Commentary | When authoritative sources hold onto bad data (Nextgov)


    Commentary | When authoritative sources hold onto bad data – By Janet Freilich (Nextgov) / Dec 14, 2023

    A legal scholar explains the need for government databases to retract information.

    In 2004, Hwang Woo-suk was celebrated for his breakthrough discovery creating cloned human embryos, and his work was published in the prestigious journal Science. But the discovery was too good to be true; Dr. Hwang had fabricated the data. Science publicly retracted the article and assembled a team to investigate what went wrong.

    Retractions are frequently in the news. The high-profile discovery of a room-temperature superconductor was retracted on Nov. 7, 2023. A series of retractions toppled the president of Stanford University on July 19, 2023. Major early studies on COVID-19 were found to have serious data problems and retracted on June 4, 2020.

    Retractions are generally framed as a negative: as science not working properly, as an embarrassment for the institutions involved, or as a flaw in the peer review process. They can be all those things. But they can also be part of a story of science working the right way: finding and correcting errors, and publicly acknowledging when information turns out to be incorrect.



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