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Error leads to retraction of controversial article

The journal Scientific Reports announced the retraction of a 2019 article claiming that fluctuations in the Sun’s magnetic field play a role in climate change on Earth. Authored by researchers from the United Kingdom, Russia, and Azerbaijan, the paper was criticized soon after its publication. Ken Rice, from the University of Edinburgh, UK, complained that the study made an “elementary error,” misinterpreting the influence of planets like Jupiter on changes in the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The article was praised on websites created by climate change deniers.

Scientific Reports determined that the criticisms were valid and that the errors compromised the results of the study. The lead author of the article, Ukrainian astrophysicist Valentina Zharkova, from the University of Northumbria, UK, accused the journal’s editor of attributing statements to the manuscript that were not made in order to justify its retraction. Other authors of the paper also complained, but one agreed with the retraction: physicist Sergei Zharkov, from the University of Hull, also in the UK. According to a report published on the Retraction Watch website, Sergei Zharkov is the son of Valentina Zharkova.