An analysis of two prominent journals reveals dozens of papers with apparent mistakes in their nucleotide-targeting reagents.
The prevalence of mistakes in published gene research could be more widespread than previously thought, according to an analysis of cancer-genetics papers in two high-impact journals.
Our congratulations to Jennifer Byrne and the team that recently identified a batch of highly cited and suspect genetic studies. We don’t yet know if the problems reflect a mistake or something far more serious. Genetic work can inform medical procedures and new treatments. Even a single flawed study is a concern, many is extremely troubling. We hope the institutions and publications concerned prompt, decisive and prompt action.
It is unclear whether the errors are accidental or indicate misconduct. The study, published on the preprint server bioRxiv on 3 February1, has not been peer reviewed. Some researchers also question the extent to which errors at the level of individual nucleotides might affect the papers’ conclusions. However, most agree that the presence of such mistakes in the scientific literature is worrying.
“It is certainly disheartening to see these sorts of errors,” says Jeremy Wilusz, a molecular biologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. “If it’s just a reporting issue or something bigger — that, I don’t know — but it shouldn’t be happening.”