Data in biofuel paper “had either been grossly misinterpreted or fabricated”

A biology journal has retracted a 2011 paper after the University of California, Los Angeles determined that the data in three figures “cannot be supported.”

In February, the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology retracted the paper, which explores efforts to engineer bacteria to convert plant biomass into biofuel.

Claudia Modlin, assistant director of UCLA’s Office of Research Policy and Compliance, told Retraction Watch that the university informed the journal about the issues last October, after reviewing the work. Continue reading Data in biofuel paper “had either been grossly misinterpreted or fabricated”

“Major advance” in solar power retracted for reproducibility issues

The authors of a highly cited 2016 research letter on a way to improve the efficiency of solar panels have retracted their work following “concerns about the reproducibility.”

Given the potential importance of the data, it would be nice to know what exactly went wrong, and why. However, the retraction notice doesn’t provide many details, and doesn’t even specify if the authors did indeed fail to reproduce the data.

The letter, titled “Graded bandgap perovskite solar cells,” was published in Nature Materials by a group out of the University of California at Berkeley and the affiliated Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The 2016 article has been cited 16 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, earning it the ranking of “highly cited.”

Berkeley heralded the findings in a press release as a “major advance” in the field of solar energy:

Continue reading “Major advance” in solar power retracted for reproducibility issues

Study that said hate cuts 12 years off gay lives fails to replicate

A highly cited paper has received a major correction as a result of the ongoing battle over attitudes towards gay people, when a prominent — and polarizing — critic showed it could not be replicated.  

In December 2017, researchers led by Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University corrected the paper, originally published in Social Science & Medicine in February 2014, which showed that gay people who live in areas where people were highly prejudiced against them had a significantly shorter life expectancy. The corrigendum came more than a year after a researcher who has testified against same-sex marriage was unable to replicate the original study.

“Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations,” has been cited 102 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and attracted media coverage when it was published, from outlets such as Reuters and U.S. News & World Report.

Continue reading Study that said hate cuts 12 years off gay lives fails to replicate

Lesson one: How to design a good experiment

Len Freedman. Credit: Judy Licht/GBSI
Vivian Siegel. Credit: Maria Nemchuk

It’s clear science has a reproducibility problem. What’s less clear is how to address it. Recently, the U.S. National Institutes of Health awarded the Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI) $2.34 million to train students in good experimental design (also covered by The Scientist). The first week begins June 2018 at Harvard Medical School. We spoke with Leonard P. Freedman, Founding President and Chief Scientific Officer of GBSI and Vivian Siegel, the education director of the program.

Retraction Watch: Why do students need extra training in experimental design? Continue reading Lesson one: How to design a good experiment

Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched

Via Wikimedia

Title: Molecular Characterization and Biological Activity of Interferon-α in Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

What Caught Our Attention: Soon after the paper appeared, the journal was alerted to the fact its findings were at odds with others in the field. When the editor approached the authors, everything fell apart: The authors couldn’t repeat the experiments, and “were also unsure of the molecular probes that were used in the study.” While it isn’t unusual to have doubts about data — since since research is a process of experimentation — it is odd not to know how your experiment was conducted. The paper was retracted less than two months after it was published. The manuscript was accepted two months after it was submitted in early May, theoretically giving reviewers enough time to catch these issues (along with the authors’ failure to cite relevant papers).  

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched

Science retracts paper after Nobel laureate’s lab can’t replicate results

Science is retracting a 2014 paper from the lab of a Nobel winner after replication attempts failed to conclusively support the original results.

In January, Bruce Beutler, an immunologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, emailed Science editor-in-chief Jeremy Berg to report that attempts to replicate the findings in “MAVS, cGAS, and endogenous retroviruses in T-independent B cell responses” had weakened his confidence in original results. The paper had found that virus-like elements in the human genome play an important role in the immune system’s response to pathogens.

Although Beutler and several co-authors requested retraction right off the bat, the journal discovered that two co-authors disagreed, which Berg told us drew out the retraction process. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the journal waited for Beutler’s lab to perform another replication attempt. Those findings were inconclusive and the dissenting authors continued to push back against retraction.

Berg told us:

Continue reading Science retracts paper after Nobel laureate’s lab can’t replicate results

Author blamed for misconduct in Cell paper declines to sign retraction notice  

Researchers have retracted a 2015 paper in Cell after an investigation revealed the first author committed misconduct.

According to the retraction notice, which first author Ozgur Tataroglu declined to sign, the researchers realized there was an issue with the 2015 paper when they were unable to replicate the findings. Corresponding author Patrick Emery and his team at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester reviewed the data and found “clear evidence” that Tataroglu  — who had been a postdoc in Emery’s lab — “had repeatedly misrepresented and altered primary data,” the notice states.

UMass subsequently conducted an investigation in which it “concluded that the first author committed scientific misconduct.”  

Here’s the retraction notice for “Calcium and SOL Protease Mediate Temperature Resetting of Circadian Clocks:” Continue reading Author blamed for misconduct in Cell paper declines to sign retraction notice  

“The data have spoken:” Controversial NgAgo gene editing study retracted

The author of a 2016 paper describing a potentially invaluable lab tool has retracted it, following heavy criticism from outside groups that could not reproduce the findings.

The paper had already been tagged with an Expression of Concern by the journal, Nature Biotechnology, which included data from multiple groups casting doubt on the original findings. Although the authors, led by Chunyu Han at Hebei University of Science and Technology in China, produced data to support their original findings, the journal has concluded — following “feedback from expert reviewers” — that the additional data “are insufficient to counter the substantial body of evidence that contradicts their initial findings,” according to an editorial released today:

Continue reading “The data have spoken:” Controversial NgAgo gene editing study retracted

“We do not want to create false hope”: Authors retract Cell paper they can’t replicate

A few years ago, researchers in Sweden had something to celebrate: They thought they had discovered a chink in the armor of the most common type of malignant brain cancer.

In a 2014 Cell paper, the team — led by Patrik Ernfors at the Karolinska Institutet — reported that they had identified a small molecule that could target and kill glioblastoma cells — the cancer that U.S. Senator John McCain was just diagnosed with — and prolong survival in mice with the disease. 

Satish Srinivas Kitambi, the paper’s first author, who is also based at the Karolinska Institutet, said the results got the team “really excited:” Continue reading “We do not want to create false hope”: Authors retract Cell paper they can’t replicate

Can we do math unconsciously? Replicators of a prominent 2012 study have some doubts

In 2012, news media were abuzz with a new finding from PNAS: Authors based in Israel had found evidence that our brains can unconsciously process more than we thought — including basic math and reading.  In other words, the authors claimed people could read and do math without even knowing what they were doing.

With such a major development in the field of consciousness research, other groups quickly got to work trying to replicate the findings. Those efforts have taken some twists and turns — including a recent retraction of a replication paper that was, itself, not reproducible (which is not something we see every day). But overall, five years after the initial, remarkable result, the replication efforts are calling it into question.

According to Pieter Moors at KU Leuven, a researcher in this field:

Continue reading Can we do math unconsciously? Replicators of a prominent 2012 study have some doubts