Retraction Watch

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Stem cell researcher in Spain dismissed following investigation

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Susana González

A promising early career researcher has been dismissed from her post at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain, following “an alleged ongoing fraud,” according to El Pais.

We don’t know what exactly the internal investigation into Susana González’s work found; El Pais relied on anonymous sources, and the CNIC confirmed only that they dismissed her on February 29th. There are allegations against her work on PubPeer, but we don’t know what role those played in the investigation.

(We had the story translated; here’s a PDF of the article in English.)

González denies that she committed misconduct, the paper reports:

…González “categorically” denies having falsified any results during her career and talks of a “complete injustice”. According to her version of events, the dismissal was for “purely work-related” reasons, of which she has not provided any details.

González also defended her publishing record:

“They have never retracted any of my articles”, González says in her defense. She admits to “possible errors”, but never fraud. The PubPeer website includes more accusations of falsified results with regard to other research projects led by the molecular biologist. “My reputation should not be questioned on the basis of anonymous complaints. And that goes for the whole scientific community”, González insists.

According to El Pais, she’s keeping a $2 million Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council– which is awarded to talented scientists to develop their labs — and a post at the National Research Council in Spain.

El Pais explains the significance of her work:

González has published her papers in some of the world’s leading scientific journals, including Cell Stem Cell and Nature Communications. In 2014, the European Research Council awarded her a Consolidator Grant, reserved for the elite of European science and worth two million euros. This followed her success in getting mice with life-threatening heart failure to make a remarkable recovery. Her experiments opened the door to the rejuvenation of the heart in old or ailing people.

Comments on PubPeer suggest re-used blots in the Cell Stem Cell paper and the Nature Communications paper, among others, as well as increased contrast in images in a Nature paper, on which she is a first author.

When González’s was published in 2012, Nature Communications issued a press release on “Ectopic expression of the histone methyltransferase Ezh2 in haematopoietic stem cells causes myeloproliferative disease,” which reads in part:

Increased expression of the protein methyltransferase Ezh2 turns hematopoietic stem cells into leukemic stem cells, causing the development of bone marrow related myeloproliferative disease. These findings, reported in a paper published in Nature Communications this week, may aid the development of new drugs to treat cancers of the blood.

Lawyers are now handling the case of her dismissal, El Pais reports.

We’ve seen other cases of lawyers handling the fallout from misconduct investigations: There’s the chemist who’s suing the University of Texas after they revoked her PhD, and the Toronto researchers who asked the court to quash a misconduct finding. And then there’s cancer researcher, Fazlul Sarkar, who sued PubPeer itself. He alleges that he lost a job offer from the University of Mississippi because of negative comments on some of his papers.

We were unable to find current contact information for González.

Hat tip: El Pais

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Written by Shannon Palus

March 7th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Comments
  • Shi V. Liu March 7, 2016 at 10:30 am

    This is an irritating story because the non-transparency of the investigation and more interestingly, the lack of current contact information for Gonzalez.
    I noticed some comments already posted in PubPeer (https://pubpeer.com/publications/16572177 ) with regarding to a Nature paper by Gonzalez et al;. (Nature 440, 702-706 (30 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04585). It seems to me that the Corresponding author needs to answer some of the questions, especially when the first author is now out of touch.
    Here is the Nature paper’s title and authors
    Oncogenic activity of Cdc6 through repression of the INK4/ARF locus

    Susana Gonzalez1, Peter Klatt1, Sonia Delgado4, Esther Conde2, Fernando Lopez-Rios5, Montserrat Sanchez-Cespedes2, Juan Mendez3, Francisco Antequera4 & Manuel Serrano1

    Tumor Suppression Group,
    Lung Cancer Group, and
    DNA Replication Group, Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), E-28029 Madrid, Spain
    Instituto de Microbiología Bioquímica, CSIC/Universidad de Salamanca, E-37007 Salamanca, Spain
    Departamento de Anatomía Patológica, Hospital Universitario “12 de Octubre”, E-28041 Madrid, Spain
    Correspondence to: Manuel Serrano1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.S. (Email: mserrano@cnio.es).

  • fernandopessoa March 8, 2016 at 3:54 am

    p73α Regulation by Chk1 in Response to DNA Damage
    Susana Gonzalez 1, Carol Prives2 and Carlos Cordon-Cardo 1,*
    – Author Affiliations

    1Division of Molecular Pathology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021
    2Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027

    Pubpeer comments: https://pubpeer.com/publications/14585975

    Figure 2B.
    http://i.imgur.com/g32uYEi.jpg

    Figure 3D.
    http://i.imgur.com/msbCXvv.jpg

    Figure 4A.
    http://i.imgur.com/5pNUWak.jpg

    Figure 5D.
    http://i.imgur.com/egI3OBp.jpg

  • fernandopessoa March 8, 2016 at 4:24 am

    p73β-Mediated Apoptosis Requires p57kip2 Induction and IEX-1 Inhibition
    Susana Gonzalez 1,2, Manuel M. Perez-Perez 1, Eva Hernando 1, Manuel Serrano 2, and Carlos Cordon-Cardo 1
    – Author Affiliations

    1Department of Pathology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York and 2Molecular Oncology Program, Spanish National Cancer Centre, Madrid, Spain

    Pubpeer comments: https://pubpeer.com/publications/15781630

    Figure 4A.
    http://i.imgur.com/Xb0QhoP.png

    Figure 3.
    http://i.imgur.com/b6bHhuD.jpg

    Figure 2.
    http://i.imgur.com/JMAo9sF.jpg

  • fernandopessoa March 9, 2016 at 3:40 am

    Compare figure 5A Cancer Res 65:2186 (2005) with figure 1D Mol Cell Biol 23:8161 (2003).
    http://imgur.com/OEOhtZx

    For reference.
    1.Cancer Res 65:2186. PMID : 15781630
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/15781630
    2. Mol Cell Biol 23:8161. PMID: 14585975
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/14585975

  • fernandopessoa March 9, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Second, 8th March 2016, article from newspaper El Pais.

    http://elpais.com/elpais/2016/03/07/ciencia/1457360608_126455.html

    EU investigates the Spanish scientifist dismissed for ‘irregularities’.

    The European Commission inspects the work of Susana Gonzalez, which granted an aid of 1.8 million euros

  • fernandopessoa March 9, 2016 at 10:18 am

    scientist

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