Duke group retracts Nature journal paper

A Nature journal is retracting a 2018 research letter about the genetics of flower patterns over concerns about the reliability of the data. 

The letter, “Two genetic changes in cis-regulatory elements caused evolution of petal spot position in Clarkia,” appeared in Nature Plants and was written by a team of researchers at Duke University, including Mark Rausher, a prominent plant geneticist and the John Carlisle Kilgo Professor of Biology at the institution. The paper has been cited 12 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. 

Per the retraction notice

This Letter is being retracted because, in follow-up experiments, key aspects of the original results have not been able to be replicated. The accuracy of the Myb1 and other sequencing information cannot be confirmed; the accuracy of the viral-induced gene silencing (VIGS) analysis, the identity of specimens in phenotype photographs and CPC gene sequencing and expression also cannot be confirmed; amplification of CPC, the supposed Myb1 regulator using the reported DNA and primers, cannot be repeated; and the reported 5’ sequence immediately upstream of Myb1 cannot be independently identified.

Mark Rausher agrees to the Retraction. We were unable to obtain a response from Peng Jiang.

The journal also is retracting a “News & Views” piece by two scholars at the University of Cambridge, in England, linked to the research letter: 

In view of the fact that the Letter titled ‘Two genetic changes in cis-regulatory elements caused evolution of petal spot position in Clarkia’ by Peng Jiang and Mark Rausher (Nat. Plants 4, 14–22; 2018) has been retracted by its authors, we wish to retract our News & Views highlighting the study because it relied on the validity of the data presented therein.

We emailed Peng’s Duke address, but it bounced back. Rausher did not respond to our request for comment. But Karl Leif Bates, the director of research communications at Duke, told us in an email that: 

Mark Rausher is not interested in discussing the retraction of the Nature Plants paper.

Beverely Glover, a co-author of the now-retracted commentary, told us: 

Nature Plants wrote to me on April 21st, saying that Mark Rausher had requested a retraction of the article because he could not replicate the data. I’m afraid I do not know any more than that, but of course I felt we must retract the N&V piece at the same time because it relied on the data in the original article.

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5 thoughts on “Duke group retracts Nature journal paper”

  1. Peng Jiang’s name has already been scrubbed from Mark Rausher’s lab web site. Making Peng an un-person doesn’t seem helpful to anyone else but I guess it helps remove the stain from Rausher’s reputation. The lack of response or transparency from Rausher about exactly what happened here is very disappointing. He is not just some geneticist: he is past president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and has an h index of over 60. He is a top dog. As such, he should be explaining what happened here in detail so that others can learn from the experience. Sweeping it under the rug is neither helpful nor a good model for others to follow.

    1. Would we learn anything new that we don’t know? Apparently, no one was paying close enough attention to primary data generation for this paper. I don’t see this as being specific to his lab, because this pretty much has occurred in every lab Ive worked in. Sadly, there probably will not be any changes in lab culture, with this lab or anywhere else. Another big million dollar waste of money.

        1. I support your idea. Or at least make them leaner–limit pay to tenured faculty and administrators would be a good start. Part of their job should be to watch over primary data generation, but most could not be bothered to do this. So a general pay cut to faculty is in order.

          1. In recent era, in every field what we find that the true research objectives or goal is just to publish. We never cross checking the content or data that whether it is truely a potentially valid findings or not because we all try to highlighted us. The rankings of the journals is a solid business motive. Every journal offers author services to earn huge money inspite of a name of open access protocols. In every filed if you put the name of the big dogs then your article published in Q1 journals. You see we all do publications just to get PhD as a degree not for the research. Our guides are cruel inhumane and many of them not even deserve a nursey level job but they sit in a cabin of a school of national importance with the help of nepotism, favortism.
            And the results are very clear to us that in the name of research a tiny percents are doing their best but rests are totally garbage because every year a new concepts came but no use at all to combat or mitigate the real crisis. Institute without any Education. It should end otherwise we all on the verge of extinction due to the exodous of data and tired enough to judge among them what is real.

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