extraordinarily repeatable data

May 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm | | crazy figure contest, literature, scientific integrity

UPDATE: My friend on Facebook pointed out that Figure S5c in the supporting info is even more fishy (click on the image below to see a zoomed-in version). Clearly, some portions of the image were pasted on top of other parts. On the right, it is obvious that the top part of the image is from a different frame as the bottom part. On the left, it looks like there’s another image hidden behind (see the strip showing through on the left top part of the image). I’ve added red arrows to aid the eye.

This could possibly be mistakes by someone who doesn’t know how to use Photoshop layers, but I’m thinking there might have been some intentional manipulation of the data. Either way, this type of slicing and stitching and Photoshopping of scientific data is totally unacceptable. I think Nature editors and referees should be more than ashamed to have let this slide.

Nature editors announced that they are investigating.

(Original post below.)

This paper in Nature contains some serious errors: some of the images that are purportedly from different samples (different mice, even) appear to be identical! Note the triangle of spots in the two images below:

Many commenters have noticed the weirdnesses in the figures. This is my favorite comment so far:

2011-04-22 09:31 AM aston panda said:
This is an excellent article shows extraordinary .. skills and amazingly repeatable data. for example
Fig.1a, 2 middle vs 3 bottom left
Fig.1c, 2 right side vs 3 left side
Fig.S4, 1 left side vs 2 right side
Fig.S5, c4 middle right vs e4 middle left

I suspect that some sloppy organizing by the authors led to them mixing up some files on their computer. That’s my optimistic view. If they were trying to fabricate data, they wouldn’t use the same region of the same image of the same sample! It must have been sloppy bookkeeping. I hope their results stand up after they correct these errors.

It just goes to show that real science can’t get accepted into Nature and Science. ;)

UPDATE 2: RetractionWatch is surprised that this paper eventually was published with only a correction!


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  1. Wow – did they learn nothing from Hendrick Schoen?

    Comment by Julie — May 3, 2011 #

  2. I have to believe that these folks just made some sloppy mistakes. I really hope this isn’t another Schoen incident!

    Comment by sam — May 4, 2011 #

  3. Although having said that, Schoen did always claim that he was just sloppy, not intentional, in his fraud.

    Comment by sam — May 4, 2011 #

  4. OK, Julie, this is beginning to look more Schoen-like…

    Comment by sam — May 4, 2011 #

  5. I can tell that it is photoshopped from the pixels, and because I’ve seen plenty of ‘shops in my day.

    Comment by Kendall — May 5, 2011 #

  6. Amazing job mate, interesting findings. Can’t wait for Nature’s response for those claims.

    Comment by David — May 22, 2011 #

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