HARUKO OBOKATAAfter months of failed replication attempts, institutional investigations, findings of research misconduct, and several calls for retractions, RIKEN’s Haruko Obokata and her colleagues today (July 2) pulled both of their stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) studies. Also retracted was Austin Smith’s News and Views article, which accompanied the two STAP papers when they were published in Nature in January. Smith, a stem-cell researcher from the University of Cambridge, wrote in a Nature notice that his comments were “based on the accuracy and reproducibility of [Obokata and her colleagues’] data.”
In an editorial published today, the journal’s editors said they had verified that STAP was independently replicated in the coauthors’ labs before publishing the studies, and that reviewers of the work “could not have detected the problems that fatally undermined the papers.” Rather, the editors said, Nature was misled by the studies’ authors (specifically, in their contributions statements). “The referees’ rigorous reports quite rightly took on trust what was presented in the papers,” the editors wrote.
“In short: although editors and referees could not have detected the fatal faults in this work, the episode has further highlighted flaws in Nature’s procedures and in the procedures of institutions that publish with us,” the journal’s staff concluded.