A new analysis has found that hundreds of studies have reported incorrect DNA or RNA sequences in their methods, according to Nature News. It adds that the researchers say their findings suggest some study results could be unreliable and that some of these instances could be due to fraud.
Researchers led by the University of Sydney's Jennifer Byrne used a tool called Seek & Blastn to screen nearly 12,000 papers and identify 712 papers that reported more than 1,500 incorrect nucleotide sequences. As they report in a preprint posted to BioRvix, Byrne and her colleagues found that the incorrectly reported nucleotide sequences were mostly for reagents targeting either protein-coding genes or non-coding RNAs, including PCR and RT-PCR reagents and siRNAs or shRNAs. They note that 11 these papers have been retracted and three have expressions of concern. In their preprint, the researchers say their analysis, which only encompassed a fraction of the literature, points to "a problem of alarming proportions."
Byrne further tells Nature News that though some errors may be accidental, others are likely not. She notes, according to Nature News, that some of the papers, in addition to harboring incorrect DNA or RNA sequences, also included similar language and figures, indicating they could have been produced by a paper mill.