Caught Our Notice: Yes, a 20-year-old article is wrong — but it won’t be corrected online

Title: AMPA receptor-mediated regulation of a Gi-protein in cortical neurons

What Caught Our Attention:  Usually, when journals publish corrections to articles, they also correct the original article, except when the original is unavailable online.  When Nature noticed that some figure panels in a 20-year-old paper were duplicated, it flagged the issue for readers — but didn’t correct the online version of the original paper. According to the notice, the duplications don’t disturb the conclusion illustrated by the figure, the original data couldn’t be found, and the last two authors had retired. We contacted a spokesperson at Nature, who told us “the information at the start of the paper clearly links to the corrigendum.”   Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Yes, a 20-year-old article is wrong — but it won’t be corrected online

Figures in cancer paper at root of newly failed compound called into question

How much role did a potentially problematic paper play in the demise of a once-promising compound?

Researchers are questioning the validity of a high-profile article, published by Nature in 2006. Although the letter is 12 years old, the concerns have current implications: It was among the early evidence used to develop a cancer compound that recently failed a number of clinical trials.

It’s unclear whether the problems with the paper — if validated — could have contributed to the compound’s demise. But an outside expert has some thoughts — and so do image experts and multiple external reports, including one released this month, which agree the concerns about the figures have merit. (The first author’s ex-husband isn’t too happy with the article, either.)

Continue reading Figures in cancer paper at root of newly failed compound called into question

Author retracts Nature paper on Asia’s glaciers flagged for data error

A glacier researcher has retracted a Nature paper after mistakenly underestimating glacial melt by as much as a factor of ten.

In September, the journal tagged “Asia’s glaciers are a regionally important buffer against drought,” originally published in May 2017 by Hamish Pritchard,a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, with an expression of concern, notifying readers of the mistake. It turns out, Pritchard had missed the fine print on a data set; a figure he thought represented water loss over a decade covered, in fact, only a year.

In September, Pritchard told Retraction Watch that the mix-up strengthened his argument that glacial melt was important to Asia’s water supply.

However, in the retraction notice, published today, he indicated that the mistake affected other conclusions: Continue reading Author retracts Nature paper on Asia’s glaciers flagged for data error

Nature adds alert to heavily debated paper about gene editing

Nature has added an “editor’s note” to a high-profile August paper alerting readers to the fact that the article has been subject to criticism.

Journals often flag papers that are being debated — what’s unusual here is that the journal doesn’t label the notice as an official “Expression of Concern,” which are indexed by PubMed. Yet the Nature notice reads just like an expression of concern.

Here’s the text of the new notice, which was added October 2 (and spotted by Paul Knoepfler):

Continue reading Nature adds alert to heavily debated paper about gene editing

Nature tags glacier paper with note of concern due to data mix-up

Nature has tagged a recent paper on the importance of glacial melt to water supply in Asia with an expression of concern (EoC), after receiving a tip that the author had misused some data.

The EoC for “Asia’s glaciers are a regionally important buffer against drought,” published by Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, came out today. The May 11, 2017 article — which has been cited three times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science — considers the contribution of glaciers to water supply in Central Asia and the potential for glacier loss to exacerbate water stress in the region. The paper received limited news coverage when it came out from science sites, including Phys.org.

Pritchard appears to have improperly used a particular data set — an error that was reported to the journal by two outside experts within weeks after the paper was published.  Continue reading Nature tags glacier paper with note of concern due to data mix-up

Nature retracts paper by stem cell scientist appealing her dismissal

Susana Gonzalez

A once-rising star in stem cell biology — who recently lost both her job and a sizable grant — has had a fourth paper retracted.

The notice — issued by Nature for a 2006 letter — cites duplicated images, and a lack of raw data to verify the findings. First author Susana Gonzalez — who was dismissed from her position at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain last February over allegations of misconduct — couldn’t be reached by the journal.

Here’s the full text of the retraction notice:

Continue reading Nature retracts paper by stem cell scientist appealing her dismissal

Widely publicized Nature study on human age limit draws fire

Statisticians are mounting a challenge to a much-publicized study suggesting that human lifespan has a limit of approximately 115 years — 125, tops.

Published last October in Nature, the study from scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York was the eleventh most talked-about piece of research in 2016, according to Altmetric. The paper is not yet indexed in Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

But now, multiple research teams have described what they see as flaws in either the statistical methods or underlying reasoning of the study. Today, Nature published five peer-reviewed rebuttals, in response to the study. Another scientist described his concerns about the paper in April in F1000 Research.

The five papers in Nature are published as Brief Communications Arising, the journal’s way of flagging an important debate over a paper. The short papers provide new data to challenge a central part of a paper’s conclusions. The study’s authors, however, have responded to all five, defending their methods, especially their controversial decision to rely in part upon a visual inspection of mortality data in concluding there is a limit to human lifespan. Senior author Jan Vijg, a geneticist, told Retraction Watch:

Continue reading Widely publicized Nature study on human age limit draws fire

Dear journals: Clean up your act. Regards, Concerned Biostatistician

Romain-Daniel Gosselin

Recently, a biostatistician sent an open letter to editors of 10 major science journals, urging them to pay more attention to common statistical problems with papers. Specifically, Romain-Daniel Gosselin, Founder and CEO of Biotelligences, which trains researchers in biostatistics, counted how many of 10 recent papers in each of the 10 journals contained two common problems: omitting the sample size used in experiments, as well as the tests used as part of the statistical analyses. (Short answer: Too many.) Below, we have reproduced his letter.

Dear Editors and Colleagues,

I write this letter as a biologist and instructor of biostatistics, concerned about the disregard for statistical reporting that is threatening scientific reproducibility. I hereby urge you to spearhead the strict application of existing guidelines on statistical reporting. Continue reading Dear journals: Clean up your act. Regards, Concerned Biostatistician

Nature paper adds non-reproducibility to its list of woes

Despite taking some serious hits, a 2006 letter in Nature isn’t going anywhere.

Years ago, a university committee determined that two figures in the letter had been falsified. The journal chose to correct the paper, rather than retract it — and then, the next year, published a correction of that correction due to “an error in the production process.” To round it out, in June of last year, Nature published a rebuttal from a separate research group, who had failed to replicate the letter’s results.

Still, the first author told us there are no plans to retract the paper, since the follow up experiments published in the corrections confirmed the paper’s conclusions.

Continue reading Nature paper adds non-reproducibility to its list of woes

Nature paper with massive correction can’t be reproduced, says independent group

In 2011, authors of a Nature letter caught some flak for issuing a lengthy correction to a neuroscience paper that had raised eyebrows within days of publication — including some suggestions it should be retracted.

The correction notice, published months after the original letter, cited errors in image choice and labeling, but asserted the conclusions remained valid.

Now, those conclusions appear up for debate. In a recent Nature Brief Communications Arising (BCA) article, a team that raised concerns about the paper five years ago says they are unable to reproduce the results. But the authors of the original paper aren’t convinced: They argue that the BCA fails to cite important evidence, has a “complete absence or low quality of analysis,” and the scientists disregard some of their data.

Continue reading Nature paper with massive correction can’t be reproduced, says independent group