How To Read A Retraction, Number Fucktillion And One

Aug 28 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Here is the text of a retraction of a molecular genetic study asserting that mutations in a voltage-gated chloride channel cause epilepsy:

Re-examination of the families and the molecular genetic data by a neurologist and a geneticist who were not involved in the original study has revealed major differences from the published data in two of the three published pedigrees (presented in Figs. 1a,b of the original publication). The number of clinically affected individuals was much lower than was previously reported, and large parts of the pedigree structures and epilepsy phenotypes are different. Most importantly, re-examination revealed the existence of several asymptomatic mutation carriers, refuting the complete co-segregation of the two mutations with the clinical phenotypes that was originally reported. A detailed description of these differences, including the clinical phenotypes and the genetic reanalysis, is provided in the related Correspondence in this issue1.
We sincerely regret our failure to recognize that important family data were false before the original manuscript was published, and we apologize for any inconvenience that may have arisen as a result of our report.
A. Heils did not agree to coauthor this retraction.

Did they fake the shit, or are they just fucking idiots? What's the dealio with "A. Heils"? Did he/she fake the shit, is an idiot, or what?

15 responses so far

  • whimple says:

    Important and very strange is that "A. Heils" is the last author on the retracted work. I have no idea what that means.

  • csrster says:

    To me it reads as "Heils fucked us over and won't admit it".

  • Schlupp says:

    What's also impressive is that 5 authors "contributed equally" to the original paper.

  • Schlupp says:

    Oh no, six, not five. So sorry to have overlooked someone's contribution.

  • Agree with csrster, or a variation thereof: "A.Heils was either an ignorant asstard or a sneaky faker, and he won't admit it."
    And 6 equally contributing authors?!?!?!?!!! That is some deep, deep politics.

  • Chris P says:

    One might imagine that A Heils is a senior faculty member who just attaches his or her name to papers and does not read them, so when this was just a Correspondence instead of a major submission, he/she figured that it really did not need a signature of contribution.

  • Chris says:

    The original paper had 26 authors!!
    26 people who's CV's are now toxic.
    Last authors are usually the PI's (principal investigators) of the lab or labs doing the research. They may have gotten the funding, and come up with the idea, but probably did no actually lab work, and may not have written much of the paper, although they may have helped edit.
    First authors are usually the people who actually did the work, and probably most of the manuscript writing. grad students, post docs, etc...
    As for why Heils didn't agree to the retraction. probably legal suicide if he is the focus of the investigation.
    middle authors are generally the techs and collaborators who contributed, but usually in a purely technical way. they are the riff raff.
    notice that the "equal contributors" were all at the beginning and end of the list of authors.

  • Beaker says:

    With 6 first authors, we can be sure some will channel Krusty the Clown: "I didn't do it!"

  • DrugMonkey says:

    "re-examination of the families"? Crikey. Serious and $$ investigation...

  • Tim says:

    just wondering what is the impact on one's career of retracting your papers? I would think it is something to be very ashamed of because it shows either shoddy or hastily done work or attempts to commit fraud. But it seems that it is becoming more and more common to see papers being retracted?
    Just as it weighs more on your CV if you've published in high impact journals than in lower impact ones, what hit does it cause to your CV if you retract a paper from a high impact journal compared to retracting a paper in a low impact journal?
    Do people list their retractions in their CVs? If so, is it career suicide? If not, would hiring committees or other panels that review CVs (like for grants or awards) go looking to see if the scientist under consideration has ever retracted a paper?

  • Another issue that comes to mind is whether there are any tools to aggregate retractions across institutions, and to include this in places like the Shanghai university ranking.

  • Svogel says:

    Not listing a retraction in your CV would be just another kind of fraud. A friend of mine used to joke, many years ago, that you can get three times the mileage out of a publication if you really want to: the original paper, the retraction, the correction. It's like the celebrity adage that even bad publicity is, after all, publicity. Not so funny now... and you really would get three times the mileage, because most people, in search committees, grants panels, etc. just look for quantity, not quality, when they scan the publications list. Sad, but true! Historically, most frauds, even dangerous ones, like surgeons who kill people through incompetence, move on to another institution and go on practicing. Also sad, but true!

  • Carlos says:

    Fraud not other name. The fact that they retracted will make them less guilty, but not completly.

  • anonym says:

    As bad as it is but at least the majority of authors from this paper agreed to retract it. This is encouraging. If people follow The Scientist, this journal reported from several "scientist" who where caught cheating on their CV or publications and even got banned from Office of Research Integrity (ORI) to submit grants, but their comments are: "They are treated wrongly". The majority of authors from this publication at least showed backbone. However, to make it clear this positive attitude does not justify any fraud or wrong doing.

  • Keith says:

    This retraction is not the end of the story! Look at the rather angry correspondence of these guys who had (unsuccesfully) tried to replicate the physiological results in the retracted paper (Nature Genetics January 2010 issue). It appears they had been saying for years that there was something fishy with the data. It looks as though it was all invented, family pedigrees, functional results, the lot!

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