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Research integrity for structural biologists

On the importance of taking active measures to maintain integrity in Structural biology.

Dec 14, 2017
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2 Comments

Angel Herráez almost 2 years ago

Really interesting, Alexander. Thanks for the reflection!

It would be essential that, apart from willingly processing retractions or revisions from both the original authors and others, the journals would attach prominent notices and links to those revisions in the original paper. Given the current editorial technologies, doing this should be straightforward at least in the webpage of the article. This way, no reader would be misguided by reading the original paper.

Athel Cornish-Bowden over 1 year ago

I agree, of course, with your main point, which applies far more widely than to structural biology. Even though one might think that fraud would always be detected quickly if people were interested in the topic, that isn't always the case. An example is a paper by J. Sudbo et al. (2001) New Eng. J. Med. 344, 1270-1278. It was a high-profile paper, cited in more than 100 papers over the next five years, during which time no one noticed (or if they did they didn't say so) that it contained an obvious fraud: two panels of a figure purported to refer to two different patients but were actually different magnifications of the same photomicrograph. When I read about this, I thought that one might need to be an expert in photomicrography (which I am not) to spot the fraud, but not at all: it leaps out at the eye, as the most prominent feature of both is a part that looks like a goose's head. Published in 2001, the paper wasn't withdrawn until 2006.