The journal Science recently took the initiative to retract an article before getting a retraction signed by all the authors of the article (Alberts, 2011).
Several flaws had been identified in this report published in 2009, and several laboratories, including those of the original authors, had failed to reproduce the results. The editor notes that “the majority of the authors have agreed in principle to retract the Report but they have been unable to agree on the wording of their statement”. The editors find that a forthcoming retraction signed by all the authors is unlikely, and therefore decide to editorially retract the report.
We think that this editorial retraction constitutes a transparent statement of a delicate situation, and a responsible and constructive attitude to ensure reliability of published scientific data. To our knowledge it is also the first time such a journal takes this kind of decision, that is retracting a paper, while openly acknowledging disagreement among authors. This is of particular interest as studies (Nath et al, 2006) have shown that retraction statement can sometimes conceal the truth about the reason of the retraction, notably when it is linked to misconducts.
- Alberts B. Science. 2011 Dec 23;334(6063):1636. Retraction.
- Nath SB, Marcus SC, Druss BG. Med J Aust. 2006 Aug 7;185(3):152-4. Retractions in the research literature: misconduct or mistakes?