This is the third and final article in a series by John R. Thomas, Jr., a lawyer at Gentry Locke who represents whistleblowers in a variety of False Claims Act cases. His first article discussed the background of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) and how it might apply to scientific misconduct, and his second article provided advice on how to know if you have a viable FCA case. In this installment, he writes about the procedure for bringing an FCA case and how the damages and whistleblower’s share are calculated.
Suppose you are a potential whistleblower. You believe that your PI is manipulating data in publications. You suspect that a fellow lab technician is tampering with experiments. You are a PI who knows that your colleague is “double dipping” on Federal grants. What should you do? Read the rest of this entry »
An environmental journal is retracting an article about the risks of pesticides to groundwater after determining it contained data that “the authors did not have permission (implicit or explicit) to publish.”
According to the retraction note in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, the paper said the data came from a non-author’s PhD thesis, but it’s not there. Those mysterious data were used to validate a model for pesticide exposures, described in an excerpt from the abstract: Read the rest of this entry »
The articles appeared in the American Journal of Transplantation in January and February of 2006, and came from the lab of S. T. Fan, of the University of Hong Kong. When the authors were asked about the images, they “were unable to satisfactorily mitigate the concerns.”
We have discovered several errata for a New York City urologist, including in one paper that previously inspired one of our favorite headlines.
The latest development is pretty straightforward: Ashutosh K. Tewari has issued errata to multiple papers in two journals that note changes to some data points. But the backstory has some twists and turns, so you may need to read this one carefully.
We’ll start with the paper that might be familiar to eagle-eyed readers, on incontinence after surgery: “Effect of a Risk- Grade of Nerve-sparing Technique on Early Return of Continence After Robot-assisted Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy.” It was published in European Urology in 2012, and has been cited 21 times, according Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the correction note (paywalled — tsk, tsk):
The Cochrane Library has withdrawn a 2013 systematic review on zinc’s ability to fight the common cold.
Cochrane often marks reviews “withdrawn” once new evidence emerges that renders them out of date — but in this case, the review was flagged while the editors investigate issues “regarding the calculation and analysis of data.”
Here’s the notice.
Aspergillus spores are often ubiquitous yet harmless, but can irritate people whose lungs aren’t in top working order. Duplication, on the other hand, is more universally deadly. The editors of The Pan African Medical Journal told us that, in addition to the retraction, there were personal consequences for the authors: Read the rest of this entry »
This one’s a bit of a mystery — neither of the papers share an author, and no authors share institutions. Once the editors discovered the overlap, they contacted the authors. One group of authors provided the requested documentation for the experiments. The other did not — so the editors retracted that article, even though it was published months before the other one.
In the meantime, the editors have asked the authors’ institutions investigate how the articles — which contain entire identical sentences, and some extremely similar figures — were put together. According to a statement from the editors:
To one reader of a paper on a nerve cancer, the researchers, based at a hospital in China, seemed to have found a very large number of cases of a rare cancer to study. That observation triggered an investigation into the paper that led to its retraction — and the concern that the authors in the paper never did the research at all.
The authors say they recruited 156 patients who had a particular kind of cancer that affects the tissue around nerves, known as malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. For context on how rare that is: Other researchers found a mere 1,182 new cases over a nearly four-decade period in the U.S. The study, according to the methods section of the paper, was supposedly done with patients who had a specific type of the disease, and who were
consecutively recruited from Wuhan Union Hospital, Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan (Hubei, China) between July 2000 and November 2012
According to the retraction note for “Common genetic variants in the microRNA biogenesis pathway are associated with malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor risk in a Chinese population,” the hospital where the work was done never treated all of those patients:
The National Ombudsman of The Netherlands has criticized some aspects of an investigation by Utrecht University that found a researcher had committed “a violation of academic integrity.”
Specifically, the Ombudsman found the investigation — which we covered last year — did not adequately involve the affected researcher, Pankaj Dhonukshe, and therefore violated rules of “fair play.” Dhonukshe expressed relief in a statement he emailed to us about the ruling: Read the rest of this entry »
A sixth paper co-authored by plant researcher Olivier Voinnet has been retracted by PLOS Pathogens “following an investigation into concerns.”
The investigation found “several band duplications” in one figure provided by fifth author, Patrice Dunoyer, who took it from “the Master thesis of a former student working under his supervision, without the prior consultation or consent of this student,” according to the notice. There was also an incorrect “loading control” in another figure, attributed to first author Raphael Sansregret and last author Kamal Bouarab.
Voinnet and Bouarab, the study’s corresponding authors, took full responsibility for “the publication of this erroneous paper.”
Although investigators found that the raw data in the duplicated figure backed up its conclusions, “given the nature and extent of data manipulation,” the authors asked the journal to retract the paper .