Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

A mega-correction for Rui Curi, whose lawyers threatened to sue Science-Fraud.org

with 103 comments

plos oneA Brazilian researcher whose legal threats helped lead to the shutdown of Science-Fraud.org and who has had two papers retracted has had to correct another paper.

The fourth correction for Rui Curi — and we’d call it a mega-correction — is of a paper in PLOS ONE. Curi is the fourth out of 11 authors; someone named Tania Pithon-Curi is the final author:

After the publication of this manuscript we observed mistakes in Figures 3A, 4A, and 6A. The representative images related to pAkt (Figure 3A), mTOR total (Figure 4A), and MuRF-1 total (Figure 6A) have been revised. Please note the original raw blots are now provided with the revised Figures as part of this Correction.
In Figure 3A, pAkt panel, the C and CS bands had been duplicated.
In Figure 4A, the bands were re-arranged compared to the original blot.
In Figure 6A, the band for group D was incorrect.
The remaining Figures, results and conclusions are the same as originally reported in the article. The authors apologize for these errors and refer readers to the corrected Figures 3A, 4A, and 6A provided in this Correction.

Figure 3A: http://www.plosone.org/co…
Figure 3A blot: http://www.plosone.org/co…
Figure 4A: http://www.plosone.org/co…
Figure 4A blot: http://www.plosone.org/co…
Figure 6A: http://www.plosone.org/co…
Figure 6A blot: http://www.plosone.org/co…

No competing interests declared.

Citation: Lambertucci AC, Lambertucci RH, Hirabara SM, Curi R, Moriscot AS, et al. (2012) Glutamine Supplementation Stimulates Protein-Synthetic and Inhibits Protein-Degradative Signaling Pathways in Skeletal Muscle of Diabetic Rats. PLoS ONE: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/annotation/a3cda985-fb83-49fb-9cb3-8dab0e355ddd

The paper, “Glutamine Supplementation Stimulates Protein-Synthetic and Inhibits Protein-Degradative Signaling Pathways in Skeletal Muscle of Diabetic Rats,” published in December 2012, has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 7th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Comments
  • amw June 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Shameful. The correct thing to have done would be to have issued an Expression of Concern pending a misconduct investigation (which will never occur in Brazil) – but the unresolved Expression of Concern would have marked the work out as being untrustworthy.

    I know PLoS One is a non-selective journal but their whole mission is about integrity of science, not impact. Their no.6 criterion reads: ‘The research meets all applicable standards for the ethics of experimentation and research integrity.’

    Clearly this doesn’t actually apply in reality. As an Academic Editor in a different field I am very disappointed in PLoS One and considering resigning. But would this help?

    • CR June 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      Wise words. In fact there was something of an investigation going on, announced several months ago by the Brazilian funding agency, along with many manifestations of political support of Curi colleagues. I do not think the investigation will conclude anything more but that a vague declaration all was unintentional mistake, if it is ever really started/concluded. The authors have much political influence in the field in Brazil.

    • michaelhbriggs June 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      PLoS One seems to be taking its lead from Nature.

    • Elaine Newman June 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      yes, this would help. I read the list of editors of a journal to see what I think it might be like.
      Even if I dont know the particular editors, I look to see what institutions they are associated with.
      However detailed and frank comments on Retraction Watch and wherever else possible are even better.
      Thanks for this. Elaine Newman

    • Ressci Integrity June 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm

      @amw: it would be a wise decision to be dissociated from PLoSOne – I guess.

    • Otto June 7, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      “But would this help?”

      It’s an interesting question. Coming at it from the production side, I’m inclined to note that there exists a trend to circuitously offshore: move the easy stuff elsewhere, promise the client that they’ll still get the skilled labor, and then rehire them at rock-bottom wages. (Not that lowballing publishing contracts is anything new.)

      I of course realize that SEs are not manuscript editors. The latter, however, were doomed from the get-go by the impossibility of organizing as labor. Too many incompetents, too many diverse motivations for being around in the first place. I have been told that one university press, in its heyday, was a sinecure for faculty wives (“blue-haired ladies” was the term actually used).

      So what does it mean for an SE? How many are in line to fill the spot, as it were? Is anyone even going to notice if one person walks away? What, exactly, are you?

      “You know, if one person, just one person, does it, they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people, do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them. And three people do it–three–can you imagine three people walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out? They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine 50 people a day, I said, 50 people a day, walking in, singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant, and walking out? And friends, they may think it’s a movement.”

  • Fernando June 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Tania Pithon-Curi was former student and presently is Curi’s wife (one may found this information in brazilian websites/newspapers)… actually, he shares up to 90% of her publications as a co-author.

    • cw June 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      so the plot thickens no?

      • ferniglab June 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm

        An issue of deficient training/mentoring by the PhD supervisor?

      • Sham June 7, 2013 at 4:24 pm

        No, it is just the case of a researcher doing what have learned: duplicating figures, using non-specific bands, croping etc. Even shocking is PLoS One accepting apologizes without any matter to dealt…

  • CR June 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Anyway, any pending doubts can be commented in Pubpeer.

  • ferniglab June 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Bizarre in the extreme.

    “we observed mistakes”
    “representative images… …have been revised”
    “authors apologize for these errors”

    Part of my week has been devoted to marking and second marking exam scripts of undergraduates. When I consider the discussions I have had with week with my co-markers, I get a profound sense of disconnection when I read the above.

    So my mind is boggling, big time. Maybe there are truly 14 dimensions and it is through words such as these that one can transit to a different causality, where dark energy and matter become the stuff of daily life? Or maybe this is ageing and surviving rock star reality, where we have transcended massive excess and don’t need drugs any more?

  • Rosie June 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    I’ve turned down the last three papers I was asked to review by PLoS One. I had never heard of the Associate Editors assigned to the manuscripts. They were certainly not in fields even remotely related to the submissions.

    • Frederic June 7, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      I know referees that said that they had turned down manuscripts from Plos One, and then they were published anyway…

      • Ressci Integrity June 8, 2013 at 3:31 am

        this is reallyl getting into something. what is really going on with PLoS ONE – who are these associate editors and editorial board members any way! probably it is a good to know how they chose editorial board members!

        • Marco June 9, 2013 at 3:24 am

          They asked me to be Associate Editor after I had commented on a few papers, pointing out major methodological flaws. I declined when they took little action to resolve the issue.

        • Stewart June 9, 2013 at 6:12 am

          It would also be very interesting to know how the journal decides who will be the editor on any given paper.

          Usually it may be an expert in that particular field selected by the journal, but how many editors are already known to the PI on a given paper, or are even selected by the PI to be editor of the paper because they are already known to be sympathetic to the PI? Is it a case of each other scratches the friends backs and is that one reason why standards have fallen?

          • RWY June 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm

            Reply to Stewart June 9, 2013 at 6:12 am

            e.g.

            PLoSOne accepted two papers on May 21, 2012 and May 27, 2012. Levon M Khachigian is corresponding author of both papers.

            1. Reduced Retinal Microvascular Density, Improved Forepaw Reach, Comparative Microarray and Gene Set Enrichment Analysis with c-jun Targeting DNA Enzyme. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39160. Received January 30, 2012; Accepted May 21, 2012; Published July 17, 2012. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Editor: Ryuichi Morishita, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan

            i) Ryuichi Morishita and Levon M Khachigian are coauthors of a book edited by Levon M Khachigian, “Synthetic nucleic acids as inhibitors of gene expression: mechanisms, application and therapeutic implications” Nova Science (Hauppauge, NY) 2004. The book is still for sell on line for £111. http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9780849330254, http://www.cgt.med.osaka-u.ac.jp/cont/e_professor_pb.html
            ii) Both Ryuichi Morishita and Levon M Khachigian were Committees of International Advisory Board, the 17th International Vascular Biology Meeting June 2 – 5, 2012. http://www.ivbm2012.net/congress/congress/IAP.html.

            Oddly, the paper 1 was accepted just before IVBM2012.

            2. IL-1beta Signals through the EGF Receptor and Activates Egr-1 through MMP-ADAM. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39811. Received April 11, 2012; Accepted May 27, 2012; Published July 6, 2012. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Editor: Harald H. H. W. Schmidt, Maastricht University, Netherlands,

            i) Both Harald H. H. W. Schmidt and Levon M Khachigian are Australian Vascular Biology Society, Committee Members. http://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/web/Institutes/FHML/Pharmacology/StaffPHAR/SchmidtHarald.htm
            ii) Both Harald H. H. W. Schmidt and Levon M Khachigian are program grant committees of National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia.
            iii) Harald H. H. W. Schmidt was member of Scientific Advisory Panel, International Vascular Biology Society Meeting, 2008, Sydney. Levon M Khachigian was an organizer of IVBSM2008.
            iv) Levon Khachigian Committee of International Advisory Board IVBM2012; Harald H. H. W. Schmidt: Selected Abstract IVBM2012. http://www.ivbm2012.net/resources/Programm-IVBM-2012_final.pdf

            Oddly again, the paper 2 was also accepted just before IVBM2012.

        • RWY June 12, 2013 at 4:34 pm

          Reply to Ressci Integrity June 8, 2013 at 3:31 am

          Here is a member of the editorial board PLoSOne, Levon M Khachigian, The University of New South Wales, AUSTRALIA. He has four retracted papers in 2009 and 2010, but he became a member of the editorial board PLoSOne in 2011!!

          Irony: this is a “safeguard” of the publications for PLoSOne.

          The four papers are:

          1) Ets-1 positively regulates Fas ligand transcription via cooperative interactions with Sp1 (JBC, Vol. 277, No. 39, Issue of Sep. 27, 2002, pp. 36244–36252, retracted on June 1, 2010, image manipulation. There is no record of 7A right panel in Lab book. Levon M Khachigian is a corresponding author).

          2) Injury-induced platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α expression mediated by interleukin-1β (IL-1β) release and cooperative transactivation by NF-κB and ATF-4. IL-1β FACILITATES HDAC-1/2 (JBC, VOL. 284, NO. 41, pp. 27933–27943, October 9, 2009, retracted on June 1, 2010, image duplication. Levon M Khachigian is a corresponding author).

          3) Histone deacetylase-1 is enriched at the platelet-derived growth factor-D promoter in response to interleukin-1β and forms a cytokine-inducible gene-silencing complex with NF-κB p65 and interferon regulatory factor-1 (JBC, VOL. 284, NO. 50, pp. 35101–35112, December 11, 2009, retracted on June 1, 2010, image duplication. Levon M Khachigian is a corresponding author).

          4) Related transcriptional enhancer factor-1 induces fibroblast growth factor receptor-1 expression in endothelial cells (BBRC, Volume 380, Issue 3, 13 March 2009, Pages 689–694, retracted on October 16, 2009. Levon M Khachigian is a coauthor).

    • stpnrazr June 8, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Funny, I just turned one down yesterday. Normally, I feel some sense of duty to referee a paper because there are only so many people in a field who are qualified to do the job right. In this case, the editor sent me something that was totally out of my area. It was truly as if they had taken all the biologists in the world, put their names in a hat, and pulled mine out. What is wrong with these people? PLOS One has a bad enough reputation for quality, but they do not have two minutes to look me up in PubMed or find an author who has published in the area?

  • James Turner June 7, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Plos One disappointed me. This paper has some serious issues with its images, suggestive of fraudulent manipulation of western blot pictures.
    Given that the authors have provide one original blot on this correction, I’ve quantified them. For instance, in the new representative figure 6, the OD for each band are:
    C 39191.522
    C 35009.794
    CD 35190.744
    CD 40882.401
    D 34375.622
    D 27429.501
    DS 31716.886
    DS 16388.329
    The averages of those OD do not even closely match the graph 6A. Worse yet, they lead to the opposite conclusion. Therefore the figure is not representative, or the graph is wrong. The correct graph for that western blot can be found at http://img580.imageshack.us/img580/1333/fig6arealdata.png . Please notice I kept the spelling error from the original graph, that survived the peer review.That said, the conclusion is biased, and cannot be trusted. In this case, as it has been accepted for publication, the very peer review process from Plos One appears to be questionable.

    • Frederic June 8, 2013 at 12:16 am

      This comment was also made in the Paper comments section! Let see how much time it survives there…

      • Frederic June 15, 2013 at 12:38 am

        Yeah… as I said, it didn’t survive much… One week only and it is already deleted!

        Great work PLOS ONE!

        Paper wah published on december 21th, 2012, and it took 6 months plus the time under the “peer review” process (people know why peer review is with quotation marks…) to make a decision regarding the correction, but it took only one week to determine that that comment could not be posted there!

        Congratulations PLoS One!

        • emmav June 17, 2013 at 10:03 am

          Hi,
          Our guidelines for comments and corrections (http://www.plosone.org/static/commentGuidelines) state that
          “Questions about experimental data are appropriate, but need to phrased in a way that does not imply any misconduct on the part of the authors. If a reader is concerned about potential misconduct, such concerns must always be raised with senior editorial staff at PLOS (see Journal Contact Information). “.
          Comments which breach this guideline are taken down promptly, and the commenter is informed via email (and would usually be invited to repost in a way which makes their comment but without stating or implying misconduct).
          Best wishes
          Emma Veitch, Senior Editor PLOS ONE

          • CR June 17, 2013 at 10:55 am

            “without stating or implying misconduct”.. — “implying” misconduct is quite vague. Can anyone post here what was the comment like? Depending on the question, it is quite hard not to leave in the air that something very wrong was made. In fact, I think misconduct depends on intention, so would directly stating that “images were cropped or copied”, etc.characterize misconduct and thus lead to comment removal?

          • Sham June 17, 2013 at 5:06 pm

            So, it would not be appropriate to publish a Expression of Concern, stating that the article is under investigation? Otherwise, how a regular reader could know that there is concerns regarding data reliability in this paper?

          • Jennifer Lopez June 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm

            Dear Dr. Emma Veitch,

            I would like to take advantage of your presence at Retraction Wacth to express some concerns about a PlosOne paper. I found the reuse of beta-actin WBs among a paper published in Plos One http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0006206 and a paper published in Biochemical Pharmacology http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006295210005873

            More specifically, the beta-actin WB on Fig. 5A (PlosOne) is the same b-actin WB of Fig. 7A (PlosOne), but rotated 180 degrees. The dot that appears above and between bands 3 and 4 of Fig. 5A (PlosOne) can be used as a reference to compare the shape and position of therest of the bands between the blots on different figures.

            The beta-actin blot of Fig. 5A (PlosOne) is the same than the beta-actin blot of Fig.2C (Biochemical Pharmacology). Note that in FIg 2C, the reference dot is between bands 2 and 3.

            The beta-actin blot of Fig. 5A (PlosOne) is also the same than the beta-actin blot of Fig.3A (Biochemical Pharmacology). Note that in FIg 3A, the reference dot is between bands 3 and 4.

            In summary, it was used the same WB for Fig. 5A (PlosOne), Fig. 7A (PlosOne, rotated 180 degrees), Fig. 2C (Biochemical Pharmacology) and Fig. 3A (Biochemical Pharmacology). The western blots where the b-actin WB was reused are representative of totally different conditions.

            Beside that, other different beta-actin WB was used in both papers. Please compare Fig. 3D b-actin panel (bands 2-8), http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006295210005873 with Fig. 8C b-actin panel (bands 1-7) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0006206

            I hope you can check these observations. Some questions regarding that:

            1) If my observation is correct, could be considered a case of plagiarism? What is the conduct of PlosOne against plagiarism?

            2) PlosOne would accept a correction by the authors to solve the mentioned concerns?

            3) Is the way I used to explain my observations correct, as no implying misconduct?

            Thank you very much!

          • Scrutineer June 18, 2013 at 4:24 am

            Thanks Emma,

            You have just explained why there will never be proper scientific discourse in the PLOS comments.

            Commenters absolutely need to be able to say that there is figure fraud when there is no alternative explanation (e.g. reusing bands in the same gel). Many commenters here have had poor experiences when raising issues directly with journals. Given that so few journals issue expressions of concern, open commenting is the only way to protect, and to educate, the research community. No doubt more or less innocent figure assembly errors are at least as common as figure frauds but, in such cases, a note on the paper until it is corrected would still be beneficial.

            A convoy goes at the speed of the slowest ship. Not many will want the swearing, sexualisation and racism that you get on sites overrun with adolescents like YouTube or Boy Genius Report. These prevent any attempt at civilised discourse. That sort of guideline is fine.

            But if you are afraid of being sued for hosting comments that authors will find uncomfortable, then there is no point in having a commenting system. Save the hosting money and cut the price of submission.

          • Jennifer Lopez June 19, 2013 at 6:59 am

            I have the feeling that my question to the PlosOne editor won`t be answered. Because Pubpeer is not publishing my comments, I would like to add another observation about the same PlosOne paper…
            Please note that the last three bands (bands 4-6) at the mTOR(S2448) panel of Fig. 6B http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702690/figure/pone-0006206-g006/ are the same than the first three bands (bands 1-3) at the mTOR(S2448) panel of Fig. 8C http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702690/figure/pone-0006206-g008/

          • Matt Hodgkinson June 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

            PLOS ONE staff editors removed a comment on this article due to it not meeting our commenting guidelines (available at http://www.plosone.org/static/commentGuidelines.action#goodpractice). An edited version of the comment is available at http://www.plosone.org/annotation/listThread.action?root=67323

    • CR June 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      So it seems the raw data provided by authors for this correction does not exactly fit the original paper. Let me just note there was another similar case from Brazil, exposed by Abnormal Science Blog, accessible below:

      http://www.anony.ws/image/LLQ

      Also in that case, the journal Iheringia editors were happy to accept the authors’ explanation that the wrong image was provided, however no-one noticed that the provided raw data made little sense, and actually also “lead to the opposite direction”. Nothing new there!

  • Frederic June 8, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Plos One = Pay to Publish.

    • Average PI June 8, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      They reject about 25% of papers, I believe. Unlike Frontiers…

      • Stewart June 9, 2013 at 6:05 am

        Average PI do you have any evidence that PlosOne reject 25% of the papers they receive?

        • Marco June 9, 2013 at 10:26 am

          http://www.plosone.org/static/information
          “On average, PLOS ONE publishes 69%** of all submissions”

          The footnote states
          “Data refer to the 2,216 manuscripts submitted in the period 1/1/10 – 3/31/10 and their status as of 10/5/10. We quote data from an earlier time period as some submissions spend time passing through revisions and re-evaluations before ultimately being accepted or rejected. Therefore, if we quoted data for submissions in the most recent quarter, it would not give a complete picture for those papers still being evaluated”

    • Busta Bloodvessel June 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      Many authors have had high quality papers published in PLoS ONE.

      I predict the percentage of ‘problem’ papers published in PLos ONE is probably similar to other scientific journals

      • Frederic June 8, 2013 at 11:03 pm

        Still it is pay to publish! I am not saying that there is no good papers in plos one. In fact there are. Of course, among huge volumes of papers, you can find something worth reading. However, even if you find the best paper ever, it was still “pay to publish”! Even if the rejection rate was increased, can you imagine what kind of crap it must be for a paper to be rejected in plos one? If one gets rejected there, come one, take your things from lab, say goodbye to your fellows and apply for another job.

        • Otto June 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm

          Of course, among huge volumes of papers, you can find something worth reading.

          This is where the likes of The Scholarly Kitchen come in. I can still remember when the movers and shakers, as it were, thought DOIs were a revolutionary innovation. And, further back, when Library Science figured it was pretty much the same thing as AI and couldn’t quite put together what all the glazed eyeballs were about.

          And, at the end of the day, the SAO/NASA ADS database survives, because it works.

        • Busta Bloodvessel June 9, 2013 at 5:07 am

          I think that you will find most ‘traditional’ journals now offer an option to pay for immediate publication. Indeed many grant awarding bodies now specify that recipients of funding should publish their work using ‘immediate access’ options.

          • Stewart June 9, 2013 at 6:15 am

            Busta,

            I understand your comments, but it is widely known that many researchers try to publish elsewhere prior to PlosOne, and I know of case where an article had been rejected by FOUR journals, over several years, and was finally sent to PlosOne and accepted within a few months.

        • PedroS June 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm

          That’s a straw man. What about JBC and its expensive “page charges”? That also seems pay to publish, to me..

          • Noah June 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm

            Exactly. It is a rare paper indeed that our group publishes for free…

  • Renee June 8, 2013 at 4:16 am

    Rather than being worried about Plos One I am much more concerned about the fact that apparently masses of scientists are being (and have been) “trained” that are unaware or uncapable (let’s assume not unwilling) to do science the proper way. Meaning that apparently they (authors and reviewers and editors alike) don’t know that you shouldn’t just chop up Western blots into tiny little single-band images or quantify bands without having a proper loading control (on the same blot).
    Time for some simple general guidelines in the “Information for authors”, methinks.

    • Frederic June 8, 2013 at 4:24 am

      Being a scientist nowadays does not requires any real training. People will do any bachelor and any PhD and that is all. People get their PhD and do not learn about ethics, about the proper way of doing science in general, what is methodoloy, how to report data and etc.
      What people learn is that publishing is everything. You publish or you perish, doesn’t matter where, doesn’t matter how, doesn’t matter anything… and Plos One fits perfectly in that system. Plos One exist because science has became an industry and a commerce.

      • Sylvain Bernès June 8, 2013 at 10:29 am

        “What people learn is that publishing is everything”… Finally, the truth is getting told!

        • Otto June 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm

          Finally, the truth is getting told!

          Heh. When did Spivak found Publish or Perish, Inc., 1970?

          • Average PI June 8, 2013 at 5:15 pm

            It could be worse! It could be “publish AND perish”.

  • Jonathan Leake (Science Editor, The Sunday Times, London) June 8, 2013 at 5:34 am

    If Curi is the fourth out of 11 authors; and someone named Tania Pithon-Curi is the final author, then is it fair to single him out in the original commentary? Should you not have found out what role he played?
    It may have been central but 4th listing suggests not. And if he was peripheral then, whatever his past, you may have singled out the wrong person – and let someone else off the hook.

    • Frederic June 8, 2013 at 8:59 am

      If one doesn’t follow Cur’s case, one would agree with you…
      But it is not the case. The first author is related to the second, which in turn, together with the third, are minions of Curi. The penultimate one is Curi’s collaborator. And the last is Curi’s wife. Everyone in the paper is somehow involved with Curi, and most of the work is done in his lab.

      • Jonathan Leake (Science Editor, The Sunday Times, London) June 8, 2013 at 10:17 am

        Aha – very enlightening. It’s a bit like having my Mum edit The Sunday Times

        • ferniglab June 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

          You might get a lot of column inches that way indeed!

        • Frederic June 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm

          hummmm I smelll… I smell argumentum ad ridiculus…

          • M. Poje June 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

            …argumentum ad ridiculum…

      • Busta Bloodvessel June 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm

        I understand Curi has published more than 400 articles, of which 1 or 2% have been identified with problems concerning Western blot images. I would like to suggest that if we were to select a scientist at random and investigated them for errors in previously published work then we would find that 1 or 2% of their papers contained errors.

        • Sham June 9, 2013 at 1:16 am

          Only 0.01% of scientific articles are retracted, which means that more than 99.99% of researchers never had a paper retracted.

          Perhaps Curi has more than 400 publications due to data duplication (which include, ahn, western blots bands), improperly data analysis, experiments badly controled, fast submission… don’t be ingenous. You can’t find misconduct like Curi did in every scientist.

          • Busta Bloodvessel June 9, 2013 at 5:21 am

            If Curi has retracted papers due to western blot image problems then let him take the rap for those papers along with his co-authors. However, I suggest that all other published work from his laboratory should be treated with due respect, so as not to implicate innocent undergraduate and postgraduate students, research associates and research laboratory staff.

  • fernando pessoa June 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Here is another Plos One Mega-correction. Anything goes?

    http://www.plosone.org/annotation/listThread.action?root=62119

  • Scrutineer June 10, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Interesting. So the XMRV paper was unilaterally retracted by PLOS editors because of flawed conclusions. Flawed the paper may be but unfortunately it is the primary reference for the discovery of XMRV.

    See the Retraction Watch article “If a paper’s major conclusions are shown to be wrong we will retract the paper”: PLoS

    But massively fabricated figures in PLOS journals will simply have megacorrections?

    All scientists make errors. And often. They do not all make creative yet economical use of figure duplication.

    Surely it is time for another PLOS BLOGS entry to update us all on PLOS’s mission to “accelerate progress in science”:

    http://blogs.plos.org/speakingofmedicine/2012/09/25/the-role-of-retractions-in-correcting-the-scientific-literature/

    Yes Virginia!

  • mariposa June 10, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I don’t understand the lack of Brazilian public action in this case.

    • CR June 10, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Maybe you have been away from Brazil for a while? The Brazilian people never reacts against corruption, and will pretend to ignore it as much as possible.

  • Santa Claus June 11, 2013 at 2:00 am

    completely unnecessary and missing the point-typo warning: the title says “threated”, should read “threatened”.

    • ivanoransky June 11, 2013 at 6:48 am

      Fixed, thanks!

  • emmav June 12, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Dear readers of Retraction Watch,

    As one of the Senior Editors on PLOS ONE, I’d like to respond in detail to the concerns raised on this blog and in the subsequent comments by Retraction Watch readers regarding PLOS ONE’s editorial handling of issues surrounding the following PLOS ONE paper:

    Glutamine Supplementation Stimulates Protein-Synthetic and Inhibits Protein-Degradative Signaling Pathways in Skeletal Muscle of Diabetic Rats

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0050390

    Firstly just to note that PLOS ONE is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE; http://publicationethics.org/) and follows its guidelines and resources regarding how journals should handle allegations or suspicions of possible misconduct.

    Secondly, to clarify how events in this particular case were handled. PLOS ONE editorial staff, on examining the article above, noted that several of the figures in the article included overcropped bands from Western blots. We consider this practice less than ideal in representing original data. As per our usual editorial policy when following up on concerns, we consulted with the Academic Editor who handled the paper through peer review and we asked the authors to provide the raw data underlying each image featuring these blots. At this stage in our handling of the case, there had been no external allegations raised to us regarding the integrity of the article or the data.

    The authors were cooperative and provided us with the raw data for the blots, which are now included as part of the Correction posting on our site. When providing the raw data, the authors also declared that errors had been made in preparing the compiled images that were included in the original article, as per the text of the Correction. The authors provided us with corrected figures, as well as the raw blots, and we included all of this information with the Correction now published.

    In proceeding to the next stage again we followed our usual policy, which is for the journal editorial staff to consult with the Academic Editor of the paper to verify whether the authors’ response was acceptable and if any concerns remained over the explanations and the raw data provided. As a result of this consultation we proceeded to publish the Correction that is on the PLOS ONE site. At this stage, given that no further issues had been raised, and that we had received raw data and new versions of the figures, which addressed prior concerns, we were happy that a Correction was the right route to take rather than an Expression of Concern.
    The provided raw data should also help readers to assess the veracity of the authors’ claims in greater detail than the compiled images, and we now see that a reader has made comments directly on the PLOS ONE site and on Retraction Watch questioning some of the raw data.

    As a result, we are re-evaluating those concerns and will establish how best to proceed once this further assessment is complete.

    With all best wishes

    Emma Veitch, PhD I Senior Editor, PLOS ONE

    Carlyle House, Carlyle Road, Cambridge CB4 3DN | United Kingdom
    eveitch@plos.org

    • CR June 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      It is very nice of Plos editors to comment here. This is an example to be followed.
      They however state that no readers came up with the concerns on this paper, so what triggered editors to review the published data? Did these issues show in Science-Fraud.org? As a journal editor myself, I find very unlikely that one editor would gather the interest, find enough time to peruse published papers out of his field, compare blots from different sources, and take then take editorial action. Quite remarkable.

    • Elaine Newman June 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      The posts to Retraction Watch are very concentrated on western blots and their manipulations. I imagine that this is for two reasons- one that these are relatively easy to spot, and two that there is not much risk of legal problems resulting from such posts. As a personal matter, I could not imagine citing a ‘corrected’ paper because I could not know what else in the paper is faulty and I have no reason to suppose that the rest of the work is reliable. One may feel sorry for the students, postdocs etc but they have the same responsibility as everyone doing research, and the first requirement is integrity.

      • ENL June 12, 2013 at 6:42 pm

        i think refusing to cite papers that have corrections is quite unhealthy. We want to encourage people to correct their mistakes when they spot them and not to bury the mistakes for fear (for example) of not being cited.

        There are many, many more papers with mistakes than papers with corrections. I have much more respect for people who correct mistakes rather than leaving their mistakes in the literature.

        Yes integrity is important, very important. So yes willful lack of integrity should be punished. Maybe I am naive but I think the vast majority of issues which require correction are a result of simple human error…which I am afraid is not beyond even the best of us.

    • fernando pessoa June 12, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      In reply to emmav June 12, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Would somebody from PLOS ONE like to comment on the formal correction to

      PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19652.
      http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0019652

      Were the editors of PLoS One aware that PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19652.
      was part of a bigger picture? If so when did they know?

      The formal correction appears here.
      http://www.plosone.org/annotation/listThread.action?root=62119

    • Sham June 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      Congratulations for the iniciative.

    • Scrutineer June 13, 2013 at 4:20 am

      Thanks for coming by. Many scientists, tired of the trendy, hot, fast and often superficial publishing treadmill, might appreciate the escape route that PLOS ONE would like to offer:

      “Unlike many journals which attempt to use the peer review process to determine whether or not an article reaches the level of ‘importance’ required by a given journal, PLOS ONE uses peer review to determine whether a paper is technically sound and worthy of inclusion in the published scientific record. Once the work is published in PLOS ONE, the broader community is then able to discuss and evaluate the significance of the article…”

      How well do you think this is working? It’s not just in this thread that the “technically sound” bit gets questioned when dealing with PLOS ONE papers. Even those of us who like to think we have published a perfectly good paper in PLOS ONE approach other papers there somewhat warily.

      It is good that you provided “originals” with the correction. Anyone can now see the dissimilarity of some of the bands in the same lanes for Fig. 4A. Also the minimalistic use of “metadata” like a date on the image is noteworthy.

      As you know, a few journals like EMBO J and Nature Cell Biology have pioneered publishing the original data in the supplement. In general, it seems that journals have not realised that they only have a single choice in this matter: when to take that step themselves. Availability of original data is the true revolution in science publishing brought by the internet (and not just for figure sleuths hunting fraud). Without this, all of your PLOS ONE Web 2.0 tools put together “don’t amount to a hill of beans”. Any plans for PLOS ONE to join the scientific publishing revolution?

    • Sham June 15, 2013 at 3:56 am

      Why PLoS deleted the reader concerns?

  • Buster June 13, 2013 at 3:16 am

    The problem is actually the COPE guidelines. If some issues arise from problematic figures, the authors are usually asked to provide the original blots/data. If they are not entirely stupid, they will realize at this point that there original figures were busted. Then they usually apologize for an “honest error” during figure preparation (which, if it actually was an honest error still raises the question on the reliability of the data, if you can’t even label your experiments properly), and provide a revised figure.

    At this point it is really complicated for an Editor to proof data fabrication, and a correction is the regular consequence. The easiest way out is if the blot has been used in a previous publication (see the Rui Curi case with J Mol Endo), where the Editor can claim that the data were not original upon submission.

    In my opinion the best way to fight these types of figure irregularities is to have really strict instructions for authors that state if duplications, manipulations or other strange modifications such as splicing of lanes etc are detected, this is reason for immediate rejection (and ban from further submissions) or retraction (if caught after publication). By submitting the manuscript you have to agree to these rules, and confirm that your paper has been carefully checked accordingly.

    In the Rui Curi’s cases, there is a strange accumulation of “honest errors”. Maybe someone should donate some permanent marker pens for his lab, so that they can label their blots properly…. or find publications where previous blots have been re-used, which gives the responsible Editors an immediate reason for retraction.

  • Jennifer Lopez June 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Talking about Brazilian Scientists, please take a look to the 4EBP1 panel (SKBR3 cells) at Supplementary Figure 3C. Then, try to find out how many times this blot was reused in the figure…
    http://mct.aacrjournals.org/content/suppl/2011/11/11/1535-7163.MCT-11-0033.DC1/F3_PDF_793K.pdf

    • Jorge da Padaria June 14, 2013 at 1:29 am

      3 times?

    • Jorge da Padaria June 14, 2013 at 1:30 am

      Which paper is this?

    • Jennifer Lopez June 14, 2013 at 10:13 am
      • CR June 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm

        Could you please also add this to the PubPeer.com entry on the paper? Maybe further details, like showing the repeated images, which are not easy to spot without markings!.. Cheers!

        • Jennifer Lopez June 14, 2013 at 10:41 pm

          some days ago I tried to post a comment at pubpeer (see below). The comment has not been added so far. I´m a little dissapointed…

          The post was about the use of the same beta-actin western blot in two different papers. Please compare Fig. 3D b-actin panel (bands 2-8), http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006295210005873 with Fig. 8C b-actin panel (bands 1-7) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0006206

          • Frederic June 15, 2013 at 12:28 am

            Pubpeer dassapointed me as well. I also posted an comment, did not show up!
            PubPeer needs to improve a lot if they want people to discuss in there. I didn’t like at all, but the idea is good. But as people say: hell if full of good intentions…

          • Stewart June 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm

            Same thing happened to me on several occasions. I wrote nothing personal, I simply raised points on several blots and so on and nothing has EVER been posted.

    • Santa Claus June 18, 2013 at 1:33 am

      Interesting, I would say that the four 4EBP1 bands in SKBR3 look very similar to both 4EBP1 and p-4EBP1 in C5.2, p70S6K in HB4a and p70S6K in C5.2 (upside down). So, a total of five experiments.

  • fernando pessoa June 15, 2013 at 3:55 am

    In reply to Frederic June 15, 2013 at 12:28 am

    “PubPeer needs to improve a lot if they want people to discuss in there”.

    You can’t discuss if they do not publish a comment.

    Quite factual comments postson Pubpeer which might be highly damaging do not seem to show up.

    • Frederic June 15, 2013 at 7:07 am

      so it is useless! Unbookmarking it now!

    • CR June 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      Really? I never had issues with it, and I was finding it fantastic!.. However I post using my account and my field of research is of much lesser impact ($) than Cell papers or Cancer research!…

      What I do know is that they can take up to a week to post anonymous comments from outsiders, and this is made clear in their instructions, and that they have been recently flooded by comments to evaluate… please let us know if your comments are eventually published.

  • Jennifer Lopez June 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Dear CR,
    feel free to post my comments at pubpeer with your account

    • CR June 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      Oh, it would be hell to post everyone’s comments on my account!.. and also I cannot evaluate and certify the claims, as for time and I do not work in the same field… I am afraid they will be lost here

  • Junk Science June 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    de Sá Lima L, Kawamoto EM, Munhoz CD, Kinoshita PF, Orellana AM, Curi R, Rossoni LV, Avellar MC, Scavone C.
    Neuropharmacology. 2013 Jun 14. doi:pii: S0028-3908(13)00266-9. 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.06.006. [Epub ahead of print]
    PMID: 23774137

    The latest creation from Curi. A lot of splicing in general. Fig 5C, a funny one, all of those proteins are basically the same size but the three blots are obviously not from the same experiment based on the band patterns.

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