Retraction

Retraction

[ri-trak-shuhn]
A retraction is a public statement, either in print, or by verbal statement that is made to correct a previously made statement that was incorrect, invalid, or in error. The intent of a public retraction is to correct any incorrect information.

The term retraction carries stronger connotation than the term correction. An alteration that changes the main point of the original statement is generally referred to as a retraction while an alteration that leaves the main point of a statement intact is usually referred to simply as a correction.

Retraction in science

In science, a retraction of a published scientific article indicates that the original article should not have been published and that its data and conclusions should not be used as part of the foundation for future research. The common reasons for the retraction of articles are scientific misconduct and serious error.

There have been some famous examples of retracted scientific publications.

Retraction for error

  • 2006 Makarova, T. L. et al. Nature 413, 716-718 (2001). Set of inconsitences triggered fraud investigation against first author, but after long inverstigation all mistakes were admitted by appointed experts as undeliberate and result of negligence or inaccuracy. The paper was retracted by other 7 co-authors. See also Corrigendum published few months prior to retraction where first author admitted personal responsibility for some mistakes.
  • 2005 V. Schramke et al. "Retraction: RNA-interference-directed chromatin modification coupled to RNA polymerase II transcription" in Nature (volume 437, page 1057). Irreproducible results.
  • 2005 R. C. Allshire. "Retraction. Hairpin RNAs and retrotransposon LTRs effect RNAi and chromatin-based gene silencing" in Science (volume 310, page 49). Irreproducible results.
  • 2003 A. Kugler et al. "Retraction: Regression of human metastatic renal cell carcinoma after vaccination with tumor cell-dendritic cell hybrids" in Nature Medicine (volume 9, page 1221) was a retraction of a year 2000 article by Kugler et al. (Nat. Med. volume 6, pages 332-6). The data concerned patients with metastatic kidney cancer who were treated experimentally by combining their tumour cells with immune system cells. The article was retracted because of negligence in record keeping and sloppiness in the preparation of the manuscript.
  • 2003 G. Hawthorne et al "Retraction of paper on maternal diabetes" in the British Medical Journal (volume 327, page 929) was a retraction of a year 2000 article by Hawthorne et al. "Outcome of pregnancy in diabetic women in northeast England and in Norway" (BMJ volume 321, pages 730-1). The authors made a mistaken assumption about the diabetes data from Norway. A correct analysis of the data showed no difference beteeen outcomes in the two countries.
  • 2003 Retracted Science article on ecstasy. See Retracted article on neurotoxicity of ecstasy.
  • Frank Cameron Jackson, creator of the theory of epiphenomenalism, retracted his position due to an error in reasoning.

Retraction for fraud or misconduct

  • 2007 Retraction of "Cdx2 gene expression and trophectoderm lineage specification in mouse embryos" by K. Deb, M. Sivaguru, H.Y. Yong and R. Michael Roberts in Science due to first author's falsifying and fabricating digital images and thus engaging intentionally in research misconduct.
  • 2005 Retraction of "Enhanced insulin sensitivity, energy expenditure and thermogenesis in adipose-specific Pten suppression in mice" written by I. Shimomura. The transgenic mouse in question never existed and all gel pictures were found to be forged by one of Shimomura's colleagues.
  • 2004 G. Struhl retracted the 2002 article "Evidence that Armadillo Transduces Wingless by Mediating Nuclear Export or Cytosolic Activation of Pangolin" because of fabrication of data by first author S. Chan.
  • 2003 Numerous articles with questionable data from physicist Jan Hendrik Schön from many journals including both Science and Nature are retracted.
  • 2002 Retraction of announced discovery of elements 116 and 118. See Ununhexium.
  • 2000 Retraction of "Stable RNA/DNA hybrids in the mammalian genome: inducible intermediates in immunoglobulin class switch recombination" and "Transcription-dependent R-loop formation at mammalian class switch sequences" because of fabrication of data by first author R. B. Tracy.
  • 1991 Thereza Imanishi-Kari, who worked with David Baltimore, published a 1986 article in the journal Cell. Margot O'Toole, a postdoctoral researcher for Imanishi-Kari publicized Imanishi-Kari's scientific misconduct. After a major investigation, Baltimore was finally forced to issue a retraction in 1991 when the National Institutes of Health concluded that data in the 1986 Imanishi-Kari article had been falsified. In 1996, an expert panel appointed by the federal government cleared Imanishi-Kari of misconduct, finding no evidence of scientific fraud.
  • 1982-3 John Darsee. Fabricated results in the Cardiac Research Laboratory of Eugene Braunwald at Harvard in the early 1980s. Initially thought to be brilliant by his boss. He was caught out by fellow researchers in the same laboratory.
  • 1981 Mark Spector, a graduate student in the laboratory of Efraim Racker fabricated and published data in support of a new molecular mechanism of cancer. After researchers in other laboratories were unable to replicate Spector's results, it was found that Spector had knowingly incorporated radioactive iodine into proteins rather than radioactive phosphate, allowing him to fabricate an imaginary regulatory cascade. In 1981 Efraim Racker retracted the paper "Warburg effect revisited: merger of biochemistry and molecular biology" from the scientific journal Science, volume 213, page 1313.

Retraction for Political Reasons

  • 1633 Galileo Galilei was coerced into retracting his finding that the Earth was not the center of the universe.
  • 1896 Jose Rizal was said to have issued a letter of retraction regarding his novels and other published articles against the Roman Catholic Church.
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