“Crucial experiments” missing from retracted plant study

A 2016 study was retracted from a Frontiers journal after editors realized the authors had omitted experiments that didn’t support the hypothesis. 

Gearóid Ó Faoleán, ethics and integrity manager at Frontiers, which publishes Frontiers in Plant Science, told us:

In accordance with our complaints protocol, the Field Chief Editor led the investigation that resulted in the decision to retract the paper.

Here’s the retraction notice:

The authors have requested the retraction of the 4 July 2016 cited above. Following publication, concerns were raised regarding the scientific validity of the article. This was due to an undisclosed error in the experimental design (such as the presence of host tomato plants) and crucial experiments missing from the manuscript which did not support the hypotheses put forward in the paper. This retraction was approved by the Field Chief Editor and the Specialty Chief Editor of Frontiers in Plant Science.

The authors regret any inconvenience this may have caused to the reviewers, editors, and readers of Frontiers in Plant Science.

The original paper, “Mitigation of NaCl Stress by Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi through the Modulation of Osmolytes, Antioxidants and Secondary Metabolites in Mustard (Brassica juncea L.) Plants,” was published in July, 2016.

According to Faoleán, all authors agreed to the retraction.

He added:

The authors failed to signal the presence of uncharacterized agents in the [Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi] inoculum.

We asked Faoleán which experiments were missing from the paper, and how that omission was discovered; he told us:

This was determined by the investigation.

Faoleán added that the journal was alerted to the problem “in accordance with our published complaints policy.”

We’ve contacted the study’s last author, Salih Gucel, from Near East University in Nicosia, Cyprus, but are yet to to hear back.

Frontiers is on librarian Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory” scholarly publishers — a designation that divides researchers. (Beall’s website has been down since yesterday. It’s unclear why.)

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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