Co-authors of a groundbreaking paper claiming the discovery of a room-temperature superconductor have formally requested the journal Nature to retract the study. The move follows allegations that the lead researcher, University of Rochester physicist Ranga Dias, misrepresented data in the study.
According to the letter, which was seen by The Wall Street Journal, eight out of the 11 authors expressed concerns about Dias not acting in good faith regarding the preparation and submission of the manuscript. The co-authors detailed multiple flaws in the paper and called for a retraction.
The controversial study, released in March, suggested that lutetium, when compressed in the presence of hydrogen and nitrogen, exhibited superconducting behavior at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This was seen as a revolutionary development due to the potential applications in more efficient electrical grids and longer-lasting batteries.
Despite the initial excitement, the claims faced skepticism, which escalated as external researchers attempted to replicate the results. Some scientists reported difficulties reproducing the superconducting behavior, and questions arose about the accuracy of the data presented in Dias’s study.
Dias’s co-authors, in their retraction request, highlighted additional concerns. The letter pointed to a major flaw where the paper falsely indicated that most measurements were conducted on samples made in the Dias lab following an exacting recipe. However, it was revealed that most samples used in experiments were commercially purchased.
The letter also emphasized misrepresentations in measurements of resistance and heat capacity, critical indicators of superconducting behavior. Several co-authors had reportedly raised these issues with Dias before the paper was submitted, but their concerns were largely dismissed.
Responding to the co-authors, Nature senior editor Tobias Rödel said they are in “absolute agreement” with the retraction request.
Dias, however, stands by his position, asserting that he has not engaged in any fabrication, manipulation, or misrepresentation of data.
This incident marks at least the third retraction in a year for Dias, with previous retractions from Physical Review Letters and Nature. The University of Rochester has initiated an external investigation into Dias’s papers, a process still underway.
Additionally, Dias faces accusations of plagiarism related to his doctoral thesis at Washington State University, with the university acknowledging awareness of the allegations but neither confirming nor denying an investigation. Dias, in response, has stated that he is addressing questions surrounding his thesis.
Nature has confirmed ongoing correspondence with the authors and anticipates taking appropriate action in the near future.
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