We’re mostly wrong, but trust us: Our column on mega-corrections for Lab Times
Have you seen this correction, from the September 8, 2011 issue of Nature, for “Tumour vascularization via endothelial differentiation of glioblastoma stem-like cells?”
The figures and Supplementary figures of this Letter are affected by errors and improper editing. The correct figures are now provided, with an explanation of the variations. The original Letter has not been corrected online. We apologise for the confusion that our errors could have produced. We admit our negligence in the supervision of technical activity. We acknowledge that image manipulation is not acceptable and that any image modification must be clearly described. None of the alterations have any direct impact on the validity of our conclusions, which were also substantially confirmed in papers published by other independent groups1, 2.
In Fig. 1b, the left panel was generated by joining different fields acquired from several pictures in which the density of nuclei was very low. This was not apparent in the original figure because no border limits the individual acquisitions. This does not affect the interpretation of the results, which was based on the direct observation of a large number of cell nuclei by a senior investigator that gave the frequency of euploid versus aneuploid cells in each case preparation. The figure is only intended to show the appearance of different patterns. The same correction has been made in the right panel. Figure 1b, now showing the eight separate images, is corrected below. The master pictures of the figure are available as Supplementary Figs 1 and 2 of this Corrigendum. In Fig. 1c, two parts of the same picture were cut, flipped and moved closer to save space in the figure. However, the upper and lower panels of Fig. 1c partially overlapped. In Fig. 2b, the panel showing the uptake of LDL by HMVEC (bottom image only) erroneously showed a duplication of the GBM patient panel. The HMVEC panel of Fig. 2b is corrected below.
The massive correction, which Karin Wiebauer brought to our attention, includes the corrected figures, and continues in the Supplementary Information. The original paper, published in late 2010, has been cited 69 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. An earlier Nature paper by many of the same authors has been cited more than 1,000 times.
We’ve been keeping an eye on these “mega-corrections,” and in our latest column for Lab Times, we ask whether they’re the best way to go. As we note, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has this to say about retractions vs. corrections:
journals “should consider issuing a correction if: a small portion of an otherwise reliable publication proves to be misleading (especially because of honest error)” or “the author / contributor list is incorrect (i.e. a deserving author has been omitted or somebody who does not meet authorship criteria has been included).” Retractions, say the guidelines, require “clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g. data fabrication) or honest error (e.g. miscalculation or experimental error).”
We look forward to hearing what Retraction Watch readers think.