Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

ORI roundup: Former SUNY grad student, two Kansas U researchers hit with sanctions

without comments

In two unrelated cases, the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has sanctioned a grad student and a pair of colleagues, one of whom plagiarized and the other allowed the intellectual theft to go unchecked.

We think the handling of these cases — both first noted briefly by The Chronicle of Higher Education — is worth noting.

The first involves Jennifer Jamieson, described as a “former graduate student” at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. According to the notice ORI found that Jamieson

engaged in research misconduct by falsifying data that were included in grant application R01 GM047607-18A1, in a manuscript submitted for publication to the Journal of Cell Biology, and in several interdepartmental data presentations.

Jamieson is accused of manipulating Western blots in a variety of ways

to show that the results were of greater significance than they actually were

According to the ORI notice, Jamieson, who has not admitted culpability in the case, has agreed to a three-year period during which any research she does for an institution receiving funding from the Public Health Service must be supervised “to ensure the scientific integrity” of her work.

ORI also issued a report on the case of Mahesh Visvanathan, a bioinformatics researcher at Kansas University and co-director of the school’s Institute for Reproductive Health and Regenerative Medicine. ORI has accused Visvanathan of being a serial plagiarist, having misappropriated the work of others on three published articles and a poster abstract while using federal grant money:

Visvanathan, M., Adagarla, B., Lushington, G., Sittampalam, S., Proceedings of the 2009 International Joint Conference on Bioinformatics, Systems, Biology and Intelligent Computing, 2009, 494-497. Greater than half (50%) of the total text was obtained from

(1) Yang, C.-S., Chuang, L.-Y., Ke, C.-H., Yang, C.-H., International Journal of Computer Science, International Association of Engineers, August 2008 35(3),

(2) Goffard, N. and Weiller, G., Nucleic Acids Research, 2007, 35L:W176- W18l, and

(3) Chuang, L.-Y., Yang, C.-H., Tu, C.-J., Yang, C.-H., Proceedings of the Joint Conference on Information
Sciences, Atlantis Press, October 2006.

Retracted: Retracted administratively by IEEE on Jan 5, 2011 http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=5260432.

Vijayan, A.; Skariah, B. E., Nair, B.; Lushington, G., Subramanian, S., Visvanathan, M., Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedicine Workshop, 2009, BIBMW2009,
267-271. Approximately 15%of the text was plagiarized from Goffard, N. and Weiller, G., Nucleic Acids Research, 2007, 35L:W176-W18l.

Retracted: Retracted administratively by IEEE on Jan 5, 2011 http://www.computer.org/portal/web/csdl/doi/10.1109/BIBMW.2009.5332106.

Visvanathan, M., Netzer, M., Seger, M., Adagarla, B. S., Baumgartner, C., Sittampalam, S., Lushington, G., International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design, 2009, 2,236-251. A complete paragraph of the text was plagiarized from Goffard, N. and Weiller, G., Nucleic Acids Research, 2007, 35L:W176- W18l.

Adagarla, B., Lushington, G., Visvanathan, M., ISMB International Conference, January 2009; the entire abstract for this poster was obtained by plagiarizing text from Pihur, V., Datta, S., Datta S., Genomics, 2003, 92:400- 403.

In a related report, ORI also has sanctioned Visvanathan’s co-director and co-author, Gerald Lushington, whom it says

engaged in research misconduct by approving publication of three articles and one abstract he knew contained significant amounts of plagiarized text without attribution or citation from other writers’ published papers.

Both Lushington and Visvanathan, whose probation period is two years, have held onto their co-directorships of their institute.

Bonus: Read Nature‘s coverage of the Visvanathan-Lushington case, focusing on how the ORI is taking a “tougher stance” on plagiarism.

Written by amarcus41

January 17th, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Comments
  • rosta January 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Can you find the paper by Jamieson? I tried pubmed but there is no author of that name?

  • Hans Brighter January 18, 2012 at 7:46 am

    “engaged in research misconduct by approving publication of three articles and one abstract he knew contained significant amounts of plagiarized text without attribution or citation from other writers’ published papers.”

    I don’t see how they can prove this, unless they admitted it…

  • katolab January 18, 2012 at 9:12 am

    http://katolab-imagefraud.blogspot.com/

    Alleged image fraud by Kato lab at the University of Tokyo in Japan
    Research misconduct? Fabrication? Falsification? Unintentional and inadvertent mistake? Coincidental similarity? Shigeaki Kato laboratory : Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan.

    • chirality January 18, 2012 at 10:47 am

      That’s really impressive. The author of this blog must know all the tricks of the trade to spot such ingenious fakery.

    • Dave January 18, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Well you have me convinced!! That Nature paper has a lot of “manipulations”. Shocking if this turns out to be true.

      Ivan – have you guys heard anything else about this guy?

    • Jon Beckmann January 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Are you an expert in the field?

    • anon postdoc January 19, 2012 at 10:12 am

      This should first be brought to the attention of the relevant institutions and journal editors. There is a process for investigating such allegations that so far, Retraction Watch has done a fine job highlighting and supporting. Barring an unsatisfactory response from the institutions involved, there should be no reason to post allegations anonymously online in this way. As compelling as this evidence may look, I sincerely hope that Retraction Watch is not allowed to become a repository for allegations and a courthouse of public opinion. How can making public accusations without first taking the proper steps and then jumping to conclusions without giving the whole story a chance to come out really make us much more ethical than the perpetrators of fraudulent data manipulation?

      • Dave January 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

        It’s a fair point and I do not want to see Retraction Watch turn in to one big giant “witch hunt” based on nothing more than personal vendetta’s. However, this individual has compiled a pretty convincing list of “questionable” figures and has put in a substantial amount of work, and so it is not as if these allegations are unfounded or without evidence. There is probably personal issues involved here (why else would you put so much work in to exposing it?), but that is not really our concern.

        I do agree that it does now need to be passed on to the relevant institution for them to investigate and take appropriate action.

      • anon postdoc January 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

        @Dave
        Absolutely. I’m not saying what’s presented there isn’t convincing.. the bits I looked at closely certainly seem to be. But what about the co-authors who may have done nothing wrong but who’s names are listed in the citations there? What about authors and collaborators who may have published other, valid papers with that laboratory? The site linked seems to imply that there is a big problem tainting the entire lab, and while that may be a likely scenario, one must be very careful and let the process play out to precisely correct what needs to be corrected and minimize collateral damage. Sometimes even the most detailed and well-founded accusations can end up being over-broadened this way.

      • one-two January 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm

        Agreed entirely, Anon Postdoc. There is a process and it needs to be followed. To dump allegations online like this irresponsible, regardless of their veracity. Scientific misconduct proceedings are confidential for a reason and allegations should be made through the proper channels.

        In my opinion, to do otherwise suggests an alterior motive on the part of the person making the allegations. As insinuated above, I would not trust an individual that chooses to disclose this information without also disclosing that contacting journal editors and the appropriate institute’s research integrity officer was for some reason not enough. After all, if you’ve been robbed, you should call the police, not post it on the local newspaper/blog.

  • Clare Francis January 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Dear “one-two” January 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm in reply to “if you’ve been robbed, you should call the police”. Guess what? There are no police you can call.
    Many people have been exposed publicly.
    The paper is being “deconstructed”. That sort of thing happens all the time.
    No need for courts or lawyers.

    Dear Dave January 19, 2012 at 11:21 in reply to “There is probably personal issues involved here”, why do your do science? Science might be the answer. You should consider that. Just a suggestion.

    Dear anon postdoc January 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm in reply to “Sometimes even the most detailed and well-founded accusations can end up being over-broadened this way”. We do have to look at the data. Painfulfor some Iknow, but that is what we have to do. They are “publications” after all. what did the authors expect?

    • Dave January 20, 2012 at 10:46 am

      “Dear Dave January 19, 2012 at 11:21 in reply to “There is probably personal issues involved here”, why do your do science? Science might be the answer. You should consider that. Just a suggestion.”

      This statement literally makes no sense to me, I’m sorry. I don’t even know what you are TRYING to say.

      In any case, perhaps you misunderstood my point. What I was trying to say is that “katolab” probably has some personal reason for focusing on the Kato labs work and that this should be taken into account when we are discussing his accusations. That’s all.

      • Clare Francis January 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm

        Dear Dave,

        Based on what I thought you meant “Dave January 19, 2012 at 11:21 am”

        You had written “There is probably personal issues involved here (why else would you put so much work in to exposing it?),..”

        To make it clear.

        1. People may people, such as prof Zwirner, may point out likely data manipulation because they are interested in science.

        2. Putting a lot of effort into exposing something is not evidence of personal issues.

    • expostdoc January 31, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      @Anon post doc
      If there is sufficient proof of manipulation and it looks convincing … which u seem to agree too .. then the co-authors who may not have been directly involved in the wrong doing unfortunately do have to take the blame as they too would have seen that and as authors take responsibility for the work. It cannot be that they can take the credit but not the blame.
      @one-two
      No doubt that processes do exist and should be followed but here we do not know whether before dumping the allegations (which seem true) on the web the person tried the available channels. At times you realize that the police is hand in glove with the robbers … you go to complain about being robbed and you would be the one ending in the jail. If the manipulations are obvious I see nothing wrong in bringing it out whatever be the media.
      This has been covered in scienceinsider. The blogger did notify the concerned institute which claims to be looking into the matter. Despite the number and kind of image manipulations editors at nature allowed them to ‘correct’ it rather than asking them to retract is what should be questioned. These manipulations do not appear to be honest mistakes!!

  • Ressci Integrity January 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    @Clare Francis: Welcome back. Agree with your points. Moreover, take cases like the ones recently being discussed. The “confidential” misconduct investigation started in 2008 in one case, however, the person implicated has been submitting grant applications and publishing papers and even organising conferences, is this fair? When the investigation starts, authorities should notify publicly about this and everyone will be alerted. In so far discussed cases on retraction watch, the cases were publicised only after the final report or retraction – not at the beginning. It is upto the public to believe them or not – but investigations should be made known to the community.

    • Virgilstar January 20, 2012 at 10:05 am

      There’s something to be said for both approaches…

      If there’s any possibility that the accusations may not pan out, then waiting for the final result/report is the only ethical path. Early publicity of misconduct investigations could have a serious impact on the career of an individual who is later exonerated. Even the sniff of controversy could lead to unwarranted discrimination if not handled correctly.

      On the other hand, these investigations are often drawn out over several years, which can be frustrating for the initiators. A big issue is that the financial resources for misconduct investigations are woefully inadequate. Looking at their website, ORI only publishes a dozen or so cases a year, which doesn’t seem like very much for the entire US federally funded research effort (hundreds of thousands of individual researchers). More staff/money/resources to investigate these things, should be encouraged at every level.

      Middle-of-the-road approaches such as “expression of concern” statements about papers, are sometimes useful, since they give researchers adequate time to defend themselves and prove their data are good. The problem is, there’s a big difference between having a paper under concern, and having it publicized that ORI is even slightly interested in you. It’s one of those all or nothing deals… you’re either squeaky clean or not; anything other than 100% clean is just not good.

    • one-two January 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      “When the investigation starts, authorities should notify publicly about this and everyone will be alerted.”

      I think that this policy will encourage and reward retaliatory allegations of misconduct. You seem to be suggesting that someone should be placed on some sort of suspension or blacklist until what could be a multiyear long investigation – which may or may not result in a finding of misconduct – be completed. Imagine you’re the student and you’ve made the brave step of accusing your PI, then the PI tries to put it on you. Now you won’t be able to be cleared for years and you’re likely stuck in some sort of limbo with regard to getting a degree. Or if the PI tries to toss out a student that’s been faking data, then the student tries to hide behind the PI’s apron leveling allegations that the devil (PI) made him or her do it. Now the PI is tied up in an investigation and blacklisted for years, during which, funding may well run out and students will likely not join that group. I think this proposed policy will make it harder for someone to do the right thing and could easily be turned into a cudgel for the ‘bad guys’ to use.

      Even if the allegations are false, you’re talking about using what is already a large a bureaucracy (NIH, ORI), so it will take weeks or months to get a false charge dropped. I think this policy is foolish and fraught with negative unintended consequences. Couple this policy with the expressed desire in the comments on this blog that anonymous allegations be taken seriously, we now have a real recipe for disaster.

      As for the notion that there are no police in science, and as to whether or not that is a good thing, I recommend reading “On Fact and Fraud” by Goodstein. My opinion, informed in part by Goodstein, is that we police ourselves via a variety of agencies for a reason. Take allegations to the funding agency’s ORI or equivalent, the RIO at the institute where the work initiated, and/or the editor/publisher. These are our de facto police, and they do an OK job, IMO.

      I’ve read Clare Francis’ other posts here. Clare makes anonymous (pseudonymous?) allegations of misconduct and the powers that be have asked him or her to make his or her identity known to them in the correspondence Clare Frances posted. Many countries or societies have laws or principles suggesting the accused should be able to face the accuser(s). In the USA, this right is spelled out in the 6th amendment to the US Constitution.

      This is a right the accused has even if the accused is subsequently found guilty – i.e. even convicts retain this right. Why do commenters on this blog seem to think scientists should freely surrender this right in order to conduct science research? What good is served to make society of scientists and our own self-policing efforts be different? How do anonymous accusations and hearsay truly serve the greater good? How will this policy help science perform better? How will this improve constructive relationships between scientists?

      Conflict of interest is real. Retaliation is real. Ulterior motives exist. In zealousness to stamp out data falsification, do not trade it for another set of problems by enabling other modes of misconduct. If anyone cares to address the questions in the previous paragraph, please take into account at least these issues.

      If one wants allegations to be taken seriously, use the proper channels and put your real name on it.

      ——–

      PS to Virgilstar: It is my understanding that ORI only handles cases at the National Institutes of Health. You’re right, it is still a huge number of scientists funded, but it is not every federally funded scientist in the USA. The NSF, DOE, DARPA, etc. each have their own offices to contact and responsibility for their own funded work. It is my understanding that ORI does outsource some of the work to the institution and that ORI does review all materials from an institutional investigation and provide oversight.

  • Clare Francis January 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Good old Nature speaks with two tongues:-

    One tongue.

    Published online 25 August 2010

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7310/full/4661023a.html

    “In this case, following two weeks of pressure from scientists and the press, Harvard was right to release key details of its investigation ahead of schedule”.

    A second tongue, perhaps not connected to the same brain (I make the dates 15 days apart):

    Published online 08 September 2010

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v467/n7312/full/467133b.html

    “Those involved in the investigation are rightly appalled by the destabilization that these public accusations could cause”.

    Yet the accusations had already been on the web:

    http://www.martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/sept2010/who-believe.html

    The outcome:

    http://www.retractionwatch.com/2011/12/13/bulfone-paus-retraction-count-grows-to-13-with-one-in-transplantation/

  • Dave January 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Clare Francis: You are correct, which is why I said it indicated that there “probably” were personal reasons for it.

    Jeeeez this blog is becoming so sensitive.

    • Rafa January 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      Never mind Dave, I also see your point.

      Whatever the reasons may be behind the exposure, fraudulent data must get exposed and corrected anyway. A personal grudge surely is a good incentive. But also is despise against fraudsters. Or perfectionism. Political interests. You name it.

      I do not however disagree with a bit of a witch hunt given the present state of things in science. We do have police and we not wish to have. Scientists can take care of themselves. Let them hunt and punish the wrongdoers, and let us also keep an eye open for any injustice. Transparency is always the answer, and blogs like Zwirmer`s seem quite transparent (possibly biased?) to me.

      • Rafa January 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm

        oops, “we do NOT have police”

  • Clare Francis January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Dear Dave January 20, 2012 at 1:07 ,

    I am a bit tiredand grouchy today. My apologies.

    I may also be concrete, but do want to find out some veryuseful information.

    To Rafa January 20, 2012 at 1:42,

    When you suspect scientific misconduct (with evidence), which might include amongst other things, somebody stealing your ideas, labour, and organizational skills, or people making things up as in manipulated data, which police station do you telephone? If you got through to the switchboard, which department do you ask for? That is just a polite question. How long does this police take to arrive in relation to your lifespan? What is your experience?

    Again, I do not want to sound impolite (I do not know how to put all those silly smileys in the message), but I would like ot know the answer.

  • Dave January 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Overall, this is just a great discussion. I really think it is a relevant issue. We are starting to see journals pull away from anonymous tips more and more and many of these tipsters post on this site. I think it is wrong if journals continue to do this as they should take ANY queries seriously, regardless of whether it is anonymous or not. However, if journals continue to be reluctant to act on anonymous emails etc, then the internet will have to work it’s magic………

    • Rafa January 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Exactly, Dave. Even according with COPE, which is the most credited company dealing with Publication Ethics, journals ought to investigate ANY allegations of scientific misconduct. Problem is, to avoid political and legal issues, more and more journals demand that someone else, like the disclaimer, takes up the responsibility for the proof. If you stand in their shoes you will see their way, running a journal is already hard without bandits (=fraudsters) trying to sue you or slit your kids because of a retraction. Yet science needs errors to be exposed and corrected as to keep going as a respectable practice. It will find a way, either through journals and institutions (the so-called responsible parties), or not.

      Dear Clare, sorry did not get your point. As I said, there is no scientific police. However, in case of plagiarism you can really try going to the police station, given it is a crime in most civilized countries.

      Dear one-two: “If one wants allegations to be taken seriously, use the proper channels and put your real name on it.” — It seems to me that you want to push matters straight to the court. Allegations in science (which do NOT synonymize with accusations) are necessarily encouraged. There are no “proper channels” in science apart from the very scientific community. If there was clear data manipulation, a paper needs to get retracted. This decision lies with scientists alone. The reasons behind the manipulation are the only thing out of their scope. I see bloggers making allegations with scientific background which are solid evidence of image/data manipulation and repetition of narrative — this is natural and can happen anywhere. Is data manipulation in science a crime? I do not know, as a scientist. Again: Science is run by scientists. Criticism is natural, and quite often anonymous (are you suing your reviewers??). If a paper is to be investigated and retracted, this is up to scientists ALONE. Am I wrong?

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.