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Reasons for a Retraction

It was because the work couldn't be replicated that David Vaux says he asked to retract a paper he wrote — though the work that could not be reproduced was not originally done by his lab. At Retraction Watch, Vaux recounts that, in the mid-1990s, he reviewed a manuscript from Bellgrau et al. for Nature and was very excited about its findings and their implications, so much so that he wrote a News and Views article about it.

However, as work in his lab tried to build on those findings, Vaux realized that his lab couldn't replicate the original work, and neither could a few others. He writes that he tried to submit a rebuttal to Nature, but it was rejected, as was a submission to Nature Medicine. Eventually that paper was published in PNAS.

"I was becoming increasingly frustrated … when I had a flash of inspiration — I had published a News and Views extolling the virtues of Bellgrau et al.'s paper — now I could retract it!" he writes. And so he did.

But, Vaux adds, correcting the literature should be easier. "Clearly, the processes that allow the scientific record to self-correct can be improved, not least by Nature," he notes.