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Brainiac

On Second Thought: Ask a journalist

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When a group of researchers published a paper in the journal Science last month on a genetic way to magnetize and illuminate cotton fibers, they were heralded by a Forbes contributor as having made the biggest breakthrough in cotton since Eli Whitney invented the gin in 1794. But the bloom quickly fell off the boll. Steph Yin, who was covering the story for The New York Times, ran the article by a cotton expert, Deborah Delmer, for her thoughts. Delmer quickly noticed errors in the data that peer reviewers had missed prior to publication. She brought her concerns to Science, which, in an unusually rapid move, decided to warn readers that the paper was receiving extra scrutiny. The researchers said they are planning to correct their article, but that the errors don’t affect the overall conclusions.

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