Researchers retract a paper because it turns out not to be about bullshit

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Sometimes what science really needs is more bullshit.

Just ask a group of environmental scientists in China, who lost their 2019 article on soil contamination because what they thought was manure was in fact something else.

The article, titled “Immobilization of heavy metals in e-waste contaminated soils by combined application of biochar and phosphate fertilizer,” appeared in February in Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, and was written a team from the South China Institute of Environmental Science and Sun Yat-sen University, both in Guangzhou.

According to the researchers:

This paper reports the effects of single and combined application of biochar and phosphate fertilizer on immobilization of heavy metals in e-waste-contaminated soils. The results showed that combined amending biochar and phosphate fertilizer improved physical and chemical characteristics of soil but resulted in ammonium nitrogen loss. Biochar combined with phosphate fertilizer increased shoot biomass of lettuce while biochar applied alone could inhibit the growth of lettuce. A distinct decrease of heavy metal concentrations in lettuce was observed in phosphate fertilizer + biochar (3.0%) treatments while highest heavy metal concentrations in shoots and roots were observed in control treatments.

But the retraction notice says all that crap wasn’t crap after all:

The authors have retracted this article. After publication they became aware that the data for cattle manure biochar reported in this article are actually data for rice straw biochar. The results, discussion and conclusions are therefore invalid. All authors agree with the retraction.

Believe it or not, this paper isn’t the first one linked to manure that we’ve covered. That spot goes to this 2011 article, and a co-author who claimed that his data were lost when they fell into a pit of bullshit.

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3 thoughts on “Researchers retract a paper because it turns out not to be about bullshit”

  1. Even though the biochar wasn’t what they thought it was, why wouldn’t they republish stipulating the origin was rice straw? It seems they generated some solid data and it shouldn’t get lost in the ruckus.

  2. This RW post should be revised to include the tag “doing the right thing “. And the comment from “oldnuke” is unnecessarily disparaging and should be deleted.

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