Sometimes what science really needs is more bullshit.
Just ask a group of environmental scientists in China, who lost their 2019 article on soil contamination because what they thought was manure was in fact something else.
The article, titled “Immobilization of heavy metals in e-waste contaminated soils by combined application of biochar and phosphate fertilizer,” appeared in February in Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, and was written a team from the South China Institute of Environmental Science and Sun Yat-sen University, both in Guangzhou.
Last December, Tianyi Wang and her colleagues published a very interesting paper in Cell Metabolism on the potential link between a gene called JAK/STAT3 and breast cancer. It turns out that breast cancers become resistant to chemotherapy via a pathway that involves JAK/STAT3, and blocking this pathway can re-sensitize the tumor to chemotherapy.
Originally published June 17, 2016, the paper was retracted Jan. 15. Led by corresponding author Xavier Altafaj, of the University of Barcelona (UB) and Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), researchers described using an amino acid, D-serine, to treat a child with a rare genetic disorder that affects neurons.
According to the notice, the researchers did use D-serine in lab work used as proof-of-concept; however, when it came time to try it in the patient, as a result of a “communication error:”
Longtime readers of Retraction Watch may recall a 2011 post about a research team that retracted a paper after realizing that they had ordered the wrong mice. Maureen Gannon and Raymond Pasek of Vanderbilt University contacted us earlier this week to alert us to a similar case: Their retraction, earlier this month, of a 2016 paper from American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism after discovering that “a colleague from another lab had mistakenly supplied us with the wrong transgenic mouse line.”
Sometime in the middle of 2015, Jennifer Byrne, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Sydney, began her journey from cancer researcher to a scientific literature sleuth, seeking out potentially problematic papers.
The first step was when she noticed several papers that contained a mistake in a DNA construct which, she believed, meant the papers were not testing the gene in question, associated with multiple cancer types. She started a writing campaign to the journal editors and researchers, with mixed success. But less than two years later, two of the five papers she flagged have already been retracted.