Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Shigeaki Kato up to 33 retractions, with five papers cited a total of 450 times

with 18 comments

Shigeaki Kato

Shigeaki Kato

Former University of Tokyo researcher Shigeaki Kato continues to put big numbers on the board.

Last month, we reported on his 26th, 27th, and 28th retractions, all in Nature Cell Biology and cited close to 700 times. Yesterday, EMBO Journal and EMBO Reports published a total of five more retractions for the endocrinology researcher, who resigned from the university in 2012 following investigations found he had faked images.

Here’s the notice for “A cell cycle-dependent co-repressor mediates photoreceptor cell-specific nuclear receptor function:”

The above article from The EMBO Journal, published online on 25 January 2007, has been retracted by agreement between the authors and the journal Chief Editor and Head of Scientific Publications, EMBO, Bernd Pulverer. The authors’ statement follows.

A number of image aberrations in this paper were brought to our attention. Following our own investigation and an institutional investigation by the University of Tokyo, we have concluded that the following issues necessitate retraction of the paper:

Fig 2C: Spliced lanes, blank spots within blots, duplicated background.

Fig 5C: One panel lacks data.

Fig 5H: Multiple duplicated panels.

Fig 6C: Empty panels, bands more tightly cropped than indicated by the outlines.

The experiments and figure preparations were done in the nuclear signaling laboratory in the IMCB. Since these facts have undermined the integrity of the presented findings, we wish to retract this paper and deeply regret that these misleading data were published and the resulting negative impact on the scientific community.

The paper has been cited 37 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

And here’s the notice for “Ligand-induced transrepression by VDR through association of WSTF with acetylated histones:”

The above article from The EMBO Journal, published online on 27 October 2005, has been retracted by agreement between the authors and the journal Chief Editor and Head of Scientific Publications, EMBO, Bernd Pulverer. The authors’ statement follows.

A number of image aberrations in this paper were brought to our attention. Following our own investigation and an institutional investigation by the University of Tokyo, we have concluded that the following issues necessitate retraction of the paper:

Fig 2A/C: Several panels have been cropped more tightly than indicated by the boxes and one panel contains an unmarked splice.

Fig 3A: Contains numerous panels with no visible signal.

Fig 5E: Several panels have been cropped more tightly than indicated by the boxes.

Fig 6B: contains numerous panels with no visible signal. The FLAG and Brg1 Distal panels are duplicated, and the left band in the nVDRE-FLAG panel is inserted.

Since these facts have undermined the integrity of the presented findings, we wish to retract this paper and deeply regret that these misleading data were published and the resulting negative impact on the scientific community.

That paper has been cited 87 times.

Here’s the notice for “Transrepression by a liganded nuclear receptor via a bHLH activator through co-regulator switching:”

The above article from The EMBO Journal, published online on 25 March 2004, has been retracted by agreement between the authors and the journal Chief Editor and Head of Scientific Publications, EMBO, Bernd Pulverer. The authors’ statement follows.

A number of image aberrations in this paper were brought to our attention. Following our own investigation and an institutional investigation by the University of Tokyo, we have concluded that the following issues necessitate retraction of the paper:

Fig 1C/Fig 3B: Lane 6, Fig 1C and lane 6, Fig 3B are duplicated.

Fig 4A: Several bands are duplicated, and several lanes contain no signal.

Fig 5C: One band was duplicated five times and rotated.

Fig 6B/D: Multiple band duplications and several lanes without signal.

Since these facts have undermined the integrity of the presented findings, we wish to retract this paper and deeply regret that these misleading data were published and the resulting negative impact on the scientific community.

The study has been cited 108 times.

And here’s the notice for “A subfamily of RNA-binding DEAD-box proteins acts as an estrogen receptor α coactivator through the N-terminal activation domain (AF-1) with an RNA coactivator, SRA:”

The above article from The EMBO Journal, published online on 15 March 2001, has been retracted by agreement between the authors and the journal Chief Editor and Head of Scientific Publications, EMBO, Bernd Pulverer. The authors’ statement follows.

A number of image aberrations in this paper were brought to our attention. Following our own investigation and an institutional investigation by the University of Tokyo, we have concluded that the following issues necessitate retraction of the paper:

Figures 4 and 5B: Bands in the negative control in Fig 4 and for the p72 mutants in Fig 5B are duplicated.

The experiments and figure preparations were done in the nuclear signaling laboratory in the IMCB. Since these facts have undermined the integrity of the presented findings, we wish to retract this paper and deeply regret that these misleading data were published and the resulting negative impact on the scientific community.

The paper has been cited 210 times.

Here’s the notice for “Switching of chromatin-remodelling complexes for oestrogen receptor-α:”

The above article from EMBO Reports, published online on 2 May 2008, has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Chief Editor, and the Head of Scientific Publications, EMBO. The authors’ statement follows.

A number of image aberrations in this paper were brought to our attention. Following our own investigation and an institutional investigation by the University of Tokyo, we have concluded that the following issues necessitate retraction of the paper:

Fig 2B: One panel has been duplicated and one panel contains no data.

Supplementary Fig 2E: In two panels, bands are inserted.

The experiments and figure preparations were done in the nuclear signalling laboratory in the IMCB. Since these facts have undermined the integrity of the presented findings, we wish to retract this paper and deeply regret that these misleading data were published and the resulting negative impact on the scientific community.

That paper has been cited 17 times.

For those curious, 33 is not a record. In fact, it’s not even close. Kato would need 150 more to match his countryman Yoshitaka Fujii’s total. We expect another 10 for Kato, given the findings of various investigations.

Comments
  • JATdS December 2, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Why is this man not in jail? MEXT*, I repeat, why is this man not in jail? University of Tokyo**, I repeat, why is this man not in jail? Japanese media, I repeat, why is this man not in jail? Japanese scientists, who should be revolted by now, I repeat, why is this man not in jail?

    * MEXT = Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology:
    http://www.mext.go.jp/english/
    ** The Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, University of Tokyo:
    http://www.iam.u-tokyo.ac.jp/

    For example, go to Wiley Online library, and enter the name “Shigeaki Kato” into the search function. How many dozens of scientists – and their careers – did he directly affect negatively? How many downstream papers (450? 677?) and their scientists did he stain with his fraud? Was he the only one who committed such wide-scale fraud, and how is it possible that so many co-authors were not aware of the fraud, or did not pick up on so many issues that other readers picked up on? Are all members of those large teams really that innocent, and why has blame been assigned fully to Kato? How much responsibility do other co-authors share? And why are the authorities not responding formally to this blog, or even publically? And why are the co-authors not talking out publically?

    If I could, I would sit in front of MEXT with a picket sign saying “NO MORE FRAUD IN SCIENCE”. The problem is, within less than 15 mnutes, I would be the one who would be arrested for public disorder and possibly sent to jail. How is it possible that we can live in such twisted societies – that claim to be developed – in which those who favor justice and who would dare to speak out would be the ones (potentially) sent to jail? A situation so ridiculous that those who disagree with the situation, or the system, are reduced to displaying their voices of discontent and protest, anonymously, on a blog.

    I repeat, why is this man not in jail? Surely, he is leaching and taking advantage of the taxes that I and my family, and the families of many struggling Japanese families, are paying? We are a few years down the road, and this man continues to rake in citations and (in)famy. If anything, by just sitting idle, and not taking any action to clean up the tainted down-stream literature, what does this say about the Japanese authorities?

    • blatnoi December 3, 2014 at 10:09 am

      “If I could, I would sit in front of MEXT with a picket sign saying “NO MORE FRAUD IN SCIENCE”. The problem is, within less than 15 mnutes, I would be the one who would be arrested for public disorder and possibly sent to jail. How is it possible that we can live in such twisted societies – that claim to be developed – in which those who favor justice and who would dare to speak out would be the ones (potentially) sent to jail?”

      I don’t think your being arrested would have anything to do with the science fraud case. The cops would just see a weird Western man sitting with a sign and being disorderly and they’ll put you in jail to quickly clear the area and then slowly figure out what happened afterwards. At least you’ll get an interview with a newspaper out of it though. Probably will get into trouble at work however. You just have to figure out a way for Kato to sit outside some government building with a picket sign shouting stuff, and he’ll be in jail in 15 minutes as well.

    • Dirk December 3, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Am guessing he is not in jail because it is not a punishable offense …

  • BB December 3, 2014 at 2:40 am

    Kato has contaminated thousands of papers altogether, so the the downstream effect of this massive fraud can hardly be overestimated. It should be mandatory for all respectable journals to warn other periodicals in which a retracted article has been cited in the last 5 years, who should be then obliged to publish a correction for the affected papers. Of course it would lead to a flurry of correction notices, but the pros certainly outweigh the cons.

  • JATdS December 3, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Blatnoi and Dirk, humor aside, therein lies the problem (one of them) with this society. Such grave issues appear to be nothing more than laughable offenses that deserve simply to be silenced, ignored, and swept under the carpet. Well, this is unfortunate for the Japanese tax-payers, who continue to foot the bills of academic cronies, as well as the reform/retirement package of Kato, and whose misconduct is simply being hidden by the Japanese University establishment*. I am sure that it will be impossible to get Kato stand outside any government building. Moreover, me standing outside the government building picketing is not itself illegal. It is the anti-government stance, or criticism of it, that is (as of very recently, a carefuly blended legal clause embedded into Abenomics).

    * I am, in no unreserved way, referring specifically to the Suzuki-Takahashi protectionism offered by two very “respectable” Japanese institutes following proof by ORI that both had committed fraud.
    http://retractionwatch.com/2014/09/18/former-ut-southwestern-cancer-researchers-faked-data-in-10-papers-ori/#comments

    If Japanese tax payers (at least an increasingly large tranche of the middle class) would understand that their curent level of enslavement imposed by Abenomics, is partly paying for a system that is protecting academic corruption directly or indirectly, then there would be true social revolt. One has to see this blinding of society with smart-phones, Twitter and Facebook to keep them so busy that they have no time to reflect on the root causes of their gradual empoverishment. For a slightly deeper understanding of my viewpoint on this, and on the links, read my comments at **.

    ** http://retractionwatch.com/2014/11/26/the-peer-review-scam-how-authors-are-reviewing-their-own-papers/#comments

    So, what incentives are there to complain and picket with the real risk of getting arrested when those like Kato get bailout reform packages paid for by tax-payers, or those like Suzuki and Takahashi get protected by institutions that claim ethical practices on Japanese tax-payers while rotecting known academic frauds?

    • AJ December 4, 2014 at 7:27 am

      I don’t understand why you’re so ready to indict all of Japanese society for this. Surely you should be even angrier that Andrew Wakefield is breathing free air after his disgrace linking autism to vaccines? Or ready to blame Dutch society for prosecutors settling with Diederik Stapel and not sending him to prison?

      Looking at the history on this site alone, it was reported last year that the University of Tokyo panel that reviewed his work already recommended retracting 43 papers, so I would expect at least one or two more posts from RW as he crawls up to there.

      • JATdS December 4, 2014 at 11:32 am

        AJ. You appear to have misunderstood. I live in Japan, and near the poverty line at that. It’s my taxes that are supporting these individuals and this system that is supporting them. So every yen that goes to them/it counts to me. That means that every yen of wasted money affects me and my family, and I see the consequences of wasted public funding, like spending billions on rockets to collect some rocks from space rather than spending a few million on an academic watch-dog, for example, or funding chemical research that would make rocks that would resemble something that came from space. Basically, it’s wasted public taxes, on short-sited visions. So yes, let me be critical where criticism is merited. As simple as that. Let the Dutch tax-payers get angry with Stapel, or with the Dutch Government, if they feel that the Dutch system (broadly) is wrong, and let me protest my indignation about this individual. I always find it amusing to see people defending a nation blindly, possibly from a distance. I assure you, from my experience, that the cover-up is much larger than what is being made to believe. Obokata was an extraordinarily different case, and I believe heavily politicized, so it gained a lot of attention. It’s an image crisis and protectionism that cannot be quantified, because it is impossible to quantify. My concerns and my criticisms are based on my experience, and on what I see, and what I have experienced. Japan is a great nation, of some great values, of old and of new, that is not in discussion here.

        But there are serious academic-related issues that are not being handled appropriately, I believe, because there is, unfortunately, what I perceive to be a serious nation-wide state of ignorance (again, I am not stating or claiming a nation with a low IQ, so please be careful how you interpret what I say), and lack of appetite for dealing with this issue in particular. And I believe that several issues are closely related, so being in the middle of a system that supports, for example, masses of funding to weaponize the country, but then turns a blind eye to academic fraud, which has serious repercussions on society, which itself pays for the very same institutions that are supporting that crooked frame-work, is my concern, as a citizen, and as a scientist. To give you an idea, I have reported cases of concern to no less than 6 academic institutes in Japan, and even send MEXT a detailed report of the concerns underlying these cases of fraud. Guess what the response was. Silence. Silence says it all. So, I do agree that it is unfair to make a blanket characterization of a nation, and to think that is what I have done is naive. I am being critical of the nation-wide establishment, and its handling (or lack of handling) of Kato and Kato-like cases.

        Finally, you quote the University of Tokyo as having fulfilled its responsibilities. Not at all, the job is only half done. That superior university took laurels for years, strutting about proudly indicating that its scientist, Kato, was a great scientist. The name of that university was elevated. Now that Kato has stained that good name, the university has the responsibility of helping to clean up the literature now, sort of like BP had to be held accountable for cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico. What the University of Tokyo was good, because it completed an internal investigation that revealed the fraud. But, the buck does not stop there.

        • AJ December 5, 2014 at 6:11 am

          If your letters were to MEXT were anything like your comments, I can see why they ignored you. From an external viewpoint, the system is working as it’s supposed to – someone blew the whistle on fraudulent activities, the university investigated and confirmed and recommended retractions, and over the last year journals have been doing confirmations of their own and retracting the specified work. I really don’t see anything like a cover-up, misconduct being hidden, or anything that should reflect badly on Japanese science as a whole or Japanese authorities.

          I don’t think they’re doing anything particularly differently from the way similar cases are handled in the US or EU, where it is also exceedingly rare for disgraced scientists to end up facing jail time. And that might be bad for all of science that most institutions prefer a quiet “letting go” rather than parading and advertising their disgraces through the streets, but the only objectionable things I see are your low blows about Abenomics and the protest law.

  • JATdS December 5, 2014 at 7:38 am

    AJ, Actually, all communications were extremely polite, diplomatic and pin-pointed. That was a formal request. This is a casual blog. Important for you to differentiate the two. I am sure that quite a few people would beg to differ about the functionality in the US, especially under the crippled functionality of ORI:
    http://retractionwatch.com/2014/03/13/in-sharp-resignation-letter-former-ori-director-wright-criticizes-bureaucracy-dysfunction/ (hey, I’m not the one who said, it was David Wright). As for a low blow, a kick in the nuts if you will, about Abenomics, and the protest law, sure, it’s my right to disagree about it and not be pleased with it, of course. Actually, a low blow to Abenomics is something of a contradiction, given the widespread criticism of it, particularly from abroad:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/21/world/asia/japans-economic-woes-cast-new-doubt-on-abenomics.html?_r=0 (yes, the NY Times is a US newspaper)
    http://www.news.nom.co/analysis-moody-s-downgrade-raises-13872098-news/

    On a positive note, there is always PubPeer to point out the errors anonymously, and to put pressure througha passive process.

  • JATdS December 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    AJ, allow me to further insist how unbelievable the situation is, and to further indicate why you are so unfortunately mistaken. Even though one would expect that this story about Kato would be news on national TV, NHK, or even though it would have been worthwhile discussing how Dr. Takao Takahashi at Gifu University gets a nice job and position even though he was “responsible for fakery in four papers” (see above RW link to UT-Southwestern), instead we get news about another scandal at Gifu University*: how two goats were stolen from the faculty farm by three Vietnamese, and were eaten. Indeed, don’t get me wrong, the three Vietnamese deserved the fine they got, and were lucky not to get prison time for eating the almost “sacred” weed-eating goats, but why is Kato not fined, or worse, or Takahashi? Why do goat-eating Vietnamese get shamed publically on national Japanese TV – and make news, get a TV spot and even some nice photos online – but not Takahashi, or Kato? Can you understand what I am trying to say, or do I need to provide more examples of why things are so chronically sick in terms of academic structure and priority in Japan?

    * http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20141204/k10013721731000.html (actually, to make the situation all the more tragico-comical, please add that web-site into Google translator).

    I should add that I am not claiming that Kato was never covered by Japanese media, because he was, back in 2013. But one would think that retractions by Nature and EMBO, two of the world’s leading academic publishing bodies, would attract national attention. This is the equation:
    Obokata. 2 retractions: massive media attention for months
    Kato. 5 retractions: zero media attention. But a focus on 2 stolen goats.

    Simple. National media red-tape and suppression of the truth.

  • AJ December 5, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    you say he was covered then put “zero media attention” in your equation. I hope your scientific work shows better attention to detail.

    I don’t see the point of the goat story except for trolling. American media cared more about some guy’s shirt than the astonishing decade long mission landing on a comet. People like weird and funny stories. I don’t see it as a unique or chronically sick condition of Japanese coverage of science.

  • JATdS December 6, 2014 at 8:40 am

    AJ: this story is not about you, or me, so please refocus. But, a nice story published today, just for you:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-05/japanese-corporate-bankruptcies-linked-to-weak-yen-at-record.html

  • JATdS December 9, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    AJ, to help you better understand the link between Abenomics and Kato, take note of the sudden implementation of the “silencing laws” as Japanese society enters a state of permanent and softly disguised repression, where whistle-blowing and public revelations are counter to, or critical of, Abenomics (i.e., the Government, including MEXT), allow me to introduce this story entitled “Strict new Japan secrets law to take effect amid protests”:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/09/us-japan-secrets-idUSKBN0JN15920141209

    And from that story, the key phrase:
    “”The law says that the act of leaking itself is bad no matter what the circumstances””

    Perhaps now you will understand why, most likely, individuals like Kato will continue to have a nice retirement life, why individuals why Takahashi and Suzuki will continue to get nice, well paid positions in government-linked institutions, despite their recorded and proven fraud, and why MEXT, or right-hand institues like The University of Tokyo will simply stand aside, and let the scientific literature get further corrupted, ignoring their so-called social “responsibilities”. That is why it is imperative not only to continue being critical of Kato, Takahashi, Suzuki, MEXT and the University of Tokyo, until they, and others like them, assue a new attitude and stance. The tax-payers have the right to be angry, and now, they are being further suppressed. This is the side of Japan that nobody apparently knows.

    We are in fact, in an age where truth is so threatening to the powerful elite and establishment. And that is why we have the responsibility of complaining, openly, loudly, and publically. Only those who suck the marrow from the system, or feed off its breast, have no clue about what I am talking about.

  • JATdS December 10, 2014 at 3:30 am

    Once again, I claim that the veiled protectionism of fraudulent scientists by the “establishment” is not a random event. Nor is the link between Abenomics, Kato, The University of Tokyo, MEXT + The Japanese Government, and the society that is being explored to the point of poverty, on one extreme. The law I described yesterday can only be described as an environment of government fear mongering meant to cement the current political clan and to protect the current class of privileged few (even if they include a couple of corrupt individuals like Kato). This is the reality, whether people like it, or not. Indigestible topics are never palatable, and the prospects of the mid-age generation of scientists (and society) and middle-class, are extremely bleak. Again, I wish to stress that the world of science does not revolve around its own axis, nor in isolation. There is a dreadful dependence on government and on bodies that are unable to effectively balance a financial spreadsheet, as evidenced by “Japan’s looming benefit cuts An Unspoken, Unsettling Election Theme”: http://www.businessinsider.com/r-japans-looming-benefit-cuts-an-unspoken-unsettling-election-theme-2014-12

  • JATdS December 13, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    A now-retired professor of University of Yamanashi (Department of Pathology, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering), Masanori Kitamura, has been found to plagiarized 4 out of his 90 papers from between 2003 and 2010. The process of retracting these papers is underway. However, he is required to return his research funding from that period. It is unclear exactly which of these papers, many of which are pretty high level publications, are being referred to (information has not been publicly released yet), but one can get an idea of Prof. Kitamura’s research through PubMed, or in this paper, as one example:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3655991/pdf/pone.0064344.pdf

    Justice will have been served, the literature will have been corrected (although the downstream papers will still require a correction). This will serve as a model system for other Japanese universities. University of Tokyo, hint, hint, nudge, nudge.

    Source:
    http://www.aab-tv.co.jp/news/ann_shownews.php?id=000040483&cat=99
    (Asahi National News)

  • JATdS March 30, 2015 at 2:05 am

    Update. NHK News [1] and other news sources reporting that three of Kato’s MSc students (at that time: 1999-2010; identities not release dpublicly) have lost their PhDs, over and above one lost by Dr. Kitagawa from Tokushima University on Decenber 26, 2014. In total 6 co-authors were investigated for figure manipulation. An initial pool of 11 related individuals were examined. From 51 papers, 33 were found to contain manipulated images.

    The full investigation is public [3].

    While other news agencies did not disclose the names, The Hokkaido Shinbun Press released the names of the three scientists [4]:
    Ryouji Fujiki (Tokyo Univ.)
    Mison Kim (South Korean) (Tokyo Univ.)
    Takashi Furutani (Astellas Pharmacy)

    The Molecular Biology Sciety of Japan has issued a public apology [5] since Kato was linked to the society’s activities.

    [1] http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20150327/k10010029621000.html
    [2] http://news.yahoo.co.jp/list?t=fake_and_plagiarism_paper
    [3] http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/public/public01_260801_j.html
    See image manipulations here:
    http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/content/400007773.pdf
    [4] http://dd.hokkaido-np.co.jp/news/society/society/1-0116436.html
    [5] http://www.mbsj.jp/admins/messages/18th_osumi_201408.html

    • aceil March 30, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Why were the students punished?

      • JATdS March 30, 2015 at 6:54 pm

        All those who lost their PhDs (4 thus far) were directly involved with image manipulation.

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