Archive for the ‘best of retractions’ Category
There’s been a lively discussion at Jeff Perkel’s guest post from this morning, “Should Linus Pauling’s erroneous 1953 model of DNA be retracted?” Most of our commenters say “no.” Some of those “nos” are quite emphatic, suggesting that Retraction Watch should brush up on epistemology, or that this was a silly question to begin with.
We appreciate all the feedback, of course, and thought this would be a good opportunity to expand the answers a bit from “yes” and “no” — which a few commenters have begun doing. So we’re posting this poll about what should happen to papers such as Pauling’s that are proven to be wrong, knowing that they continue to be cited as if they had no significant flaws. (Pauling’s, as Perkel pointed out, was actually wrong about at least one thing even when it was published, but leave that aside for these purposes.) Vote here: Read the rest of this entry »
We love history at Retraction Watch, but with few exceptions, such as covering what seems to have been the first-ever English language retraction in 1756, the daily march of retractions doesn’t leave us much time to take steps back. So we’re very glad to be able to present a guest post by our friend Jeff Perkel about a classic paper that scientists have known to be wrong for most of its nearly 60-year-life — and yet remains in the literature.
The date is December 31, 1952. Linus Pauling, the CalTech wunder-chemist who had recently solved the secondary structure of proteins by describing the alpha-helix and the beta-sheet, has just submitted a “Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids” to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The PNAS description appears in February 1953 and runs for 14 pages, with seven figures and two tables (compare that with Watson and Crick’s one-pager two months later in Nature).
Pauling also submitted a short note to Nature to alert that journal’s readers to the basics of the PNAS paper. The Nature note appeared in the journal’s February 21 issue: Read the rest of this entry »
We tend to focus on new retractions here at Retraction Watch, and find it difficult enough to even keep up with the hundreds per year. But sometimes it’s illuminating to take a dip into history, so when Richard van Noorden alerted us to what may be the earliest-ever English language retraction, we thought we’d take a look.
Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the launch of Retraction Watch. We’d like to thank our readers, tipsters, and fans for your support and feedback — and our helpful critics who have spurred us to do better.
Over the past 12 months we’ve written more than 250 posts about retractions ranging from the extraordinary — think Joachim Boldt and his 90-odd withdrawals, and the Byzantine case of Silvia Bulfone-Paus — to the trivial (much of the plagiarism, for instance); the laudable (a swift one in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, to pick one) to the ludicrous (the reason for that retraction is “none of your damn business,” one editor told us).
We haven’t done a careful count — more on more rigorous indexing later — but those posts cover something like 200 retractions, given that there are more than 120 between just Boldt, Bulfone-Paus, and Naoki Mori. That is unusually high activity for a 12-month period; the annual average for the previous 10 years was about 80. (Let us be the first to point out that any correlation between our founding and that high number does not imply causation.)
We made a rather presumptuous promise when we started this project. Read the rest of this entry »
Update on a Best Of retraction: Elsevier edits notice suggesting renaming Israel “historical Palestine” was political
About two months ago, we posted an item on a curious retraction as the first installment in our Best of Retractions series. In the notice of the retraction in Agricultural Water Management, the editor wrote:
Reason: During the second revision of the manuscript, the authors modified Figure 1 (changing the label from “Israel” to “Historical Palestine”), apparently with the goal of inserting a political statement into a scientific journal article. The authors did not inform the editors or the publisher of this change in their manuscript. As such, the authors have not lived up to the standards of trust and integrity that form the foundation of the peer-review process. The Editors-in-Chief take a very strong view on this matter and, hence, the retraction of the article from publication in Agricultural Water Management.
As Pieter van der Zaag, one of the paper’s authors informed us over the weekend in a comment on that post, however, the phrase “apparently with the goal of inserting a political statement into a scientific journal article” has now been removed from the notice. We asked van der Zaag, of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, for some more information. Here are his comments: Read the rest of this entry »
Best Of Retractions Part II: Keyword search “Irony” as paper on Google infringement case plagiarized
For would-be plagiarists, now is both the best and worst of times. Thanks to Google and other search tools, never has it been easier to appropriate someone else’s thoughts or words. But the Internet taketh away, too—offering up scads of sleuthing software that promise the ability to sniff out cheats.
Although Retraction Watch might have been born just before yesterday, we find it instructive to look back in time for items we would have covered had we been around a bit longer. We’ll do this periodically to generate a “Best Of” collection of retractions that catch our eye both for what they might suggest about scientific publishing and for good old-fashioned interest. Here’s the first installment:
A furtive attempt to play politics with a galley proof led to the retraction of a paper on Middle East water policy a few months ago. The article, “Optimizing irrigation water use in the West Bank, Palestine,” appeared in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural Water Management, an Elsevier journal. Written by Palestinian and Dutch researchers, the article modeled various scenarios of water and crop policies in the West Bank in an effort to determine the most efficient use of resources.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the printer. The authors decided to make a political protest of sorts in the galleys, a ham-handed gesture that led to the retraction of the paper, as the journal explained in a note: Read the rest of this entry »