July 14, 2016

Errata for Cluster failure

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Given the widespread misinterpretation of our paper, Eklund et al., Cluster Failure: Why fMRI inferences for spatial extent have inflated false-positive rates, we filed an errata with the PNAS Editoral office:

Errata for Eklund et al., Cluster failure: Why fMRI inferences for spatial extent have inflated false-positive rates.
Eklund, Anders; Nichols, Thomas E; Knutsson, Hans

Two sentences were poorly worded and could easily be misunderstood as overstating our results.

The last sentence of the Significance statement should read: “These results question the validity of a number of fMRI studies and may have a large impact on the interpretation of weakly significant neuroimaging results.”

The first sentence after the heading “The future of fMRI” should have read: “Due to lamentable archiving and data-sharing practices it is unlikely that problematic analyses can be redone.”

These replace the two sentences that mistakenly implied that our work affected all 40,000 publications (see Bibliometrics of Cluster Inference for an guestimate of how much of the literature is potentially affected).

After initially declining the the errata, on the grounds that it was correcting interpretation and not fact, PNAS have agreed to publish it:

  • Correction for Eklund et al., Cluster failure: Why fMRI inferences for spatial extent have inflated false-positive rates, PNAS 2016 0:1612033113v1-201612033; doi:10.1073/pnas.1612033113.

The online PDF of the orignal article now reflects these corrections.


Revised to reflect PNAS acceptance of errata. 19 July 2016.
Revised to reference PNAS correction. 16 August 2016.

- 7 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Indrajeet Patil

    “PNAS only publishes Errata to correct errors that significantly affect the scientific content of the article. While these changes may help to address a misperception, they would not have a substantial effect on the scientific content of the article. “

    Is errata different from correction? Because I saw a correction in PNAS made just to cite an additional reference!

    14 Jul 2016, 17:02

  2. Mike

    Indrajeet: Good find. Their response is made all the more ridiculous when you start perusing the list of corrections here: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/collection/corrections

    14 Jul 2016, 18:04

  3. Vincent Ferrera

    Errata are typically for technical errors. This was more a case of misinterpretation.

    14 Jul 2016, 20:57

  4. Dan H

    I’m glad you’re doing this and I’m very surprised at the response from PNAS.

    Perhaps something like this would address their response:
    Two sentences were poorly worded and, instead of simply stating, “Our findings may have a large impact on the interpretation of weakly significant neuroimaging results,” we assigned a number, 40000 papers, to the size of the impact. By including this number, we unintentionally turned a qualitative description of study impact into a quantitative result. Multiple readers are reading this number as a central result even though it is based on nothing more than a rough estimate of the total number of published fMRI papers. While it is difficult to estimate the precise number of papers impacted by our central findings, we believe it is less than 1/10 of the claimed magnitude. While, as you note, this is not actually the central finding of our manuscript, claiming our results affect nearly 40,000 fMRI papers is false and should be consider an error in this manuscript.

    14 Jul 2016, 21:17

  5. Matt

    It would appear that PNAS published the paper because of the overstated results and significance claims.

    This gives you the opportunity to take the responsible action: retract the paper from PNAS, and then publish it somewhere else without the bombastic claims (i.e., misstatements), and with the updated estimate of how many studies may have been affected, and with a balanced discussion that acknowledges the many empirically replicated fMRI effects.

    You have the chance to correct the perception of “fMRI research in crisis” that has been portrayed in the media. While there are problems to be addressed in the field, the statements in your paper that led to the media storm were not based in fact.

    15 Jul 2016, 00:12

  6. Thomas Nichols

    Indrajeet, Mike: Thanks for the references to the other corrections. I’ve used this information to appeal the rejection to PNAS.

    Vincent: I could agree with you, but a review of http://www.pnas.org/cgi/collection/corrections shows this isn’t the case.

    Dan: I concur with your text, but I assumed that the most concise and minimal revision was what the journal would want.

    Matt: I have (perhaps mistakenly) more faith in the reviewers and editors of PNAS than you ascribe, and in particular that the acceptance of the paper was based on more than 2 sentences. As I’ve stated in my other post, I stand behind the work in its entirety aside from these two passages.

    15 Jul 2016, 00:29

  7. Thomas Nichols

    Here is a sample of recent corrections from PNAS, collated by Mike Angstadt.

    Correction for Crockett et al., Harm to others outweighs harm to self in moral decision making
    The entirety of this correction is to include two additional references.

    Correction for Landhuis, Science and Culture: Putting a game face on biomedical research
    The entirety of this correction is to change “In 2011” to “About a year ago”

    Correction for Bryant et al., Detecting affiliation in colaughter across 24 societies
    The entirety of this correction is to fix the author affiliations.

    Correction for Buhrman et al., Quantum communication complexity advantage implies violation of a Bell inequality
    The same for this one, author affiliations.

    Correction for Tanaka et al., Fourteen babies born after round spermatid injection into human oocytes
    The entirety of the correction is to add a missing phrase: ” approved the submission for the clinical trial registration on”

    Correction for Schulz et al., TFE and Spt4/5 open and close the RNA polymerase clamp during the transcription cycle
    This correction is simply to fix Fonds to Foundation.

    Correction for van der Plas et al., Biotic homogenization can decrease landscape-scale forest multifunctionality
    The entirety of the correction is to fix the misspelling of one author’s name.

    Correction for Coccia and Wang, Evolution and convergence of the patterns of international scientific collaboration
    Correction of the author contribution footnote.

    Correction for Thomaston et al., High-resolution structures of the M2 channel from influenza A virus reveal dynamic pathways for proton stabilization and transduction
    Correction to the author’s affiliation.

    All except the first one are from the first 20 results found here: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/collection/corrections

    15 Jul 2016, 07:14

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