Science Sunday #23

Science Sunday #23

This week in science news:  Stem Cell Research Papers Are Retracted.  This has been a huge debate in the science world for the past few months, ever since the original papers describing a method of making stem cells using an acid bath were published.  Almost immediately, there were questions of the integrity of the papers. After a lot of debate, including many many articles drawing the public’s attention to the case, the papers were finally withdrawn this week.

What I think is important in this case is two things:

1. That cases like this are not the rule in science, they are the exception. Full retractions of papers are rare and I hate that often it is these negative articles that persist in the public media. More common is either corrections (often of a figure or a legend) or partial retractions of a paper. Which brings me to my next point,

2. Cases like this spiral out of control when the media sensationalizes scientific discoveries before they have the opportunity to be vetted by the scientific community. I imagine that these papers would have been retracted anyway, but it would have happened without bring such drawn out, negative publicity to the research world.

I hope this saga will inform more scientists to work and publish with integrity and with a sense of responsibility to the community they represent.

I’m also curious as to what other scientists think about this and similar cases of whole papers being retracted. Do you notice the effect of the negativity they bring to science? Is it more noticeable of an effect if you’re working in the same field as the paper?

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