Self-correcting Science

UBC chemist Prof. Chris Orvig P.Chem. recently illustrated how “normal science”  works – by publishing a correction to earlier work from his group.  In 2002, Orvig and co-workers reported a new compound that appeared to contain four N and two P atoms in a cyclic structure.  Returning to the same compound a decade later, they were able to form crystals of the compound, only to discover that was only half what they had previously reported – two N and one P in a cyclic structure half the size.

The previous paper was retracted and the new results were published in the specialist journal Inorganic Chemistry.  In related news reports, the Editor-in-Chief of the journal, William H. Tolman applauded Prof. Orvig for coming forward to correct the earlier mistake.  “This is precisely why the retraction mechanism exists – to correct the published record.  … This case is one of many data points in the larger story of how science corrects itself.””