Another Quandary for Sciencemag

A few days ago, Science retracted the 2005 Hwang paper. But it turns out that the retraction was wrong, since the retraction left 2 lines pending. Now Science is trying to figure out how to re-retract the paper. You’d think that they could have got the retraction right. Update Jan. 8, 2006: It appears that they did not get to retracting it after all, and it is still unretracted pending finalization of retraction language.

The New York Times describes the comedy as follows:

There is no question in our minds that the stem cell paper published 19 May 2005 by the journal Science needs to be retracted," wrote Donald Kennedy, the journal’s editor in a statement released Thursday. He added that Science asked all 25 authors to sign a retraction and said that if the journal did not receive all the signatures by Friday, it would prepare to retract the paper on its own. By yesterday, said a Science spokeswoman, Ginger Pinholster, all but one had signed.

Then a new problem arose: The retraction did not include information revealed in South Korea at a news conference on Thursday. Until then, it had seemed possible that Dr. Hwang’s group had created 2 cloned stem cell lines, not 11. On Thursday, the investigators in Seoul said that even those two were not clones. Science sought confirmation of the news reports from Roe Jung Hye, dean of research affairs, and got it. That means, Dr. Kelner said, that "the wording of the retraction is not correct." Now the staff needs to meet to discuss how to proceed, she said, because "once a paper is retracted, you can’t retract it again."


  1. per
    Posted Jan 4, 2006 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

    Just imagine; they get the first paper in, and then they get two more science publications with the retractions as well !
    bonzer !

  2. The Knowing One
    Posted Jan 4, 2006 at 11:27 PM | Permalink

    Hwang is now claiming that he has the technology to do the stem cell work (Quote: “I can replicate the process any time”). According to him, he is the victim of a conspriacy. See this article in the Korea Herald for details.

    Is his lack of touch with reality due to the stress of being exposed, or has it always been there?

  3. Mark Frank
    Posted Jan 8, 2006 at 8:06 AM | Permalink

    From what was written, I don’t think you can blame Science for getting the retraction wrong. It sounds like they got additional information at the last moment after they had been round all the 25 authors. They have to strike a balance between getting the retraction out as soon as possible and getting in all possible information. We have all been in similar positions. They were unlucky that something additional came up at the last moment – but it doesn’t sound too major.

  4. Tony Baloney
    Posted Jan 10, 2006 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

    Science never retracted the 2005 paper. That has yet to happen. The NYTIMES article describes internal discussion about what the retraction should say, which are ongoing. There has been no re-retraction — the quote from the Science editor refers to her desire to avoid such a re-retraction by proceeding with caution.

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