I have had time to ruminate. After I finished painting the walls of the bedroom, I indulged in some complex polymer chemistry with my eldest daughter – aka her first stab at a sponge cake.
What struck me after just a few brush strokes was a simple question. Who instigated the correction? The correction is extremely opaque. It just says “The error…“. Where, at what stage of the submission/production process, by whom?
One can safely assume from the response provided by the RSC that copyright permission was NOT sought at the time of submission of the article to Nature Materials or subsequently during the reviewing or proofing stages. Moreover, this is not an isolated incident, there are multiple instances of data re-use from the same senior author (catalogued here).
Usually in a correction one can figure out that either the authors requested the correction or the publisher imposed it.
So on whose behalf is the correction?
Mack the Knife?
It seems unlikely to be the authors, since author corrections have to be… …well, authored. That is, signed by all the authors. Moreover, since data re-use is a form of misconduct (for example, see here), one might have expected some sort of apology for this and the other instances of data re-use.
The publisher? This seems a possible, but puzzling conclusion. “The error“. Why would NPG be so opaque? After all, NPG have been at the forefront in criticising, with some justification, institutions for opacity, e.g., Richard van Norden’s piece on the lack of openness at the three institutions that investigated the Melendez fraud, NUS, University of Glasgow and University of Liverpool.
Mack the Knife? Who could know for sure? If there were paw prints, it might even be Macavity – the mystery cat.
So a bit of a puzzle and your input is welcome, scientists, sleuths and casual passersby who stumble upon this site.