2005 PNAS Arabidopsis cold sensitivity gene paper retracted

There’s a retraction this week from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of a paper that first appeared online on July 1, 2005 (and which is still available, but notes under “this article” that “a retraction has been published”). The paper reports on a study that allegedly found a gene that made Arabidopsis plants — a favorite model of molecular biologists — “extremely sensitive to freezing temperatures, completely unable to acclimate to the cold,” and very sensitive to salt.

In other words, the Arabidopsis version of our relatives in Florida.

From the retraction:
Continue reading 2005 PNAS Arabidopsis cold sensitivity gene paper retracted

Redundancy, redux: Anesthesia journal retracts obesity paper in self-plagiarism case

Sometimes redundancy — the topic of our last post — is a failure of editors to adequately vet a manuscript. Other times, the blame falls more squarely on the authors.

Consider: In the August 2010 issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, a highly regarded specialty journal, five researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, led by Andrew Ochroch, made a remarkable confession.

Their article in the May issue of A&A on ventilation of patients recovering from bariatric surgery plagiarized a 2009 paper in a competing publication, Anesthesiology — written by the same group:

We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate and unacceptable intellectual overlap and self-plagiarism of our paper … published in Anesthesiology.

Sincere apologies are better, we suppose, than insincere ones. But, never mind. They go on: Continue reading Redundancy, redux: Anesthesia journal retracts obesity paper in self-plagiarism case

Why write a blog about retractions?

Post by Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus

The unfolding drama of Anil Potti — a Duke researcher who posed as a Rhodes Scholar and appears to have invented key statistical analyses in a study of how breast cancer responds to chemotherapy — has sent ripples of angst through the cancer community. Potti’s antics prompted editors of The Lancet Oncology to issue an “expression of concern” — a Britishism that might be better expressed as “Holy Shit!” — about the validity of a 2007 paper in their journal by Potti and others.

Unlike newspapers, which strive for celerity as much as accuracy, science journals have the luxury of time. Thorough vetting, through editorial boards, peer reviewers and other filters, is the coin of the realm.

And yet mistakes happen. Sometimes these slips are merely technical, requiring nothing more than an erratum notice calling attention to a backwards figure or an incorrect address for reprints. Less often but far more important are the times when the blunders require that an entire article be pulled. For a glossary of the spectrum between erratum and retraction — including expression of concern — see this piece, commissioned by one of us, Ivan, while he was at The Scientist.

Retractions are born of many mothers. Fraud is the most titillating reason, and mercifully the most rare, but when it happens the results can be devastating. Consider the case of Scott Reuben, a prodigiously dishonest anesthesiologist whose fabrications led to the retraction of more than a score of papers and deeply rattled an entire medical specialty. (One of us, Adam, broke that story.)

So why write a blog on retractions? Continue reading Why write a blog about retractions?