Phyllis Wise, the chancellor of the University of Illinois and an obstetrics researcher, has called for a massive correction of a 2006 paper in Neuroscience for work she appears to have tried to pass off as having been previously unpublished — but which wasn’t.
The article, “Estrogen therapy: Does it help or hurt the adult and aging brain? Insights derived from animal models,” has been cited 47 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
And it had caught also the attention of readers on PubPeer, who noted that:
This paper (Neuro06) is a duplicate publication, presenting as new results already published in the paper (Endo01):
Neuroprotective Effects of Estradiol in Middle-Aged Female Rats, Dena B. Dubal, Phyllis M. Wise, Endocrinology Volume 142 Issue 1 pp43-48 (2001)
It includes self-plagiarism, the misuse of images and the removal of co-authors, as well as the presentation of recycled scientific results in a manner that raises questions as to their veracity. In detail:
Self-Plagiarism: about 80% of the text of this paper is taken verbatim from Endo01: abstract, introduction, methods and materials, results and discussion. Endo01 is not cited. The only significant differences are the parts about bcl-2, ERα and ERβ, which do not appear in Endo01, but have been copied almost verbatim from another paper (JNeuro99):
“Estradiol modulates bcl-2 in cerebral ischemia: a potential role for estrogen receptors”, D B Dubal, P J Shughrue, M E Wilson, I Merchenthaler, P M Wise, J. Neurosci., Volume 1 Issue19(15), pp 6385-6393; (1999)
While JNeuro99 is cited, at numerous points in the paper it suggests that the findings regarding bcl-2, ERα and ERβ expression are from this study rather than previous work (e.g. the first paragraph of the Discussion).
Misuse Of Images: All of the Figures in this paper have appeared previously:
1. Figure 1 of Neuro06 is identical to Figure 2 of Endo01
2. Figure 2 of Neuro06 is identical to Figure 3 of Endo01
3. Figure 3 of Neuro06 is identical to Figure 3 of JNeuro99
4. Figure 4 of Neuro06 is identical to Figure 5 of JNeuro99
Endo01 is nowhere cited, while the Figures taken from JNeuro99 are never indicated as having appeared previously, let alone permission having been obtained. In most instances, information in the original Figures’ legends has been excluded upon reproduction, yielding less information (e.g. p-values have been removed).
Moreover, Figures from the plagiarized papers have been removed and references to them have been replaced by the phrase “data not shown”. For example, this phrase appears at the end of the first paragraph on page 832, replacing a reference to Figure 1 in Endo01, and a similar phrase at the end of the second last paragraph on the same page replaces references to Figure 4 in JNeuro99.
Removal Of Co-Authors: The paper under consideration is a single-author paper, while the paper it is mainly copied from, Endo01, has two co-authors, with different first author. The other source for the material, JNeuro99 lists 5 co-authors, of which the current author is listed as senior author.
Presentation Of Recycled Scientific Results: the presentation of the different results from two papers is done in a manner that is misleading. According to the Materials and Methods section of JNeuro99 and Endo01, only young mice were included in the bcl-2, ERα and ERβ expression experiments, a fact that is not mentioned when this data is presented as new in Neuro06.
In summary, such inconsistency, together with the suppression of information and misleading statements indicated above, raises serious questions about all aspects of this work. This is entirely in keeping with the following previous and subsequent publications by the same author:
Neuroscience evidently agrees. According to the corrigendum:
The author wishes to correct a number of serious errors in the writing of her publication, Neuroscience (2006) 138: 831–835. The paper was intended as a review of the previous work from her lab, submitted to a Special Issue of Neuroscience as part of the report of a Conference. However, the paper is written in a way that misleads the readers to think that it is an original article. The author wishes to correct that impression with the following changes in the text of the published paper:
Add to the reference list a previous paper from the author’s laboratory that was left out inadvertently: Dubal DB, Wise PM (2001) Neuroprotective effects of estradiol in middle-aged female rats. Endocrinology 142: 43–48.
Add a sentence to the legend of Figure 1: Reproduced with permission from Dubal and Wise (2001).
Add a sentence to the legend of Figure 2: Reproduced with permission from Dubal and Wise (2001).
Add a sentence to the legend of Figure 3: Reproduced with permission from Dubal et al. (1999).
Add a sentence to the legend of Figure 4: Reproduced with permission from Dubal et al. (1999).
The author regrets the extent to which the text in Wise (2006) was recycled from the prior papers.
Wise told Retraction Watch she agrees with the correction, and that there are no plans to correct any other papers.