Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weekend reads: 10 rules for research misconduct; peer review’s black box; the rich get richer

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The week at Retraction Watch featured authors making a difficult decision to retract once-promising findings about gliobastoma, and sanctions for a researcher in whose lab image manipulations were found. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 22nd, 2017 at 9:36 am

Posted in weekend reads

Months after neuroscientist flagged errors, Nature journal corrects them — and more

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When a neuroscientist noticed there were problems with his January 2017 paper in Nature Neuroscience, he didn’t wait for the journal to take action — instead, he published his concerns about four figures on PubMed Commons. Months later, the journal has issued formal corrections to those figures — along with several more.   

In February 2017, we praised Garret Stuber for alerting the scientific community to issues in his paper only 10 days after it first appeared online. On Twitter, he directed followers to the comment on PubMed Commons and asked them to retweet “for the sake of science integrity” — yet another example of how more researchers are taking matters into their own hands to alert readers to flaws in their papers. But according to the journal, the problems with the paper were more extensive than Stuber initially reported. Read the rest of this entry »

Jumped the gun: Paper about non-finalized guidelines is retracted

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Too soon? A surgeon is retracting his overview of new hernia surgery guidelines after it was published before the guidelines were finalized.

The paper, published in German in the journal, Der Chirurg, was also retracted because — according to two co-authors of the new guidelines — the final version of the guidelines was supposed to appear first, in English, in another journal.

The author of the paper, Dirk Weyhe, explained that the journal invited him to write an overview of the new guidelines for a special issue. According to Weyhe, a surgeon based in Germany who was a co-author on the guidelines, the aim of the special issue was to follow-up on an agreement reached at an international hernia conference in 2016: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 21st, 2017 at 8:00 am

“We do not want to create false hope”: Authors retract Cell paper they can’t replicate

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A few years ago, researchers in Sweden had something to celebrate: They thought they had discovered a chink in the armor of the most common type of malignant brain cancer.

In a 2014 Cell paper, the team — led by Patrik Ernfors at the Karolinska Institutet — reported that they had identified a small molecule that could target and kill glioblastoma cells — the cancer that U.S. Senator John McCain was just diagnosed with — and prolong survival in mice with the disease. 

Satish Srinivas Kitambi, the paper’s first author, who is also based at the Karolinska Institutet, said the results got the team “really excited:” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 20th, 2017 at 11:05 am

Drip, drip: UCLA investigation finds more image duplications

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Image duplications and unsupported data continue to plague a network of cancer researchers that includes the former vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Los Angeles, James Economou.

On July 2, the editors at Cancer Research retracted a 2011 paper that Economou published as last author, saying it suffered from image duplication and unsupported figures. This is the second retraction we’re aware of to come out of an investigation by UCLA’s Office of Research Policy and Compliance that has touched this group of scientists.

Here’s the notice for “Molecular Mechanism of MART-1+/A*0201+ Human Melanoma Resistance to Specific CTL-Killing Despite Functional Tumor–CTL Interaction,” which says the retraction comes at the request of UCLA: Read the rest of this entry »

Weizmann bans grad students from researcher’s lab over “serious misconduct”

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Rony Seger

The Weizmann Institute in Israel has barred a biologist from mentoring graduate students, after an investigation uncovered ” a case of serious misconduct that included manipulation of data.”

In a letter posted on PubPeer, President Daniel Zajfman describes some of the disciplinary measures taken against an unnamed scientist, including also retracting or correcting all affected papers. Michal Neeman, vice president of The Weizmann Institute of Science, confirmed to us that the letter describes Rony Seger, a molecular biologist who has already retracted 11 papers.

Neeman told us the investigation was unable to determine who was responsible for the manipulations, but as the head of his lab, Seger was ultimately accountable:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

July 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

What a report into scientific misconduct reveals: The case of Frank Sauer

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Oct. 3, 2011, was the beginning of the end for Frank Sauer’s tenure at the University of California, Riverside. On that day, an anonymous emailer contacted Sauer’s institution with accusations that the biochemist had cooked his research in at least eight papers over a 16-year period.

Sauer was found to have doctored images in studies using government money — nearly $3 million of it. He went on to lose his position at UC Riverside, several papers to retraction, and, in May, a subsequent legal battle over the severity of the federal sanctions. Along the way, he concocted a fantastic tale of sabotage against German scientists (like himself), replete with poison-pen letters and fabricated credentials. 

Retraction Watch has obtained a copy of UC Riverside’s report on the Sauer case through a public records request. The report, which is undated but which describes committee meetings and interviews from October 2011 to October 2012, lists 33 allegations of scientific misconduct against Sauer, 20 of which the committee determined to involve deception. Of the remaining 13, the committee either could not find proof of guilt or determined that the data were legitimate.

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Science journal flags cancer paper under investigation for image manipulation

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Science Signaling has issued an expression of concern for a 2016 paper, citing an institutional investigation into image manipulation.

According to a spokesperson for the journal, the corresponding author, Tanya Kalin, became concerned that two images in the paper had been manipulated. Kalin then notified the research integrity officer at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where she is based.

On May 9 2017, Kalin alerted the journal to the investigation. A week later, the hospital’s research integrity officer followed up with the journal, flagging the figures under question.  The journal then prepared an expression of concern (EOC) to alert readers to the issues and the institution’s investigation.  

Here’s the EOC notice for “The transcription factor FOXF1 promotes prostate cancer by stimulating the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK5:” Read the rest of this entry »

Ex-Wayne State scientist, ORI square off in court

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WASHINGTON, D.C — Last week, former brain scientist Christian Kreipke stared down the third set of research misconduct allegations against him since 2011. Or, possibly, according to him, it was the third iteration of the same research misconduct allegations he’s faced for years, a piling on by the most powerful of the three institutions out to ruin him after he allegedly uncovered a grant fraud scheme at Wayne State University, his former employer.

All the same, over three days Kreipke faced off against the U.S. Office of Research Integrity in a virtual administrative law courtroom as he contested a finding of research misconduct and an accompanying 10-year ban on receiving federal funding. In Washington, prosecutor Patricia Mantoan, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) attorney representing the ORI, brought the government’s case against him, wrapping up well before the end of Monday, July 10. Onlookers at the public hearing watched on video monitors as Kriepke sweated, literally, through hours of testimony, much of it with him on the witness stand. Despite being confined to what his lawyer, Shereef Akeel, of Detroit-area firm Akeel & Valentine called an “85 degree” room at the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Kreipke’s defense team took their time laying out his side of the story.

Since the allegations were first raised, Kreipke’s defense has remained largely the same: the misconduct allegations from Wayne State, brought in 2011, are retaliation against him for raising doubts the year before about accounting practices related to federal grants. At trial, Akeel characterized Wayne State’s misconduct investigation as a “witch hunt” that was out to get Kreipke, no matter what. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

July 18th, 2017 at 8:00 am

NIH neuroscientist up to 19 retractions

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Stanley Rapoport.
Source: NIH

The string of apparent bad luck continues for Stanley Rapoport.

Rapoport, a neuroscientist based at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, has lost three more papers in three journals due to the misconduct of his co-authors. By our count, these retractions bring his tally to 19 — and tie him for 21st place on our leaderboard.

The journals—Schizophrenia Research, Journal of Affective Disorders, and Biological Psychiatry— retracted the papers because the National Institutes of Health had found that one of Rapoport’s co-authors, Jagadeesh Rao, had “engaged in research misconduct by falsifying data.” Rao was corresponding author on all three papers.

According to a spokesperson for Elsevier, which publishes the journals, the Schizophrenia Research paper was retracted in July, the JAD paper in late May and the Biological Psychiatry paper in late April. The spokesperson told us that the publisher first received an email from the NIH about the misconduct findings on September 20, 2016, and that: Read the rest of this entry »