Last week, we reported on an investigation at Glasgow’s Beatson Institute for Cancer Research into the circumstances of a retraction in Cell. That retraction wasn’t signed by the paper’s first author, Lynne Marshall, who had since moved on to another institution. (We have yet to hear back from Marshall about why she didn’t sign.)
As a commenter on that post pointed out, Marshall was the first author on an EMBO Journal paper that cited the now-retracted Cell paper several times. So we wanted to find out if there were any questions about the EMBO Journal paper, “Nutrient/TOR-dependent regulation of RNA polymerase III controls tissue and organismal growth in Drosophila,” published in February of this year. Savraj Grewal, Marshall’s PI at the University of Calgary until her postdoc ended earlier this summer, tells Retraction Watch:
I can say that I completely stand by our Marshall et al 2012 EMBO J paper. When I learnt of the pending retraction, I went back through our work – all the experiments are well-documented, all the raw data are clear and, therefore, I remain fully confident in our findings and conclusions. This research was very much a team effort with me, Liz (E. Rideout) and Lynne (who spear-headed the work), and as the project evolved we always shared, discussed and commented on our findings and data together – so I’ve always had (and still have) complete confidence in our work.
The work is separate, he said in the course of the exchange:
Our EMBO J paper does not rely on the Cell paper at all. They are two completely independent studies, and the Cell retraction does not undermine our work in any way. Both papers are on the same general topic (RNA polymerase III activity and growth control), but they are in different systems (fruit flies vs. mammalian cells), they generally rely on different techniques (genetics vs.molecular biology), and of course, the work was carried out in different labs.
In another email, he addressed the fact that the EMBO Journal paper cites the now-retracted study:
It is true that we cite the Cell paper. But this is simply due to the scientific norm and etiquette of always citing relevant published work in the Background section of a paper and then citing them again in the Discussion section as you discuss your findings in the general context of the field. All papers do this. As you note in your blog, 83 other papers have also cited the retracted Cell paper, but I don’t think we should question these studies because of that.
I have been through all of our data again and the experiments are all well-documented, the raw data are clear and I am fully confident of our findings. I am quite happy to say this publicly.
We very much appreciate Grewal’s engagement on this, and wish that all scientists were so responsive.