When you discover your source is not reliable.

I am taking a new road in my research, and while I wait for reagents to arrive and cell lines to be ready I am spending a lot of time (a) analyzing transcription profile data and (b) doing literature searches. It is exciting to embark in a new direction and to immerse yourself at the start of a potentially productive project. Then again, most of them start off as exciting and potentially productive; I suppose it is even better when they end up being so.

Anyway, as part of my online searches I came across a technical file at one particular company website. You know what I mean, those short little "all about this protein/ antibody of interest in 200 words or less" that they have linked to their product data sheets. The 200 words weren't very informative, but I was following some of the references in the hopes of uncovering others that might help me. There were 15 references cited, and I looked at the last six. Reference #10 was a 2004 paper from someone with an extremely common last name, so I opted to search by volume and page number. Search results: 0. Hmm. Ok, so I find the journal online, and again search for the volume and page number. Search results: 0. What? So then I search by author name and year. Search result: 1. This is the paper I was looking for, and it turns out the datasheet printed the wrong volume number in their citation list. Apparently they don't use endnote. I glance at the article, realize it is not helpful, and move on to reference 11.

Reference #11 is also not helpful. I look up reference #12, and once again my volume/page search comes back with nothing. Once again I search at the journal's homepage by name/ year and find the article I am looking for, and discover that this time, the datasheet printed the wrong page numbers. Another typo? Someone is not very meticulous.

Reference #13 is somewhat helpful, but #14 is useless. I get to #15, the last reference. I find the paper with no problem, but as I scan through it I realize that the authors conclusions are in direct contradiction to the product data sheet. In other words, this company used this reference in support of the theory that Protein A activates Protein B. In reference #15 the authors actually study this, and conclude quite clearly that Protein A and Protein B have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. This leads me to believe that whoever wrote this data sheet didn't even read the articles they were citing.

Come on! When you only have fifteen articles, it doesn't take you that long to at least scan through them! I was so irritated and annoyed that I decided to send the company an email and explain that they needed to proofread their product data sheets.

A short time later I received a reply from a "technical corespondent": "Thank you for your email and for bringing these errors to our attention. I have notified our marketing department so that the errors may be corrected."

Wonderful. Correct the errors. However, the issue is much larger then this one document; it indicates a general lack of quality control and makes me wonder how reliable this company is in general. This just provides further evidence that you can't trust the company catalogue, you have to troubleshoot everything yourself. As if I needed more evidence for that.


Anonymous said...

oh..gee..what product is that? hope it's not from any leading sci. co. like sigma, ge healthcare etc.
that co. is so annoying.