Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Three more withdrawals for Naoki Mori, and a hint of the mother of retractions

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Lest readers of Retraction Watch had forgotten about Naoki Mori, the cancer researcher who liked his Western blots so much he decided to reuse them — and reuse them some more — he’s back.

The British Journal of Haematology (BJH) has retracted two papers Mori published in that journal, and BMC Microbiology has retracted another, bringing the total of retractions involving his work to at least 19 by our count. [See update at end.]

The BJH issued both retractions online in the end of February, and they’ve since come out in print. Here’s the retraction notice for the first paper, in the BJH (first only because it was published first):

The following article from the British Journal of Haematology, ‘Transactivation of CCL20 gene by Epstein–Barr virus latent membrane protein 1’ by Taeko Okudaira, Kazuo Yamamoto, Hirochika Kawakami, Jun-Nosuke Uchihara, Mariko Tomita, Masato Masuda, Takehiro Matsuda, Takeshi Sairenji, Hidekatsu Iha, Kuan-Teh Jeang, Toshifumi Matsuyama, Nobuyuki Takasu and Naoki Mori, published online on 29 November 2005 in Wiley Online Library (http://www.wileyonlinelibrary.com) has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor in Chief, Finbarr Cotter and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to the inclusion in the article of images and data previously published in International Journal of Cancer. 2005 May 1; 114: 747-55 ‘Transactivation of the CCL5/RANTES gene by Epstein-Barr virus latent membrane protein 1’ (DOI: 10·1002/ijc.20784). The last author, Naoki Mori, takes full responsibility for the duplication of figures in this paper, and states that none of the co-authors were involved in or aware of these events.

The retracted paper has been cited eight times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the link to the IJC paper, where you can see the figures in question.

And the second notice:

The following article from the British Journal of Haematology, ‘A modified version of galectin-9 induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of Burkitt and Hodgkin lymphoma cells’ by Shoko Makishi, Taeko Okudaira, Chie Ishikawa, Shigeki Sawada, Toshiki Watanabe, Mitsuomi Hirashima, Hajime Sunakawa and Naoki Mori, published online on 22 May 2008 in Wiley Online Library (http://www.wileyonlinelibrary.com) has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor in Chief, Finbarr Cotter and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to the inclusion in the article of images and data previously published in Blood, 2010;115: 2220-30, Infection & Immunity, 2009; 77: 1337-48, Cancer Science, 2008; 99: 2286-94, Infection & Immunity, 2007; 75: 5223-32, International Journal of Cancer, 2007; 120: 2251-61 and International Journal of Cancer, 2007; 120: 1811-20. The corresponding author, Naoki Mori, takes full responsibility for the duplication of figures in this paper, and states that none of the co-authors were involved in or aware of these events.

The retracted paper has also been cited eight times. Finbarr Cotter, BJH’s editor, told us:

 I can confirm that the BJH has retracted two articles at Dr. Mori’s request and will not be considering further submissions from Dr. Mori.

Mori, readers will recall, has received a 10-year publishing ban from the American Society of Microbiology.

Cotter didn’t respond to a follow-up question about whether the journal was looking at any other of Mori’s dozen-odd articles in the publication.

The BMC Microbiology notice:

After lengthy investigation by the editors, the original article [1] has been retracted because of inappropriate duplication of images from previously published articles. The last author, Naoki Mori takes full responsibility and apologizes for any inconvenience caused. References 1. Takamatsu R, Teruya H, Takeshima E, Ishikawa C, Matsumoto K, Mukaida N, Li J-D, Heuner K, Higa F, Fujita J, Mori N: Molecular characterization of Legionella pneumophila-induced interleukin-8 expression in T cells. BMC Microbiol 2010, 10:1.

The retracted paper has not yet been cited.

Mori did not reply to a message seeking comment on several matters, including whether he’s still sanguine about returning to the position he lost last summer at the University of the Ryukyus in the wake of the fraud revelations and how, now that he has his job back, as reported by ScienceInsider, he plans to convince anyone to write articles with him.

What’s interesting about the BJH retractions, or at least the one involving Epstein-Barr virus, is that it suggests a point of origin for Mori’s deception: the 2004 IJC article from which he cribbed figures and data. We couldn’t find an earlier paper of his that was retracted, so, while it’s just an assumption, this looks to be the seed from which the whole mess sprouted.

Update, 3:30 p.m. Eastern, 6/6/11: Oops! Make that 20. We missed one. BMC Microbiology has retracted two of Mori’s papers, not one. According to the retraction notice for the one that escaped our attention:

After lengthy investigation by the editors, the original article [1] has been retracted because of inappropriate duplication of images from previously published articles. The last author, Naoki Mori takes full responsibility and apologizes for any inconvenience caused. References 1. Takeshima E, Tomimori K, Kawakami H, Ishikawa C, Sawada S, Tomita M, Senba M, Kinjo F, Minuro H, Sasakawa C, Fujita J, Mori N: NF-kappaB activation by Helicobacter pylori requires Akt-mediated phosphorylation of p65. BMC Microbiology 2009, 9:36.

Thanks to a commenter for pointing that one out.

Comments
  • Neuroskeptic June 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Maybe they should add a note to the 2004 paper: “In conclusion, these results were so interesting, it was felt appropriate to publish them again 20 times”.

    Seriously though… he’s got his job back?

    What do you have to do to get fired from that place?

  • unknown June 8, 2011 at 12:27 am

    http://blog.goo.ne.jp/naoki_mori/c/0f3f16def2d241f270a386df8ce32cb5

    This Japanese website has carefully reviewed Dr. Mori’s published papers and suggested that his deception started in 1996. And, this website strongly suggests that Dr. Mori’s entire career is full of papers with repetitive use of same images.

  • unknown June 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm
  • V June 18, 2011 at 7:41 am

    I clicked on the above link and noticed that there were 11 total authors. But the retraction notice says that “The last author, Naoki Mori takes full responsibility for these errors in the original article.”

    Assuming that the other 10 authors had no part in the deceit, I feel pretty bad for them. Their work is down the tubes. One liar can really harm a lot of people.

    The retraction notice also says, “The conclusions from the figures are not altered in any way.” They always say that! How can they even know that, if they don’t have the data to prove their claim?

    And, even if they are proven right eventually, it’s no vindication. I am going to write a paper and fake data to show I’ve found the Higgs boson. If I’m caught, then I’ll apologize for the deception but claim that my conclusions were right. I’ll leave it up to the rest of you suckers to prove me right or wrong by building an actual particle accelerator and collecting actual data. If you do find the Higgs boson, I’ll say, “See, I told you so!”

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