Cyber-Detectives Deep-Six Cell Paper

A microbiology paper by an all-Taiwan group that made a media splash in Taiwan when it was published in the 20 October Cell is being retracted after anonymous online sleuths charged that images in the paper had been manipulated.

On Tuesday, Ban-Yang Chang of National Chung Hsing University in Taichung, the corresponding author, confirmed in an e-mail that he had written Cell asking the journal to retract his team's paper. The study questioned prevailing views of how transcription of a gene's DNA begins in bacteria. The move came after an investigating committee convened on Friday by the university recommended the retraction. In an e-mail to Science, Yu-Chan Chao, dean of the College of Life Sciences at the university, called the episode an "unfortunate case" and added that "the university will take this as a serious lesson for ethics education at all the colleges in the future."

Chang maintains that the paper's conclusions are correct. "We want to stress again that the results reported in the Cell paper are real and reproducible,"he wrote. Cell so far has not published a retraction notice.

For a more detailed story on how the anonymous Internet postings challenged the Cell paper, see this Friday's issue of Science.