Image highjinx lead to retraction of hot pepper paper
You might be forgiven for thinking that the editors were describing a bad relationship rather than a paper gone wrong, the journal of Plant and Cell Physiology is retracting a 2004 article by Korean researchers who “manipulated and repeatedly used” micrographs.
The article, “Ornithine Decarboxylase Gene (CaODC1) is Specifically Induced during TMV-mediated but Salicylate-independent Resistant Response in Hot Pepper,” which appeared a s a short communication in the journal, came from the lab of Kyung-Hee Paek at Korea University.
According to the retraction notice:
The Editor-in-Chief, with consent of the corresponding author (Kyung-Hee Paek), has retracted this paper because it has been brought to our attention that there are problems with the way in which Figures 2 and 3 were compiled and presented.
In Figures 2A and 2C, and Figures 3A, 3B, 3D and 3E, rRNA photomicrographs were manipulated and repeatedly used. The erroneous figures have been attributed to human error and the authors have not been able to locate the original data or provide sufficient information, such as lab notes, to prove accuracy and authenticity of published data. As stated in the instructions to authors, Plant and Cell Physiology does not tolerate any form of author misconduct, including manipulation of data or duplication of previously published data without the necessary permissions to reproduce copyright material, and include an acknowledgement of the source in their manuscript.
We would like to apologize for any inconvenience this incident may cause to readers of the journal.
The paper has been cited 10 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
We aren’t sure “human error” is quite the right phrase here. Booting a routine grounder to short is an “error.” “Manipulated and repeatedly used” doesn’t really sound like an error, does it?