Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Journal of Neurochemistry retracts paper after SUNY Upstate medical school finds evidence of fraud

with 16 comments

Following an investigation by the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate into the work of one of its neuroscientists, the Journal of Neurochemistry has retracted a 2007 paper.

The retraction notice is quite clear about why the paper is being withdrawn:

The following article from Journal of Neurochemistry, “Functional nerve growth factor and trkA autocrine/paracrine circuits in adult rat cortex are revealed by episodic ethanol exposure and withdrawal” by Bruns M. and Miller MW., published online on 22 December 2006, Volume 100, Issue 5, 2007, pages 1155–1168 (now available through has been retracted by the Chief Editors. This action follows the advice from the President of SUNY Upstate after an investigation into allegations of research misconduct by Dr. Michael Miller. The preponderance of evidence reviewed in that investigation suggested that Figures 2 to 6 in this publication have been falsified. Dr. Bruns was not the subject of any investigation.

The paper has been cited five times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Michael W. Miller, whose hiring was the subject of a 2000 Upstate press release,  is no longer employed at Upstate, and we do not know his whereabouts. We understand that the case has been referred to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), which investigates allegations of fraud by federally funded scientists. According to the 2000 release:

Miller brings to SUNY Upstate more than $3 million in research grants, much of it dedicated to the study of the effect of alcohol on brain cells, fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol neurotoxicity. His grant support comes from the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and the Department of Veterans Affairs. His research interests include, the cerebral cortex, developmental neurobiology, growth factors, neuronal death, neuronal plasticity and neurotoxicology.

Miller’s co-author, Marla Bruns, whom the notice makes clear was not the subject of the investigation, is now a neurology resident at Ohio State. We’ve tried to reach her as well as Upstate, and will update with anything we hear back. [Update, 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 1/25/12: Bruns returned our call to say she had no comment on the case.]

In an unrelated case, the ORI recently found that a former SUNY Upstate grad student had manipulated Western blots.

Hat tip: Greg Pattyn

  • Sam January 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Wasn’t he Department Chair?

    • Dave January 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      “Michael W. Miller, Ph.D., a researcher noted for his study of the developing brain, has been named professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at SUNY Upstate Medical University.”

      Should answer your question.

  • Jon Beckmann January 25, 2012 at 4:07 am

    With all the federal money he got, I suspect he could end up in federal prison.

    • Zladimir January 25, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Don’t think so. Van Parijs got off with home detention, and that was supposed to be the case when the federal government was throwing the book at the most egregious fraudster…

  • anonymous January 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    To my knowledge, Eric Poehlman is the only person to serve time in federal prison for scientific misconduct:

  • MT Orr January 25, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Any reference to this guy has disappeared from
    the university/departmental website as if he never existed. Denial? Also unlike previous cases the fate of this guy is unknown

  • Anon January 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    He was indeed the department chair. I can tell you that this is not an isolated case and ORI has been involved for long before this manuscript investigation. It is surprising to me that this case has been so slow to hit the internet…there is a lot more to this story than is presented here.

  • Sam January 31, 2012 at 10:58 am
  • expostdoc January 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Its good to see that for a change the blame for data manipulation has not been passed on to the student/ post doc but to where it truly belongs ..

  • elledr1ver February 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm
  • Barry Stanley February 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    a setback for all those who live with FASD and those who strive to draw attention to the devastating effect of pre-natal alcohol on the developing brain.
    – and very convenient for the alcohol industry and those who deny the effect of alcohol on the developing brain.

  • DrugMonkey March 3, 2012 at 6:33 am

    He received a MERIT award and a P50 Center…and who knows how many of is awards depended directly or indirectly (I.e. his record) on faked data.

    Think of the poor honest chump who couldn’t get her NIAAA grant funded b/c this guy’s applications were viewed as better. Not to mention all the time people wasted trying to replicate and extend his supposed findings.


    • elledr1ver March 3, 2012 at 9:40 am

      @DrugMonkey. Agree completely. Well stated.

  • Fernando Pessoa March 27, 2012 at 6:21 am

    RETRACTION Article first published online: 16 MAR 2012

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2012.07727.x

    Another J Neruochesmistry retraction:

    First there was a corrigendum, now a retraction:

  • FigureSleuth April 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Are you sure about this ? The Michael W Miller I’ve read about presents astonishing findings and publishes scientific gold…

    • William Winter March 5, 2013 at 1:14 am

      more like iron pyrite- fool’s gold

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