Two researchers who already had three expressions of concern under their belts have five more, plus a retraction.
Kelly Wiggins and Christopher Bielawski share authorship on all the papers in question. After the first set of EoCs, Bielawski, at the time a PI at UT Austin, told Chemistry and Engineering News that a “former lab member” had admitted to faking the data. The recent retraction indicates that University of Texas at Austin’s Office of Research Integrity formally investigated the lab, and determined that Bielawski was telling the truth about a former lab member being to blame.
Bielawski has since taken a post at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. He told us that move was unrelated to anything that happened at UT Austin, but declined to answer other questions. Wiggins got a postdoc at the University of Illinois, which an Illinois spokesperson confirmed lasted from July 1 2013 to January 22 2014; we’re waiting to hear back on our question about whether her departure had anything to do with misconduct.
Here’s the retraction notice for “A Mechanochemical Approach to Deracemization,” in Wiley journal Angewandte Chemie:
This Communication, first published online on January 4, 2012 in Wiley Online Library (www.wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement between the corresponding author, the journal Editor in Chief, Peter Gölitz and Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA . The retraction has been agreed since at least some of the data presented are unreliable. As part of an inquiry, a former research group member admitted to falsifying and/or fabricating data affecting this article. The action prompted a formal investigation by the Office of Research Integrity at the University of Texas at Austin, which later determined that scientific misconduct had occurred.
The paper has been cited 29 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
The Journal of the American Chemical Society has put out three expressions of concern for the following papers by Bielawski and Wiggins:
- Mechanically Facilitated Retro [4 + 2] Cycloadditions (cited 57 times)
- Mechanical Reconfiguration of Stereoisomers (cited 57 times)
- Mechanical Activation of Catalysts for C−C Bond Forming and Anionic Polymerization Reactions from a Single Macromolecular Reagent (cited 53 times)
The EoC for each of those reads:
This article is currently under editorial review. The journal has been alerted to scientific misconduct in the context of this article. The status of this article will be updated upon completion of the editorial review.
Journal of Materials Chemistry has put out two EoCs for Bielawski and Wiggins:
- Design, synthesis, and study of benzobis- and bibenz(imidazolium)-based ionic liquid crystals (cited 26 times)
- Selective scission of pyridine–boronium complexes: mechanical generation of Brønsted bases and polymerization catalysts (cited 27 times)
Those both read:
The Royal Society of Chemistry has been contacted by the corresponding author of this article and the Research Integrity Officer at The University of Texas at Austin regarding concerns of scientific misconduct affecting this article. The Research Integrity Officer has informed us that an investigation to ascertain the validity of the work reported has found that scientific misconduct has taken place. Journal of Materials Chemistry is publishing this expression of concern in order to alert our readers that we are presently unsure of the reliability of the data reported in the article. We have contacted the Research Integrity Officer to request more details regarding the scientific misconduct determined in their investigation, in order to determine the appropriate course of action. An expression of concern will continue to be associated with the article until we receive further information from the Research Integrity Officer on this matter.
Executive Editor, Journal of Materials Chemistry
The director of media relations from UT Austin responded to the query we sent to their research integrity officer:
Unfortunately, because the person involved in this matter was affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin at the time the misconduct occurred, the university is prohibited by federal privacy law from releasing much of the relevant information — including the investigative report. We have been working with scientific journals to provide as much information as possible to correct the scientific record but we must also respect our obligations under privacy laws.
Hat tip: Retraction Watch commenters