Integrity Officer has informed us that an investigation to ascertain the validity of the work reported has found that scientific misconduct by one of the article’s co-authors has taken place as follows: Scheme 5 and the last paragraph under the heading “Disulfides” in the Results and Discussion section discusses fabricated data. The NMR spectra figures on page S36 were also fabricated. The synthesis of S-methyl thiobenzoate and the compound denoted 7a* did not occur as reported. No reaction occurred and compound 8a was isolated. The characterization data for the two reported compounds was fabricated from other spectra. The signing authors would like to apologise for this and any consequent inconvenience to authors and readers.

Signed: Christopher W. Bielawski, Jonathan P. Moerdyk, and Kelly M. Wiggins, March 2015.

Retraction endorsed by May Copsey, Executive Editor, Chemical Science.

The paper has been cited 13 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Hat tip: See Arr Oh

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3 thoughts on “Bielawski and Wiggins retraction count grows to six”

  1. The paper discusses roughly 20 new compounds, 23 reactions and 5 X-ray molecular structures. We learn that out of those, 1 reaction and the corresponding 2 products were invented/fabricated. Actually, I think leaving away those particular products would not damage the paper very much.

    Retraction is certainly a good disciplinary measure in such a case, but scientifically it might not make sense.

    Should we just ignore that those 5 X-ray structures have ever been measured? Should we ignore the other 19 new compounds which might be legitimate?

    If someone is going to prepare one of those 19 compounds in the future and will find that they were fully o.k., who will be considered the original discoverer?

    1. lhac, your logic is perfectly valid, and so is your question. In that case, however, I would argue that the authors could easily “weed out” the valid from the invalid results, and republish only the remaining 5 X-ray structures and 19 new compounds, if possible, after one more reanalysis, which would hurt their budget and rob them of a little extra time, but would surely fortify their findings. They could even collaborate wth another independent laboratory to confirm their findings, and co-publish. Within their new paper, they could even reference the retracted paper (one legitimate form of using a retracted paper in a reference list). At least, that’s what I would do if faced with the same dilemma.

  2. The specific details in the retraction (and the others) throw suspicion on all of it.
    Will you sacrifice your grant money and student’s time to repeat all of this for confirmation?
    I doubt it.

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