Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Italian researcher facing criminal charges notches seventh retraction

with 10 comments

proteomicsAlfredo Fusco, a researcher in Italy under criminal investigation, now has a seventh retraction for manipulated images.

Here’s the notice for “Retraction: Identification of new high mobility group A1 associated proteins,” to which not all of the authors agreed:

The above article from Proteomics, published online on 19 September 2007 in Wiley Online Library (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pmic.200700148/pdf) and in Volume 7, No. 20, pp. 3735–3742, has been retracted by agreement between some of the authors (S. Giraud, W. V. Bienvenut, J. J. Diaz), the Editor-in-Chief and Wiley-VCH GmbH & Co. KGaA. The retraction has been agreed due to concerns in relation to Figure 2C. Multiple HMGA1-pulldown bands in the immunoblot images (upper panel) appear to have been duplicated. In addition, the Coomassie gel bands of Figure 2C (lower panel) appear to have also been duplicated. The authors are unable to provide the original source files that were used to generate these data. While the authors maintain that these findings were confirmed in replicate experiments, the Editorial Board of Proteomics has decided to retract the paper. No issues have been raised with regard to any of the other data in this manuscript. The remaining authors (G. M. Pierantoni, F. Esposito, A. Fusco) have not agreed to the retraction.

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

We spoke to editor-in-chief Mike Dunn for more details:

This matter was brought to our attention by a whistleblower, whose name we will not disclose. We subsequently carried out our own investigations on the relevant Figure, taking advice and opinions from several expert scientists. We came to the conclusion that this was a case of image manipulation, leading to the retraction of the paper.

As for whether PubPeer comments had any effect on the retraction, Dunn said:

No we had not seen the PubPeer Commentary. Seems to be quite a useful thing.

Written by Cat Ferguson

December 9th, 2014 at 9:30 am

Comments
  • Paul Brookes December 9, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Incoming news flash for Mike Dunn – editors do not project credibility by referring to what is widely regarded as the most important thing in post-pub peer review to come along in years as “seems to be quite useful”. How any editor in 2014 can claim not to know that PubPeer exists, is quite staggering!

    Then again, Proteomics (on the same editorial watch) was the journal where this abomination occurred back in the pre-RW days…

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/02/06/a-baffling-failure-of-peer-rev/

    http://pimm.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/the-fingerprints-of-a-mighty-creator-in-proteomics-impact-factor-%E2%80%BA5/

  • JATdS December 9, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I have seen dozens of similar problems in plant science journals, and all of those problems have been officially reported, sometimes even more than a year ago. These complaints are ignored, swept under the rug, or, in the best case scenario, covered up with a band aid that includes a two or three line erratum. It is, frankly speaking, irritating, and insulting. Insulting because the attitude displayed by the editors, the peer pool and the publishers is so anti-academic. So, I ask myself, why is it that these papers by this Italian group are being cleaned up so fast, so efficiently, and with so much media attention? The only logical conclusion I can reach is that because this scientist is under criminal investigation, the publisher(s) wants to wash its (their) hands clean of any association as soon as possible, to thus relieve itself (themselves) of any legal binds. Would my hypothesis have any base, or logic? I should add that most of the “errors” I am referring to above are not in Wiley journals, and in fact, I seem to find, broadly speaking, a much higher level of scrutiny in Wiley journals that elsewhere.

  • art December 10, 2014 at 3:49 am

    Was the problem with Fig. 2 picked up by a software? In this case, probably the editor and the reviewers are less at fault than in other cases. Though it is really worrying that they don’t look at Pubpeer.

    • Enrico Bucci December 10, 2014 at 6:08 am

      Yes, it was picked up by a software … and confirmed by humans.

      • Art December 10, 2014 at 6:38 am

        Oh… Now I see who is the Deus ex-machina also behind this retraction :-)..

        Just out of curiosity: I read a your interview in a italian newspaper reporting that the University of Naples (to whom Alfredo Fusco is also affiliated) is one of the leading institutions with “problematic” experiments. From your privileged point of view, can you correlate this to any particular field of activity in that city? I mean, I know that in Naples there are several excellent research groups working in oncology and probably they use lots of western blots. This technique is probably one of the easiest one to manipulate and this could simply explain why they show up so frequently in your searches. Does it sound reasonable?

        • Enrico Bucci December 10, 2014 at 10:09 am

          The data which placed Naples on top are not derived from my software, nor they are limited to image manipulations. They come from PubPeer …

  • Cécile Biger December 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    J’accuse.
    Why the Journals follow only the whistle blowers, and do not check all the articles that they have published in the last ten-fifteen yers? are they afraid that 50% of them have mistakes , and then should be retracted? What was the Publishung Editor doing when these articles were published? he should have controlled them (it is his job), in a way that scientists could modify the figure, repeat the experiments: scientists pay for the publication of the papers.
    why the journals and Editors do not mind whether the results are reproducible or not, but only about the errors in the representation? They behave as pharisees: for them it is much more important the form than the content, the scientific value.

  • Art December 14, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Because until you are not proved to be guilty you are innocent. Believe me, we are really lucky that things work in this way.

    Cécile Biger
    J’accuse. Why the Journals follow only the whistle blowers, and do not check all the articles that they have published in the last ten-fifteen yers? are they afraid that 50% of them have mistakes , and then should be retracted? What was the Publishung Editor doing when these articles were published? he should have controlled them (it is his job), in a way that scientists could modify the figure, repeat the experiments: scientists pay for the publication of the papers. why the journals and Editors do not mind whether the results are reproducible or not, but only about the errors in the representation? They behave as pharisees: for them it is much more important the form than the content, the scientific value.

  • herr doktor bimler December 14, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    The three co-authors who agreed to retraction (S. Giraud, W. V. Bienvenut and J. J. Diaz) are not involved in the six earlier retractions. Of the co-authors who didn’t agree to retraction, the two besides Fusco (G. M. Pierantoni and F. Esposito) are also consistently involved in the rest of the string of spurious illustrations.

  • fernando pessoa March 30, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    8th retraction Alfredo Fusco.

    Eur J Cancer. 2011 Feb;47(3):470-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.09.045. Epub 2010 Oct 31.
    Expression of a truncated Hmga1b gene induces gigantism, lipomatosis and B-cell lymphomas in mice.
    Fedele M1, Visone R, De Martino I, Palmieri D, Valentino T, Esposito F, Klein-Szanto A, Arra C, Ciarmiello A, Croce CM, Fusco A.
    Author information

    1Istituto di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale del CNR, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, 80131 Naples, Italy.

    Retraction.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959804915002142

    Pubpeer.
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/DB09C09E8DF6A785A7A2B98A81E283#fb27724

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