A sixth retraction has appeared for a diabetes researcher who previously sued a publisher to try to stop his papers from being retracted.
Mario Saad‘s latest retraction, in PLOS Biology, stems from inadvertent duplications, according to the authors. Though an investigation at Saad’s institution — the University of Campinas in Brazil — found no evidence of misconduct, a critic of the paper told The Scientist he does not believe that the issues with blots were inadvertent.
Previously, Saad sued the American Diabetes Association to remove four expressions of concern from his papers; they were later retracted, even though Unicamp recommended keeping three of them published.
Here’s the new retraction notice, for “Gut Microbiota Is a Key Modulator of Insulin Resistance in TLR 2 Knockout Mice:”
The authors and editors retract this publication following an investigation into concerns around the data presented in several figures that were brought to the editors’ attention. The text below has been agreed to by the editors, the first author (who was a PhD student at the time of publication), the corresponding author and most of the co-authors. All co-authors have been informed.
Concerns were raised about Figures 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10, and Figure S6. The authors state that although the data described were correctly obtained with high reproducibility, they inadvertently used the wrong blots in several figures resulting in duplications. The blots in question are Beta-Actin for Figures 1J, 5E, 6F, 7F, 8L, 10I, and S6A and C; IRS-1 for Figure 4G and I; Akt for Figure 7G; pJNK for Figure 4C, 10E and F; and IR for Figure S6B. In Figure 6C (Akt) and 6D (pJNK) one extra band was inadvertently included because the authors used an extra sample from the WT control mouse. In Figure 8J (Beta-Actin) there is one band missing. For Figures 10B and S6A upper panel, the authors did not indicate that the lanes 2 and 3 were non-contiguous. It should be noted specifically that the co-authors from collaborating groups (AC, PV & NOSC) were not involved in the preparation of these figures.
An institutional inquiry has been undertaken at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in São Paulo, Brazil and while the investigation acknowledged these errors, they did not find evidence of research misconduct. The authors maintain that the errors do not affect the interpretation of the results nor the conclusions of the study. However, the authors accept that the preparation of the figures fell below the standard of publication and therefore the authors and editors agree that the correct action is to retract the article. The authors apologize to the scientific community and will seek to publish a corrected manuscript version corroborating the findings of this work.
The 2011 paper has been cited 100 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.
The Scientist reports the backstory:
Commenters first raised concerns about portions of the team’s paper on the journal’s website and at the post-publication peer review website PubPeer in 2013 and 2014, respectively. This March, one of the commenters, Paul Brookes of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, published an open letter to PLOS Biology, calling for the paper’s retraction.
Brookes is skeptical of the excuse offered in the retraction notice. He told The Scientist:
I find the authors’ claim that the blot irregularities were ‘inadvertent’ to be completely unbelievable.
A reader also posted a comment about the paper on PubMed.
First author Andrea Caricilli told The Scientist:
I believe that the retraction note contains all the information that is necessary.
By our count, Saad now has six retractions (four of which were each preceded by EOCs), three EOCs that are still standing, and one mega-correction.
The authors agreed to retract the manuscript so there was no need to issue an Expression of Concern.
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