Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Mistakes Happen

After the University of California, Davis' Pamela Ronald published two papers on quorum sensing, her lab began to trouble reproducing the work and eventually traced the problem to a labeling mix-up and a faulty test, Nature Jobs writes.

Throughout the process of figuring out the error, Ronald was in touch with journal editors and her colleagues, alerting them to the issues. Ronald eventually retracted the papers, earning the respect of Retraction Watch's Ivan Oransky for "do[ing] the right thing, even at personal cost."

Being honest and transparent, Nature Jobs' Virginia Gewin says, is the key to surviving a retraction with an intact reputation, assuming, of course, it was an honest error. She notes that between a third and quarter of retractions are because of errors. Still, she says, they are often viewed as "dirty secrets."

But, Gewin adds, a study published last year indicates that when researchers report mistakes themselves and retract the work, their reputations remain intact, as determined by citations to their other, intact work. However researchers who don't self-report lose up to 12.5 percent of citations per year.

"The greatest currency we have as scientists is respect — that colleagues respect us and our work," says Arturo Casadevall, the editor-in-chief of mBio and a microbiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "A retraction is survivable — if it's tackled honestly and transparently."