Skeleton crew’s second paper broken over methodology issues; more retractions to appear

Olga Panagiotopoulou, via University of Queensland

Bone researcher Olga Panagiotopoulou of the University of Queensland has lost a second paper over “errors in the validation protocol and data.”

The retracted paper in the Journal of Biomechanics, about primate jaws, was subject to an expression of concern in May 2014 November 2013, one of two Panagiotopoulou’s group issued last year over methodological problems. The other paper was later retracted. According to Panagiotopoulou, there will be two more retractions forthcoming, both in the Journal of Anatomy. 

According John Hutchinson, last author of the other retracted paper, that withdrawal was the result of an investigation at his school, the Royal Veterinary College.

Panagiotopoulou emailed us with an explanation:

A while ago we received a complaint with regards to a potential error at our ex vivo validation analysis using laser interferometer. In the beginning we thought that we had made a simple conversion error and we raised an expression of concern to the respective journals till we correct it and submit an erratum. Whilst looking at the data we found major methodological and technical errors at our validation analysis that unfortunately during the time of the experiments we did not have the expertise to identify and prevent. After advising some experts on the field with regards to the best course of action, all authors unanimously agreed that our erroneous analysis may have biased our biological conclusions and thus retraction was the only way forward. It was not possible for various technical issues to repeat the ex vivo validation and all of us are using more novel approaches. The same methodology has been used in 4 papers and thus we had to proceed with a series of retractions this year which was unfortunate, but the right thing to do. Our two last retractions will be made public shortly, the respective Journal is working on it.

She says the incident has not turned her off of science:

This situation has not change my course of research. I have received immense support from my institution and my international collaborators and all advised me that scientists make mistakes in their analysis (especially while being students)  but very few are brave enough to acknowledge them and retract their own work. At the moment I am working with a team of experts from several institutions from the United States and we have repeated the analysis using in vivo validations, physiological models and highly precise simulations. We are currently preparing our papers and we anticipate submission by the end of the month.

Here’s the notice for “Modelling subcortical bone in finite element analyses: A validation and sensitivity study in the macaque mandible”:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (

This article has been retracted at the request of the authors who unanimously wish to retract this paper because of errors in the validation protocol and data, and the finite element analysis data and results.

Editor in chief Farshid Guilak also responded:

After this paper was published, the authors themselves identified errors in the validation protocol and data, as well as the computational analysis, that were not correctable. Thus they requested to retract the paper.

These are the two Journal of Anatomy papers that will be retracted “by the end of the year” according to Panagiotopoulou:

Clarification, 6/25/15, 8:40 a.m. Eastern: Panagiotopoulou completed the work featured in the papers in question before joining the University of Queensland, Australia.

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3 thoughts on “Skeleton crew’s second paper broken over methodology issues; more retractions to appear”

  1. ” I have received immense support from my institution and my international collaborators and all advised me that scientists make mistakes in their analysis”

    There is a Quincy,ME episode in which Quincy is looking for a body that has mysteriously disappeared. He asks the girl at a lab where he supposedly sent it if there could be a mistake.
    Girl: We’re scientists. We don’t make mistakes,
    Quincy (Jack Klugman, overacting as usual): I’m a scientist, too. I make a thousand mistakes a day.

  2. I think there should be a category for “author appropriately acknowledged and initiated retractions,” or “laudable retractions.” Based on the fact that they are moving quickly to pull them is laudable and it is a shame the reviewers and authors did not catch this pre-pub.

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