A sixth paper co-authored by plant researcher Olivier Voinnet has been retracted by PLOS Pathogens “following an investigation into concerns.”
The investigation found “several band duplications” in one figure provided by fifth author, Patrice Dunoyer, who took it from “the Master thesis of a former student working under his supervision, without the prior consultation or consent of this student,” according to the notice. There was also an incorrect “loading control” in another figure, attributed to first author Raphael Sansregret and last author Kamal Bouarab.
Voinnet and Bouarab, the study’s corresponding authors, took full responsibility for “the publication of this erroneous paper.”
Although investigators found that the raw data in the duplicated figure backed up its conclusions, “given the nature and extent of data manipulation,” the authors asked the journal to retract the paper .
The retracted study, “Extreme Resistance as a Host Counter-counter Defense against Viral Suppression of RNA Silencing,” was published in 2013 and has been cited 18 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
A commenter on PubPeer pointed out “numerous recurring details” in a figure. This earned responses from a commenter under the name of Olivier Voinnet saying he was “aware of a potential problem” and had contacted the journal; another commenter using the name Patrice Dunoyer said that he “used a figure that was not meant to be published.”
Here’s the full retraction notice, which was published September 22:
At the request of the authors, PLOS Pathogens is retracting this publication following an investigation into concerns about the origin and assembly of Figure 6 and a mounting mistake in Figure 1B.
The Northern blot depicted in Figure 6 contains several band duplications affecting the panels labelled ‘IP@HA’ and ‘total RNA’. The figure was provided by Patrice Dunoyer during revision and was extracted from the Master thesis of a former student working under his supervision, without the prior consultation or consent of this student. The other authors of Sansregret et al. were not informed about the origin of this figure and, regrettably, its erroneous content escaped their attention both at the final revision and proofreading stages.
During inspection of the original blots, we realised that the loading control of Figure 1B was not the correct one; we have found the cognate one and the loadings are comparable. Importantly, the cross-reacting band visible on Figure 1B also provides an internal loading control. This mistake was made by co-authors Raphael Sansregret and Kamal Bouarab.
Further analysis of the raw material underlying the results depicted in Figure 6 was found to support the original conclusions drawn from it. The other conclusions of the published article also remain valid. However, given the nature and extent of data manipulation in Figure 6, the authors have collectively decided to retract the study.
All authors concur with this statement and apologise for not having detected these errors. Kamal Bouarab and Olivier Voinnet, as the corresponding authors, take full responsibility for the publication of this erroneous paper and regret deeply the inconvenience caused.
Adding in this latest paper, the total count for Voinnet is now up to 12 corrections and six retractions.
Allison Leung, the editorial manager at the journal, gave us more background on why the journal decided to retract the paper, which was also part of an investigation by the ETH Commission of Inquiry:
The journal conducted a thorough investigation of the concerns raised by the authors with regard to the assembly of Figure 6 and, subsequently, the mounting of Figure 1B. As this process was ongoing, the journal was made aware of an investigation made by the ETH Commission of Inquiry. Following the completion of our investigation, and in keeping with the final recommendation by the ETH Commission of Inquiry, PLOS Pathogens supported the authors’ request to retract the article.
We’ve contacted Voinnet and Dunoyer for a statement. We’ll update with any response.
Hat tip: Commenter “6th retraction”
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