Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Swiss, French institutions investigating several papers

with 6 comments

eth-zurichcnrsInstitutions in France and Switzerland are investigating figures in several molecular biology papers, according to a joint press release published today.

Unfortunately, theres not much more we can tell you about the investigation — the press release doesnt specify the names of researchers, journals, or even the area within molecular biology thats under scrutiny.

The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France will lead the inquiry, with contribution from ETH Zürich in Switzerland. Molecular biology researchers from both institutions were involved in the flagged publications, an ETH Zürich spokesperson told us.

The ETH Zürich spokesperson added:

Doubt regarding the figures featured in the publications has emerged during the correction process of these publications.

According to the released statement, the role of the investigating experts will be to “establish the facts:”

In this context, institutions have a duty to act in strict compliance with ethical standards, which do not allow any public statement to be issued prior to completion of the process in order to ensure that an in-depth analysis is carried out, in which all parties can freely express their views. In the same logic and to guarantee that the inquiry is conducted serenely, the name of the experts forming part of the commission cannot be disclosed at this stage.

After the probe is complete, the institutions will decide whether any “disciplinary measures” have to be carried out, and release the results and consequences of the investigation publicly.

A CNRS spokesperson declined to comment further.  

Well update this story once we get more information.

This isnt the first time the agencies have investigated the same types of allegation allegations — last year, ETH and the CNRS released the results of their probes into the work of plant biologist Olivier Voinnet, employed by both institutions. In that case, each report came to slightly different conclusions: ETH found Voinnet “breached his duty of care in the handling of figures as well as in his supervisory duties as a research director,” which did not rise to the level of scientific misconduct. CNRS, on the other hand, found evidence of breaches that amounted to scientific misconduct, and suspended him for two years.

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Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

September 8th, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Comments
  • Klavs Hansen September 8, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    A minor correction: Switzerland is not an EU country.

    • Alison McCook September 9, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Fixed, thanks!

  • lhac September 8, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    According to Swiss daily NZZ, O. Voinnet is “not at the center of the investigation, but is involved as a co-author of the publications in question”. The new investigations were initiated when discrepancies came to light in the course of corrective work performed on Voinnets publications. (http://www.nzz.ch/zuerich/aktuell/faelschungsvorwuerfe-in-mikrobiologie-eth-untersucht-fachpublikationen-ld.115622)

    • Turingsbrain September 12, 2016 at 1:32 am

      Thanks for the NZZ link!

  • Alen Piljic September 9, 2016 at 9:37 am

    This title is misleading. I first thought there is an investigation by EC or another major EU institution.

    • Alison McCook September 9, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Fixed, thanks!

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