Last month, Ivan met David Vaux at the 3rd World Conference on Research Integrity in Montreal. David mentioned a retraction he published in Nature, and we thought it would be a great guest post on what it’s like to retract one of your own papers in an attempt to clean up the literature.
In September 1995 Nature asked me to review a manuscript by Bellgrau and co-workers, which subsequently appeared. I was very excited by this paper, as it showed that expression of CD95L on Sertoli cells in allogeneic mismatched testes tissue transplanted under the kidney capsule was able to induce apoptosis of invading cytotoxic T cells, thereby preventing rejection. As I wrote in a News and Views piece, the implications of these findings were enormous – grafts engineered to express CD95L would be able to prevent rejection without generalized immunosuppression.
In fact, I was so taken by these findings that we started generation of transgenic mice that expressed CD95L on their islet beta cells to see if it would allow islet cell grafts to avoid rejection and provide a cure for diabetes in mismatched recipients.
There’s been a lively discussion at Jeff Perkel’s guest post from this morning, “Should Linus Pauling’s erroneous 1953 model of DNA be retracted?” Most of our commenters say “no.” Some of those “nos” are quite emphatic, suggesting that Retraction Watch should brush up on epistemology, or that this was a silly question to begin with.
We appreciate all the feedback, of course, and thought this would be a good opportunity to expand the answers a bit from “yes” and “no” — which a few commenters have begun doing. So we’re posting this poll about what should happen to papers such as Pauling’s that are proven to be wrong, knowing that they continue to be cited as if they had no significant flaws. (Pauling’s, as Perkel pointed out, was actually wrong about at least one thing even when it was published, but leave that aside for these purposes.) Vote here: Continue reading So what should happen to scientific papers that are proven wrong?
We love history at Retraction Watch, but with few exceptions, such as covering what seems to have been the first-ever English language retraction in 1756, the daily march of retractions doesn’t leave us much time to take steps back. So we’re very glad to be able to present a guest post by our friend Jeff Perkel about a classic paper that scientists have known to be wrong for most of its nearly 60-year-life — and yet remains in the literature.
The date is December 31, 1952. Linus Pauling, the CalTech wunder-chemist who had recently solved the secondary structure of proteins by describing the alpha-helix and the beta-sheet, has just submitted a “Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids” to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The PNAS description appears in February 1953 and runs for 14 pages, with seven figures and two tables (compare that with Watson and Crick’s one-pager two months later inNature).
We tend to focus on new retractions here at Retraction Watch, and find it difficult enough to even keep up with the hundreds per year. But sometimes it’s illuminating to take a dip into history, so when Richard van Noorden alerted us to what may be the earliest-ever English language retraction, we thought we’d take a look.
Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the launch of Retraction Watch. We’d like to thank our readers, tipsters, and fans for your support and feedback — and our helpful critics who have spurred us to do better.
We haven’t done a careful count — more on more rigorous indexing later — but those posts cover something like 200 retractions, given that there are more than 120 between just Boldt, Bulfone-Paus, and Naoki Mori. That is unusually high activity for a 12-month period; the annual average for the previous 10 years was about 80. (Let us be the first to point out that any correlation between our founding and that high number does not imply causation.)
It’s official.* Joachim Boldt now holds the record for the most retractions by a single author.
As we reported the other day, a group of anesthesia journals was on the verge of revealing a list of 89 articles by Joachim Boldt that would require retraction because the German researcher had failed to receive proper approval from ethics officials for his studies. Today, the coalition issued a letter making the retractions official.