Everybody loves good science fiction, no? I guess that’s OK as long as the context isn’t in papers submitted to journals for publication.
The journal Nature has finally retracted two major studies it published in January, which claimed to have found new and easy ways to turn regular cells into stem cells. Apparently it’s not so easy as they were faked. Not long after the papers first went online, independent scientists began noticing apparent plagiarism within them. Independent teams were unable to replicate the papers’ findings. Later, a genetic test found that the stem cells described in the papers were not what the papers claimed.
All the scientists involved in the studies have now agreed to retract the papers, according to a letter Nature published online today. The letter describes what the retraction looks like: “The papers themselves have now been clearly watermarked to highlight their retracted status, but will remain hosted on Nature’s website, as is consistent with our retraction policy.”
The letter continues with the results of Nature’s own inquiry into whether experts at the journal should have caught these problems sooner. The journal’s editors decided they couldn’t have: “We have concluded that we and the referees could not have detected the problems that fatally undermined the papers. The referees’ rigorous reports quite rightly took on trust what was presented in the papers.”
Still, the journal is apparently making some changes, in hopes of catching poorly done and fraudulent papers in the future: “It is hoped that the extension of our methods sections, the addition of a checklist intended to improve the standards of reporting, and our use of statistical advisers will reduce these problems in Nature.”