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The Scientific Literature

So Much For Natural-Product Nevirapine

Remember that weird Tetrahedron paper from last December? The one that claimed that it isolated the reverse transcriptase inhibitor nevirapine as a natural product from an Indian plant? In chiral form, no less?
Well, the journal would now like to say “Never mind“. The lead author has retracted the paper, “due to doubt created in the scientific community on the origin of nevirapine from the seeds of Cleome viscosa“. That’s an odd way to put it. Isn’t it? Doubts that other people might have are irrelevant if you’re right, aren’t they?
No, this is similar to the classic weasel-word apology, the one that goes on about regretting the way that some people took offense rather than regretting the original action itself. The reason this paper was retracted, surely, was that those doubts in the scientific community were well-founded. This paper made no sense on several levels, and those problems should have been caught immediately. Its publication was an embarrassment for Tetrahedron and for Elsevier.
I think that the reason I get so worked up about these things is the laziness and sloppy thinking involved. Scientific research deserves more than that, and the rest of us deserve more from the people who publish it.

5 comments on “So Much For Natural-Product Nevirapine”

  1. Jose says:

    I can only hope the ghosts of RBW and Robinson come back and kick some editorial a**….

  2. Josh says:

    I can’t even imagine a sequence of events that would lead to such a result. Unless some idiot actually dropped a pill into the extract.

  3. Felix says:

    This is ridiculous – it should have been retracted “because the results were obviously false and our review process failed to catch it”.

  4. TsOH says:

    My favorite was the NaH-oxidant’s “this article was retracted for scientific reasons,” but this one is pretty good too.

  5. Martin says:

    And another one:
    JNP, this week:
    “Is 2,3,4,5-Tetramethoxybenzoyl Chloride a Natural Product?”
    debunking a paper from
    Chen, et al J. Nat. Prod. 2007, 70, 989– 992

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