The Annals of Surgical Oncology (ASO) owes an apology to a group of researchers at two hospitals in South Florida.
Last month, the journal retracted a conference presentation about a device, from a company called Cianna Medical, that is designed to allow surgeons to home in to suspicious lumps in the breast and avoid needless damage to the surrounding tissue. According to the notice for “SAVI SCOUT RADAR – A non-wire non-radioactive localization device can be used for axillary lymph node surgery,” the authors of the study had failed to obtain ethics approval for the research, which was originally presented in April 2017 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons.
Trouble is, that part about lack of ethics approval is not true.
The journal retracted the wrong paper after suffering a “technical discrepancy,” a spokesperson for Springer Nature, which publishes the ASO, told us. The abstract “should not have been retracted.”
In fact, that wasn’t news to us. We’d found out as much from Cianna after contacting them for what we thought was going to be a story about the duties of companies that promote studies by press release — as it had done when the article appeared — to correct the record when that research gets retracted.
A spokesperson for Cianna insisted that the article in question was not being pulled — and he proved to be right.
Compounding the problem, however, the publisher still doesn’t seem to know exactly what’s going on — or quite how to fix it. A spokesperson for Springer Nature told us:
We are currently looking into what caused this technical discrepancy between the HTML and PDF version of this supplement and will correct this as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the journal website still lists the SCOUT paper as being retracted. And it hasn’t posted the correct retraction.
We’ve certainly seen cases of publisher error leading to retraction — but not one quite so ham-handed.
May 11, 2018: There is an update to this post.
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