Another cold snap in the field of superconductors, these materials which lose their electrical resistance when cooled below a certain temperature, leading to dreams of revolutionary applications in the transport of electric current, mobility or quantum calculation .
On November 7, the review Nature has removed an article that had caused a stir in March, describing a superconductor based on lutetium and nitrogen at room temperature and ” high “ pressure. Already this summer, a South Korean announcement of a compound, LK-99, based on lead, copper, oxygen and phosphate, superconductor at room temperature had fizzled out. This time it is the announcement of the University of Rochester team led by Ranga Dias. It immediately attracted skepticism. It must be said that the researcher had already had to retract an article in September 2022always in Natureon another type of superconducting material.
His case worsened with, in August, a second article retraction in Physical Review Letters, without direct link with superconductivity. An investigation was also launched to find out if pages from his thesis were not plagiarism.
“Credible” and “substantial” concerns
The latest retraction of Naturenot accepted by Ranga Dias, follows the request of eight of the co-authors, out of eleven, of the March article whose letter had been revealed by the Wall Street Journal. They had drawn up a severe indictment against the scientific integrity of the team manager. Review Nature had also received external questions about the quality of the data. Ultimately, after issuing a warning about this article in September, the newspaper decided to retract it concluding that the concerns raised were “credible” And “substantial”, although “unresolved”. All of this “undermining the integrity of the article”. Three of the authors, including Ranga Dias, did not respond to the newspaper to say whether or not they accepted this decision.
Unlike LK-99, the case appears to have more to do with breaches of scientific integrity than with errors on the part of the scientists. She also questions the procedure followed by the newspaper to publish the article. In the news pages of Naturethe editorial head of physical sciences, Karl Ziemelis, defends the quality of the proofreading process, “the highly qualified experts chosen raised a number of questions during the proofreading which were largely answered in successive versions” of the manuscript. Nevertheless, the newspaper jealously guards its secrets, not even wishing to say how many experts were contacted for this evaluation.