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Rise of the 'Mega-Correction'

So-called "mega-corrections" are starting to creep into the scientific record, say Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus in Lab Times. Consider a correction published in Nature in September that took three paragraphs to explain what was wrong with one figure, they write. Or a correction published in the Journal of Cell Sciences in December that explained major errors in three different figures and corrected the list of authors as well as the funding source. "We're all for correcting the scientific record, no matter what that takes," Oransky and Marcus write. "We've argued … that scientists should embrace post-publication peer review, of which this would be a sort." However, they question whether mega-corrections are the best way to go about ensuring the accuracy of the scientific record.

The guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics, the authors add, suggest that journals issue a correction rather than a retraction if a small part of an otherwise reliable paper is in error. "So, it ends up depending on what you consider 'a small portion,'" Oransky and Marcus say. "Americans have paid the price for portion size creep, with more and more people becoming obese and diabetic. Journals would do well to avoid the scientific version of that fate."