ORI finds Harvard stem cell lab post-doc Mayack manipulated images
Shane Mayack, a former post-doc in Harvard lab of Amy Wagers, a rising star in the stem cell field, has been sanctioned by the Office of Research Integrity for misconduct.
Mayack, who has defended her actions on this blog as honest error — albeit sloppiness — and has not admitted to wrongdoing, must undergo supervision if she receives any federal grant funding over the next three years, under the voluntary agreement.
Based on the report of an investigation conducted by the Joslin Diabetes Center (Joslin) and additional analysis conducted by ORI in its oversight review, ORI found that Dr. Shane Mayack, former postdoctoral fellow, Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Joslin, engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grants T32 DK07260–29 and P30 DK036836 and the 2008 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award Program grant DP2 OD004345–01.
ORI found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct involving two (2) published papers:
• Mayack, S.R., Shadrach, J.L., Kim, F.S., & Wagers, A.J. ‘‘Systemic signals regulate ageing and rejuventation of blood stem cell niches.’’ Nature 463:495–500, 2010.
• Mayack, S.R., & Wagers, A.J. ‘‘Osteolineage niche cells initiate hemotopoietic stem cell mobilization.’’ Blood 112:519–531, 2008.
As a result of Joslin’s investigation, both Nature 463:495–500, 2010 (hereafter referred to as the ‘‘Nature paper’’) and Blood 112:519–531, 2008 (hereafter referred to as the ‘‘Blood paper’’) have been retracted by the corresponding author.
Specifically, ORI found that:
• Respondent falsely represented von Kossa-stained bone nodule images in two (2) published papers:
- Figure 2B in the Blood paper was copied from an unrelated published experiment in Figure 3, J Orth Surg Res 1:7, 2006, and was used to falsely represent Respondent’s own experiment for bone nodules formed in cultured osteoblastic niche cells.
- b. Figure S2c in the Nature paper was copied from an online image for an unrelated experiment (at http://skeletalbiology.uchc.edu/30_ResearchProgram/304_gap/3042_Lineage%20in%20Vitro/3042_01_aCellCult.htm#mCOB) and was used to falsely represent Respondent’s own experiment for bone nodules formed in osteoblastic niche cells from young and aged mice.
• Respondent falsely represented eight (8) flow cytometry contour plots as different experimental results by using identical plots but with different labels and different numerical percentages.
Specifically, the following contour plots in the Blood paper, the Nature paper, an earlier version of the Nature paper submitted to Science (hereafter referred to as the ‘‘Science manuscript’’), and a July 2008 PowerPoint presentation were identical but were labeled differently:
a. Panels 4 and 2 in Figure 6C, Blood paper, and panels 1 and 2, respectively, in supplementary Figure 3b, Nature paper
b. Panel 3 in Figure 6C, Blood paper, and panel 1 in Figure 2, July 2008 PowerPoint presentation
- Panels 1 and 2, Figure 2b, Science manuscript, and panels 2 and 3, respectively, in Figure 2, July 2008 PowerPoint presentation
- Panels 2, 3, and 4, supplemental Figure 4A, Blood paper, and panels 3, 1, and 2, respectively, in Figure 4B, Science manuscript
Both the Respondent and HHS want to conclude this matter without further expenditure of time or other resources and have entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement to resolve this matter. Respondent neither admits nor denies ORI’s finding of research misconduct. This settlement does not constitute an admission of liability on the part of the Respondent.
Nearly two years have passed since we first wrote about Mayack. At the time, Wagers’ group had just retracted a 2010 Nature paper — with a notable exception: Mayack refused to sign the notice, nor did she sign the notice for the retraction of the Blood paper, which appeared in late 2011.
As she wrote on this blog:
… the readers of Retraction Watch are no doubt aware that in October 2010, a paper that I co-authored was retracted fromNature and a notice of concern was posted regarding a second paper published in Blood.
So, what went wrong?
The answer to that question begins with the fact that errors, not fabrications, were made in assembling figures for these manuscripts. I am likely the one who made these errors.
Mayack reiterated that position in a comment, through her attorney, to us today:
I remain deeply sorry to the scientific community for mistakes made during the preparation of figures corresponding to some of the work I performed as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School. These were mistakes in representation and presentation of the data, as corroborated by ORI’s findings of ‘falsely presented’, and were not due to fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism of scientific results. I am deeply committed to moving forward and strive to contribute positively to the advancement of science, which has always been my utmost interest.
Wagers recently received tenure.