This is the third high-profile retraction for Ranga Dias. Researchers worry the controversy is damaging the field’s reputation.
Nature has retracted a controversial paper1 claiming the discovery of a superconductor — a material that carries electrical currents with zero resistance — capable of operating at room temperature and relatively low pressure.
Retractions can be excruciating and potentially devastating to careers. They can be especially hard when they are due to the maleficence of your collaborator, where you are unaware the results they were producing works of pure fiction. The obvious worry is your peers will assume you were in some degree complicit in the misconduct. This is why researchers should always be wary of collaborators who produce surprising results, especially when they have previously had retractions and these were due to fabricated test results. In such cases, observing the results replicated internally, would be a prudent step.
It is the third high-profile retraction of a paper by the two lead authors, physicists Ranga Dias at the University of Rochester in New York and Ashkan Salamat at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Nature withdrew a separate paper last year2 and Physical Review Letters retracted one this August3. It spells more trouble in particular for Dias, whom some researchers allege plagiarized portions of his PhD thesis. Dias has objected to the first two retractions and not responded regarding the latest. Salamat approved the two this year.
“It is at this point hardly surprising that the team of Dias and Salamat has a third high-profile paper being retracted,” says Paul Canfield, a physicist at Iowa State University in Ames and at Ames National Laboratory. Many physicists had seen the Nature retraction as inevitable after the other two, and especially since The Wall Street Journal and Science reported in September that 8 of the 11 authors of the paper — including Salamat — had requested it in a letter to the journal.
Dasenbrock-Gammon, N. et al. Nature 615, 244–250 (2023); retraction https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06774-2 (2023).
Snider, E. et al. Nature 586, 373–377 (2022); retraction 610, 804 (2022).
Durkee, D. et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 127, 016401 (2021); retraction 131, 079902 (2023).