A group of authors have withdrawn a paper after revealing a litany of issues to the journal that published it. Among those issues were “scientifically misleading errors,” “insufficient” validation, and a disagreement between the researchers on whether it should have been published at all.
“Optimal DNA structure of reverse-hairpin beacons for label-free and positive surface enhanced Raman scattering assays,” originally published in June in Optical Materials Express (OMEx), was retracted Aug. 7. The paper purported to describe a detection method for RNA associated with influenza virus. It has not yet been cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.
Here’s the full list of issues cited in the retraction notice:
We retract this article because there were scientifically misleading errors in Fig. 3 and publication of a method to fabricate the nanostructure was not fully agreed among the authors. The conversion of beacon structures appeared to be compromised as no difference was observed in fluorescence intensity with or without a target and as the signal intensity according to the target concentration did not change dramatically in Fig. 3(b). The signal probe … and its optimization have been insufficiently validated. Moreover, the main hypothesis of our paper was determined to be incorrect because the selectivity of this reverse-hairpin beacon system appears to be poor since reverse hairpins complementary to the influenza virus also react partially to other non-complementary targets (porcine epidemic diarrhea virus).
Alison Taylor, executive editor of The Optical Society (OSA), which publishes OMEx, told Retraction Watch that the journal received the withdrawal request a week after the article came out, on June 21. It took just over two weeks to finalize the retraction, which happened on July 6, a month before the notice came out.
Taylor told us that the journal’s communication with the corresponding author raised an “ethical concern” — leading the journal to involve its editorial ethics review panel, but declined to provide more details:
Since our Editorial Ethics Review Panel keeps correspondence with authors confidential, we cannot provide any other details regarding the author disagreement.
According to Taylor, OSA policy states that avoiding authorship disputes is the responsibility of the corresponding authors; however, an internal check at the publisher also failed to uncover the disagreement. A “manual procedure” to verify that all the co-authors’ information had been added to the peer review management system was “inadvertently not followed,” she said:
unfortunately, only some of the coauthors were notified by OSA of the submission prior to publication.
While not all authors had been aware of the publication, Taylor told us that she had received word from the corresponding authors that all were on board with the retraction. And if there were any objections to the retractions, the authors had their chance, she told us:
we sent a copy of the proposed Retraction to all of them on two separate occasions. None of the coauthors responded with comments on either occasion.
Hat tip: Rolf Degen
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