Structural biology corrections highlight best of the scientific process

Nature_latest-coverIf you need evidence of the value of transparency in science, check out a pair of recent corrections in the structural biology literature.

This past August, researchers led by Qiu-Xing Jiang at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center corrected their study, first published in February 2014 in eLife, of prion-like protein aggregates called MAVS filaments, to which they had ascribed the incorrect “helical symmetry.” In March, Richard Blumberg of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues corrected their 2014 Nature study of a protein complex called CEACAM1/TIM-3, whose structure they had attempted to solve using x-ray crystallography.

In both cases, external researchers were able to download and reanalyze the authors’ own data from public data repositories, making it quickly apparent what had gone wrong and how it needed to be fixed — highlighting the very best of a scientific process that is supposed to be self-correcting and collaborative. Continue reading Structural biology corrections highlight best of the scientific process

50 years later, is it time to retract a retraction by a Nobel prize-winning author?

Georg Wittig
Georg Wittig

It’s not often that an article is retracted only to be later proven correct. But that may have happened this past summer in the chemistry literature.

In July, a group of researchers recapitulated an experiment largely similar to one that Nobelist Georg Wittig had performed – and subsequently retracted — decades earlier. Their findings suggest Wittig may actually have gotten it right the first time.

On July 27, Peter Chen of ETH Zurich and colleagues published an article online in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition that describes a new method for appending a carbon atom to an unsaturated hydrocarbon to create a three-membered ring – a useful chemical transformation known as cyclopropanation. Yet, it was not the first time researchers had reported such a process. As Chen and his colleagues note in the Israel Journal of Chemistry, Georg Wittig of the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (who would go on to win the chemistry Nobel Prize in 1979) and Volker Franzen reported a similar reaction in 1960 in Angewandte Chemie, a German-language publication. Continue reading 50 years later, is it time to retract a retraction by a Nobel prize-winning author?