Back in May we reported on an Expression of Concern in Cell Cycle — a notice that had entered life as a retraction but mysteriously metamorphosed into the less dramatic form. The statement limned a rather bizarre dispute between researchers who crossed paths at the University of Minnesota and are now embroiled in litigation over ownership of the data.
Now, it gets weirder. Responding to further correspondence from the university, the journal has effectively washed its hands of the matter — without bothering to wipe down the sink or hang up the towel.
Here’s the “Comment on Expression of Concern“:
Following the publication of an Expression of Concern (10.4161/cc.25018) regarding “Chalcone-based small-molecule inhibitors attenuate malignant phenotype via targeting deubiquitinating enzymes” in Volume 12, Issue 10, the University of Minnesota contacted the publishers, taking issue with the language of the statement and information therein that was deemed irrelevant to this matter.
The original statement reads as follows:
“In the May 1, 2012 issue, Cell Cycle published “Chalcone-based small-molecule inhibitors attenuate malignant phenotype via targeting deubiquitinating enzymes” (10.4161/cc.20174), a Report by Olga A. Issaenko and Alexander Yu Amerik. The publishers now express a note of concern regarding this article. In October 2012, the first author claimed copyright infringement of her work by a competing researcher Dr Martina Bazzaro of the University of Minnesota, in whose lab Dr Issaenko was employed from September 2009 to July 2010. In return, the University of Minnesota performed a review of Dr Bazzaro’s laboratory materials from 2010 and claim ownership of data from Table 1 and parts of Figures 1–6. These claims have been denied, and the dispute is ongoing.”
Following is the Expression of Concern suggested by the University:
“In the May 1, 2012 issue, Cell Cycle published “Chalcone-based small-molecule inhibitors attenuate malignant phenotype via targeting deubiquitinating enzymes” (10.4161/cc.20174), a Report by Olga A. Issaenko and Alexander Yu Amerik. The publishers now express a note of concern regarding this article. The University of Minnesota claims ownership of data in this paper and reports that its faculty member, Dr Martina Bazzaro, alerted UMN officials to the fact that data published in the paper was generated during the time Dr Issaenko was a staff member/employee in the laboratory of Dr Bazzaro. University officials evaluated Dr Bazaaro’s computer files and laboratory notebooks and confirmed ownership of data from Table 1 and parts of Figures 1–6. Dr Issaenko disputes the University’s claim of data ownership.”
This conflict appears to extend past the bounds of this journal, and the publisher wishes to remain impartial. We leave it to the two parties involved to settle this matter in an appropriate venue.
We’re not sure what, exactly, would constitute an “appropriate venue.” We noticed that Minnesota does not appear to have a law on the books banning dueling, but we don’t think that’s quite what Cell Cycle has in mind. Maybe a bake-off.
At the time the Expression of Concern was published, Tara Barton, a representative of Landes, which publishes Cell Cycle, told us that the statement:
we ultimately determined was the best course of action …
Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, no matter the venue.