Nature publishes retractions of two high-profile papers that claimed a major advance in the field of stem cells.
The scientific journal Nature Wednesday retracted two stem cell papers that received national attention when they were published in January.
The paper by researchers from Harvard University and Japan’s RIKEN Institute described a new method of producing versatile stem cells without altering their DNA – a process that promised to make it easier to use stem cells in research and treatment.
Stem cell researchers immediately raised questions about these new cells, called STAP cells, and have tried unsuccessfully for months to reproduce the process of making the cells, as described by the papers.
For the inside scoop on these stories, I always head to Retraction Watch.
The editorial in Nature cites the problems with the paper that led to the retraction. But they say that there was no way that peer reviewers could have caught these error which only came out from an investigation into the study.
We at Nature have examined the reports about the two papers from our referees and our own editorial records. Before publishing, we had checked that the results had been independently replicated in the laboratories of the co-authors, and we regret that we did not capture the authors’ assurances in the author-contributions statements.
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.
The peer review process is broken and needs to be fixed. But for now, it’s still the best out there. Science is done by people. People make mistakes and screw up. Welcome to reality.