Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Prominent geneticist David Latchman’s group notches second retraction

with 9 comments

j cell scienceA team of researchers whose work is under investigation by University College London has retracted a second paper.

Three of the 11 authors of the 2005 Journal of Cell Science paper being retracted — David Latchman, Richard Knight, and Anastasis Stephanou — were authors of a Journal of Biological Chemistry paper retracted in January. Stephanou takes the blame for the “errors” which felled the Journal of Cell Science paper, about how a tumor suppressor responds to DNA damage.

Here’s the notice for “STAT-1 facilitates the ATM activated checkpoint pathway following DNA damage:”

We were recently made aware of errors in our paper, which include misrepresentation of western blot data in Figs 4, 5 and 6 as detailed below. The misuse and re-use of western blot bands breaches the editorial policy of Journal of Cell Science, and so we must retract this article. The corresponding author, A.S., regrets the inappropriate figure manipulations of which the co-authors were completely unaware. We deeply regret that the majority of sound research presented in the rest of the paper has been invalidated in this manner, and the concern this will cause to the research community. The co-authors are repeating the affected experiments to determine whether the overall conclusions of the paper remain valid.

1. Fig. 4A, Panel B MDC1 Input lane and Panel A p53BP1 Input lane are the same (flipped horizontally).

2. Fig. 5A (pNBS1), Fig. 5B ATM and Fig. 5G (p53) blots are the same.

3. Fig. 5A (Chk2), Fig. 5C (pChk2) and Fig. 5G (Chk2) blots are the same.

4. Fig. 5B actin and Fig. 5E actin blots are the same.

5. Fig. 6A ATM and pChk2 are the same blot.

6. Fig. 6C and Fig. 6E actin blots are the same.

The paper has been cited 48 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Commenters at PubPeer, where more than 25 papers by Latchman are the subject of scrutiny, had pointed out a number of potential issues with figures 5 and 6 beginning in September. University College London (UCL) told us in January that an investigation was underway and that

Some errors have been identified in eight publications, and appropriate retractions have taken place.

Latchman maintains a lab at UCL, but is also master of Birkbeck, University of London.

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  • Gary February 27, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I notice that a lot of the papers retracted for “errors” all seem to come from 5-10 years ago. This was before people had their worked “checked” on places like PubPeer etc.
    It will be interesting to see if in the next ten years the number of papers retracted due to errors or image manipulation will begin decline – not because researchers are getting more honest but because they will be more aware that their data is likely to be scrutinised and any “lazy” image manipulation picked up. In other words I am expecting a higher level of image manipulation to emerge in the coming years….

    • Leonid Schneider February 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      Even better Gary, as more and more data is acquired digitally. Now we have Real-Time-PCR diagrams instead of gel images of RT-PCR products, Western blot is likely to be digitalised as well. Now, how difficult it is to type some numbers in a spreadsheet and no-one any wiser?

    • blatnoi February 27, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      That will be bad. We’ll be back to the situation ten years ago, where it was pretty much impossible to catch and punish dishonesty unless someone tried to repeat the results and made a big deal out of it, or someone in the group had a change of heart. Except back then, you couldn’t do anything about it because the journal editor would not answer your letters and it would slowly get squashed. With the new, perfect digital faking, you won’t even know there was dishonesty… But then again, nothing is 100% perfect so it’ll just be an arms race like in cycling and doping.

      By the way, the time period also corresponds nicely with the stripy nanoparticles saga, which started in 2004-2005 and people who were upset kept writing letters to editors, but basically couldn’t really do much until the rise of the importance of science blogs. Levy and Fernig were eventually able to publish a paper and draw wide attention to their concerns, which were pretty much languishing in the aether until a few years ago.

  • fernando pessoa February 27, 2015 at 11:43 am

    I reply to Gary February 27, 2015 at 11:25 am

    “I notice that a lot of the papers retracted for “errors” all seem to come from 5-10 years ago. This was before people had their worked “checked” on places like PubPeer etc.”

    I think that Pubpeer only started in May 2013.

    Retraction Watch started in August 2010.

  • fernando pessoa February 28, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Nucleic Acids Res. 2006;34(22):6640-52. Epub 2006 Dec 1.
    Brn-3b enhances the pro-apoptotic effects of p53 but not its induction of cell cycle arrest by cooperating in trans-activation of bax expression.
    Budhram-Mahadeo VS1, Bowen S, Lee S, Perez-Sanchez C, Ensor E, Morris PJ, Latchman DS.
    Author information
    1Medical Molecular Biology Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK.

    Please see Pubpeer comment:

  • Figure manipulation March 2, 2015 at 2:45 am

    The PDF file of this retracted paper continues to be open access without any red “RETRACTED” stamped across it:

    This would be inconsistent with a guideline offered by COPE, for example. Thus, the untrained eye who accesses the top page of this paper might miss the small “RETRACTION (vol. 128, p. 1064)” written in plain, black font. This is one reason why retracted papers continue to get referenced. Perhaps someone could point out the COPE guidelines for retractions to the JCS board? Can they perhaps fix this and please add a nicely visible red “RETRACTED” across every page of the retracted paper?

    Regarding figure manipulation, the rules are pretty comprehensive, some of the most comprehensive I have ever seen:
    But were the rules in place back in 2004 when presumably this paper was submitted (“Accepted 13 January 2005″)?

    The JCS site states under “Authors – Submit”:
    “During the submission process, authors are asked to declare that the manuscript has been seen and approved by all authors. Submission also indicates that authors agree to abide by the Journal’s editorial policies and publishing ethics. Authors must declare any competing interests on submission of a manuscript.” So, to call out AS seems really odd. Either all remaining authors were equally careless about revising their work prior to submission (and for not noticing so many mistakes), or they violated the publisher’s policies upon submission. Which one is true?

    For the JBC paper retracted in January, all authors accepted responsibility, which seems consistent with JBC’s IFA (instructions for authors), which states clearly, under “Authors”, as the first clause: “All authors are responsible for the content of the manuscript.”
    Incidentally, did the JBC IFA have this wording back in about 2004?

    Thus, why should all authors apparently have taken responsibility for the JBC paper and not for the JCS paper?

  • fernando pessoa March 5, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Int J Cardiol. 2013 Mar 10;163(3):326-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2011.08.849. Epub 2011 Oct 24.
    Enhanced IL-17 signalling following myocardial ischaemia/reperfusion injury.
    Barry SP1, Ounzain S, McCormick J, Scarabelli TM, Chen-Scarabelli C, Saravolatz LI, Faggian G, Mazzucco A, Suzuki H, Thiemermann C, Knight RA, Latchman DS, Stephanou A.
    Author information
    1Institute of Molecular Medicine, St. James’s Hospital, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 8, Ireland.

    Pubpeer comment:

    Figure 5B.

  • Anonymous July 10, 2015 at 7:04 am

    A new Latchman paper being queried at PubPeer:

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