Physics paper’s results off by factor of 100

Researchers from China have retracted a physics paper after realizing an error led them to report results that were nearly 100 times too large.

What’s more, the authors omitted key findings that would enable others to reproduce their experiments.

According to the notice, the authors used a value to calculate a feature of electrons—called mobility—that “was approximately 100 times too small,” which led to results that were “100 times too large.” The notice also details several gaps in the presentation of experimental results, which preclude others from duplicating the experiments.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Bulk- and layer-heterojunction phototransistors based on poly[2-methoxy-5-(2′-ethylhexyloxy-p-phenylenevinylene)] and PbS quantum dot hybrids:”

The authors wish to retract the publication. The reported gate oxide used in calculating mobilities was approximately 100 times too small leading to mobilities that were nearly 100 times too large. In addition, experimental results such as a full set of transfer curves, hysteresis measurements, and gate leakage currents that would allow others to duplicate the experiments and compare their results to those reported in the paper were not presented. The authors sincerely apologize for these errors and omissions and regret any inconvenience they may have caused.

The paper has been cited six times since it was published in Applied Physics Letters in 2015, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

We contacted corresponding author Yating Zhang, from Tianjin University in China, and editor-in-chief Reuben T. Collins to find out more details about the error and omissions, and why some of these issues were not spotted in peer review. We will update the post if we hear back.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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