State University of Campinas University of Campinas and the American Diabetes Association disagree strongly over how to handle disputed images from faculty member Mario Saad, who is suing the ADA to prevent retraction of his papers.
State University of Campinas University of Campinas (Unicamp) acknowledges that 2 of Saad’s papers contain “mistakes”, it concluded there was “not an intention in the actions of the authors,” and the mistakes did not have a negative impact on the scientific community. Ultimately: “the studies published have their own strength, are healthy and were not artificially strengthened by the incorrect images.”
In response, however, Saad’s lawsuit says the ADA asked the school to reinvestigate the articles, and refused to accept any papers from Unicamp faculty in any ADA journals until the issues are resolved.
The ADA has issued four expressions of concern in Saad’s research published in its flagship journal, Diabetes. Saad’s lawsuit aims to prevent the journal from retracting those papers, and asks for monetary compensation.
Here is an excerpt from the Unicamp’s findings:
-Problems related to identification, storage, and manipulation of the gel images in the laboratory of Prof Dr. Mario Saad’s group, where the studies were conducted. It was also considered that some of the image manipulation options adopted by the researchers and technicians of the laboratory during that period of the study were not adequate, which resulted in the mistakes described in the articles mentioned.
-Although the image manipulation practices adopted in that laboratory over that period were of a common use in molecular biology laboratories around the world, they are no longer acceptable currently, having been deemed as inadequate in referential journals around the world, such as the Nature, Journal of Cell Biology and Diabetes.
-Despite identification, storage, and manipulation mistakes of the images, evidences indicate that there was not an intention in the actions of the authors of the articles.
-The articles repercussions were positive in the scientific community with numerous quotes in this regard, which allows the commission to affirm that the studies published have their own strength, are healthy and were not artificially strengthened by the incorrect images.
Based upon such conclusions, it recommends (i) that the identification, storage and manipulation protocols of scientific images are reviewed, (ii) monitoring of manuscripts by more than one experienced researcher, at independent environments and times, as an additional assurance that mistakes as such are not repeated, and (iii) periodical training of students and researchers in ethics and good research practices, specially as far as the manipulation of images and research data.
The lawsuit describes the journal’s reaction to these findings:
By e-mail dated December 2, 2014 [Christian Kohler, of the ADA’s ethics committee] informed Dr. Saad that the ADA’s [Subcommittee on Ethical Scientific Publications] completed its review of the University’s report regarding the 2011 and 2007 Articles as well as Dr. Saad’s and Dr. Carvalheirais recent responses related to the 1997 and 2006 Articles.
In the December 2nd correspondence Mr. Kohler informed Dr. Saad that based on the ESP’s review and recommendations, Diabetes will publish a digital expression of concern online on December 15, 2014 and the expression of concern will appear in the March print issue of Diabetes, which releases on February 24, 2015.
In the December 2nd correspondence Mr. Kohler informed Dr. Saad that the ADA’s ESP will ask the University to reinvestigate the data published in the 2011 and 2007 Articles and the information presented in Dr. Saad’s point by point response.
Most detrimental, the ADA stated that it will not consider, for publication in any ADA journal any submissions authored by any of the faculty of the University until the issues described in the expression of concern have been appropriately reviewed and addressed by the University.
According to Saad’s lawyer, Steven Brooks, it’s unclear how the case will proceed. They’ve drawn the judge presiding over the Boston Marathon bombing trial; thanks to snow shutting down the city for several days, the bombing trial has been delayed.
We contacted Diabetes after Saad filed his lawsuit, and will update if we hear back.