Expression of Concern reveals journal editors bending over backward to give authors benefit of the doubt
Sometimes, an Expression of Concern says a heck of a lot without — as befits the genre — coming to a particular conclusion. Take this (paywalled)* example describing a paper from a group at Huazhong Science and Technology University, Wuhan, China:
The Editors of Clinical and Experimental Immunology are issuing this expression of concern to alert readers to questions about the quality of some data in the following publication:
CCR5 blockade in combination with rapamycin prolongs cardiac allograft survival in mice. J. Li, K. Zhang, P. Ye, S. Wang, J. Xia. Clin Exp Imm 157:437–445, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2009.03982.x
The editors were informed of an error within Figure 2 by the authors of the paper in June 2013. The authors apologised informing us that they had used the wrong image in the panel 2F. Further investigation of the image revealed that panel 2F is a duplicate of image 2E but at an altered magnification. The authors supplied new images for review and a possible Corrigendum, however, these were unlabelled and the editors were unable to verify that these were indeed a true replicate of the initial study. We further noticed that in Figure 2J, the CCR5 lane of the Control Ab+PBS condition appears to have been modified. When contacted about this issue the authors were unable to supply an image of the whole gel/blot due to the loss of the original data.
In light of insufficient answers from the authors we have asked the authors’ institute to investigate this issue. Once we know the outcome of this investigation the editors of Clinical and Experimental Immunology will make a final decision on this article.
The story feels like The Great Unraveling.
The paper has been cited nine times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Update, 8 a.m. Eastern, 2/19/14: The journal’s publisher, Wiley, has removed the paywall.