The researcher, McMaster University’s Jonathan Pruitt, is accused of spinning a web of deceit, cutting and pasting a lot of research data about spidey thoughts instead of studying different spiders:
His research looks at how different personalities form within communities of social spider species that live in groups, and it has implications for emerging ideas on how animal behaviours evolve in the context of their environment…
He has published several high-profile studies, such as one in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)3 and one in Nature4 that addresses a contentious debate about group selection in evolution. Researchers have questioned the data in both. A retraction has been requested by Pruitt’s co-authors on the PNAS paper, with Pruitt’s approval; a representative of Nature says that the journal has been notified about the questionable data and is looking into it. (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its journal team.) Giuliana Viglione, “‘Avalanche’ of spider-paper retractions shakes behavioural-ecology community” at Nature
The retractions are thought to deal a blow to behavioral ecology. It will be interesting to see what impact the retractions have on claims about the evolution of animal behavior.
See also: Group selection: Could we all get together and evolve as a group?
5 Replies to ““Avalanche” of retractions of research papers on spider personalities”
I’m suspicious of retractions for “plagiarism”, but in this case the bad behavior is pretty clear.
” In at least one instance, researchers identified formulae inserted into a published excel file, designed to add or subtract from a pasted value and create new data points.”
One reader calls it “Charlotte’s Web for grownups. “
Ah, you’ve finally noticed this. 🙂
Beyond the immediate application to social spiders, the impact will, I think, be minimal. The problems were raised and are being investigated by members of the animal ecology community, so I think any effect on their credibility will be minimal. Their swift action has made the “one bad egg” defence easier to sustain.
The scientific literature is full of what ?
More on this topic: “Can science trust itself?”
Science is only trustworthy if the scientist is honest and there is plenty of motivation to fudge things at times.