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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Cell paper, once plagiarized, pulled for dodgy figures

with 10 comments

A while back (last June, to be precise), we wrote about a group of Japanese endocrinologists who found a creative way to up their citation counts using duplicate publication. At the time, the researchers were docked a 2004 paper in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology that had self-plagiarized extensively from a 2003 article in Cell.

Well, skeptics of this new math take heart: The group’s publication total has fallen yet again. Turns out that 2003 paper — which has been cited 160 times, up from 144 when we checked last year, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — wasn’t quite up to snuff, either.

According to the retraction notice for the article, “The Chromatin-Remodeling Complex WINAC Targets a Nuclear Receptor to Promoters and Is Impaired in Williams Syndrome:”

Our paper reported that a chromatin-remodeling complex, WINAC, recruited the unliganded vitamin D receptor to promoters in cooperation with the transcription factor implicated in Williams syndrome, WSTF. The findings provided insights into the coordination between chromatin remodelers and sequence-specific transcription factors and pointed to a role of chromatin remodeling defects in Williams syndrome. We recently identified errors affecting several figure panels where original data were processed inappropriately such that the figure panels do not accurately report the original data. We believe that the most responsible course of action is to retract the paper. We sincerely apologize to the scientific community for any inconvenience that this might cause. The first author, H.K., declined to sign the retraction notice.

H.K. is Hirochika Kitagawa, who is listed as being with the University of Tokyo and the University of Tokushima School of Medicine.

Now, we’re not sure we know what kind of “inappropriate processing” went on here, but we have a guess, and let’s just say  it sounds like the the kind of “processing” fast food chains do with their “meat.”

Hat tip: Vladimir Svetlov

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Written by Adam Marcus

March 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Prof. Dr. Alexander Lerchl

    March 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm

  2. Just looked at the paper, a lot of creative gel cut-and-pasting


    March 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm

  3. Photoshop strikes again, heh… What I don’t get is the following – if the figures in the Cell paper were made up in the first place, why plagiarize it? Why not make up a whole bunch of shiny new data? How lazy one must really be to plagiarize one’s own fraudulent work?…


    March 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm

  4. “Now, we’re not sure we know what kind of “inappropriate processing” went on here, but we have a guess, and let’s just say it sounds like the the kind of “processing” fast food chains do with their “meat.”” Pink slime, you’re saying?


    March 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm

  5. Others (from different university/country/science) are more creative in their self-plagiarism:

    When re-using the original colour figures as identical, they show these in the “new paper” as black-and-white figures and, as university professors being aware of software for detecting plagiarism, they reshuffle the words in the titles.


    March 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm

  6. I wonder if anyone’s ever plagiarized someone else’s work, but then the original was retracted?

  7. Shigeaki Kato resigned from his professor position at the University of Tokyo as of the end of March, 2012, taking responsibility of the misconduct. But the first author, Hirochika Kitagawa did not agree with the retraction of the Cell article. (Asahi newspaper, April 5, 2012)

    Soichi Tokizane

    April 7, 2012 at 2:12 am

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