ORI findings lead to two retractions — nearly 17 years later
As two retraction notices in the September 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology note:
On October 19, 1995, the Office of Research Integrity at the National Institutes of Health found that Weishu Y. Weiser, Ph.D., formerly of the Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, committed scientific misconduct by falsifying data in biomedical research supported by two Public Health Service grants. As a result, she agreed to submit a letter to The Journal of Immunology to retract this article. The offices of The Journal of Immunology have no record of receiving such a letter and hence the article is now being retracted.
The retractions, for “Recombinant Migration Inhibitory Factor Induces Nitric Oxide Synthase in Murine Macrophages” and “Human Recombinant Migration Inhibitory Factor Activates Human Macrophages to Kill Leishmania donovani,” both say the same thing.
“Recombinant Migration Inhibitory Factor Induces Nitric Oxide Synthase in Murine Macrophages” has been cited 66 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — 40 of those times since the ORI’s report was released. The numbers for the Leishmania paper are almost identical: Cited 66 times, with 38 of those coming after the report.
The notice for “Recombinant Migration Inhibitory Factor Induces Nitric Oxide Synthase in Murine Macrophages” is signed by Salvador Moncada, of University College London, and Eddy F. Y. Liew, of the University of Glasgow. Both have been involved in other recent retraction cases — Moncada with the case of Assegid Garedew, and Liew with the case of Alirio Melendez.
We’ve asked Moncada, Liew, and the journal why they acted now, almost 17 years after the ORI report. Liew responded:
I would have thought that the reason was self-explanatory in the retraction message.
We told him yes, the reason for the retraction was clear, but not the reason for the delay. Why wait 17 years? Why not, say, one, or five? He emailed back:
This is due to the value of the organisations like yours.
The delay brings to mind recommendations by the authors of a recent paper we covered on the fate of papers cited by ORI notices, namely that ORI
take legal action against researchers who do not honour an agreement to retract or correct an article associated with an official finding of misconduct. If an individual has been debarred for 5 years, ORI could make debarment indefinite if the individual does not make a good faith effort to honour the agreement.
We should also note, however, that it’s possible for the National Library of Medicine, which houses PubMed, to link to Federal Register notices — where ORI findings of misconduct always appear.
Weiser has retracted at least two other studies, “Inhibition of growth Mycobacterium avium in murine and human mononuclear phagocytes by migration inhibitory factor,” from Infection and Immunity, and “Recombinant human migration inhibitory factor has adjuvant activity,” from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The request to PNAS was also included in her ORI agreement:
She has agreed to submit a letter to the Journal of Immunology and to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to retract the articles entitled “Human recombinant migration inhibitory factor activates human macrophages to kill Leishmania donovani” (Journal of Immunology 147:2006-2011, 1991), “Recombinant migration inhibitory factor induces nitric oxide synthase in murine macrophages” (Journal of Immunology 150:1908-1912, 1993), and “Recombinant human migration inhibitory factor has adjuvant activity” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 89:8049-8052, 1992).
Here’s the Infection and Immunity notice, from May 1994:
We reported that the recombinant migration inhibition factor activated both murine and human macrophages to inhibit the growth of Mycobacterium avium. The active molecule from the supernatants used was subsequently identified as a mitogenic contaminant. In view of this, the conclusions drawn from our earlier findings must be considered invalid, and thus we retract the paper.
And here’s the PNAS notice, from 1997:
The article ‘‘Recombinant human migration inhibitory factor has adjuvant activity’’ by Weishui Y. Weiser, Lu-Ann M. Pozzi, Richard G. Titus, and John R. David, which appeared in number 17, September 1, 1992, of Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (89, 8049–8052), is being retracted. See also Correction in number 24, December 15, 1993, of Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (90, 12056) and Erratum in number 9, November 1, 1993, of J. Immunol. (151, last page, unnumbered).