Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Images that raised eyebrows flagged by another journal; Malaysian gov’t investigates

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Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 9.17.15 AMMultiple investigations have been launched into allegations of blatant duplications by a research group in Malaysia.

Last week, users alleged on Twitter that three papers by the same team included pictures of cells that were copied and pasted. First author Nima Samie, affiliated with University of Malaya in Malaysia, denied the accusations — but both the Malaysian government and now two journals sees cause for further investigation.

Frontiers in Pharmacology published an expression of concern this morning:

With this notice, Frontiers states its awareness of serious allegations surrounding the article “Mechanism of Action of the Novel Nickel(II) Complex in Simultaneous Reactivation of the Apoptotic Signaling Networks Against Human Colon Cancer Cells” published on 28 January 2016. Our Chief Editors, Prof. Theophile Godfraind and Prof. Olivier Feron, will direct an investigation in full accordance with our procedures. The situation will be updated as soon as the investigation is complete.

The Star Online reported today that Malaysia’s Higher Education Ministry will also investigate allegations of falsified data:

According to its minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, he will personally look into the matter following wide-ranging postings on social media that questioned the integrity of the researchers, whose paper underwent three rounds of peer reviews.

“We do not compromise on such matters, and we’ll make sure action will be taken against them because we have to uphold the integrity of our education system,” he said on the sidelines of a memorandum signing ceremony between Sunway TES Centre for Accountancy Excellence, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and the ministry’s Polytechnic Education Department here yesterday.

Elisabeth Bik, a microbiologist at Stanford, and author of a study on instances of image duplication told us last week that the three papers containing the images “should not have passed peer review.” She posted a comment on the Frontiers paper this morning, linking to her concerns on PubPeer. She wrote in the comment:

I am hoping that the Frontiers in Pharmacology will take an immediate and serious look at the many problems that appear to be present in this paper.

While Twitter users mostly focused on an image from a Scientific Reports paper that appeared to copy images of cells in each stage of cell death, other users noted that the duplication extended to two other papers, including the newly-EOC’d paper in Frontiers.

The PeerJ paper earned an expression of concern last week.

Update 6/16/16 1:02 p.m. eastern: A UM investigation has concluded the authors manipulated images in multiple papers. You can read more in our story out today.

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Comments
  • Neuroskeptic June 15, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Perhaps the various investigations should pool their resources, given that the same key images appear in each case?

    • herr doktor bimler June 15, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      It would be a shame if one of the investigations had to be retracted on account of duplicating a previous investigation too closely.

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