Specifically, the notice states a review of the paper found “concerns regarding the study design, methodology, and interpretation of the data.” Overall, the research “contradict(s) a large body of existing literature and do(es) not provide a sufficient level of evidence to support the claims made in the paper.” Um, so what did it get right?
Not surprisingly, the paper has been flagged by outside critics, such as on Twitter and a blog post by biologist Matthew Herron, who critiqued the paper shortly after it was published in September 2017. PLOS quickly responded that it was “looking into the concerns.” In January 2018, Herron presented more detailed criticisms, noting the paper is “flawed, deeply flawed, and it would be irresponsible to pretend otherwise.” A comment on that post, supposedly from the last author, notes that “We are in touch with the PLOS One editorial office to address the concerns raised by you.”
Eventually, the journal did address the concerns — by retracting the paper, and providing a reasonably detailed explanation why.
Journal: PLOS ONE
Authors: Pawan Kumar Jayaswal, Vivek Dogra, Asheesh Shanker, Tilak Raj Sharma, Nagendra Kumar Singh
Affiliations: National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, India; Banasthali University, India; Central University of South Bihar, India;
Following publication of the article, readers raised a number of concerns about aspects of this work, particularly those relating to the phylogenetic tree and the divergence times based on synonymous substitution rates. The PLOS ONE Editors have consulted with two members of the Editorial Board who have conducted an independent re-evaluation of the paper, which found concerns regarding the study design, methodology, and interpretation of the data, such that the results of the study were determined to be unreliable. Issues include:
-The findings contradict a large body of existing literature and do not provide a sufficient level of evidence to support the claims made in the paper.
-The selection of Chlamydomonas as the outgroup, contrary to the established understanding of evolutionary relationships between green algae, plants, animals, and fungi
-A conceptual flaw in placing Chlamydomonas as an outgroup then interpreting the resulting tree as evidence for the basal position of this taxon
-The molecular clock analysis methodology produced a number of inferred divergence times that contradict the fossil record data and also the phylogeny presented in the paper.
-Incorrect interpretation of distance between taxa based on adjacent position in the graphic presentation of the tree
In light of the concerns raised, the PLOS ONE Editors retract this article.
PKJ, AS, and NKS agree with the retraction. VD and TRS could not be reached.
Date of Article: September 2017
Times Cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science: Zero
Date of Notice: May 14, 2018
Hat Tip: Rolf Degen
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