Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Correction cites “unreliable” data in paper by researchers at center of Duke lawsuit

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Journal of Biological ChemistryA researcher charged with embezzlement — and now the subject of a multi-million dollar lawsuit — has earned another correction, again citing “unreliable” data.

But this doesn’t appear to be a run-of-the-mill correction notice.

Firstly, it affects a paper co-authored by Erin Potts-Kant and William Foster, former Duke employees now being sued (along with Duke) for including fraudulent data in $200 million worth of federal grants. Secondly, the notice in the Journal of Biological Chemistry is four paragraphs long, and includes six figures — it would normally be considered a “mega-correction.” But lastly, even though the notice is labeled a “correction,” it’s not immediately apparent which aspects of the paper are being changed.

Here are some excerpts from the newest notice:

After publication of our article, we became aware that the airway physiology measurements reported in Figs. 5, 6, and 9 of the original manuscript, which were provided by the animal pulmonary physiology laboratory at Duke University, may have been unreliable.

We therefore had two separate laboratories, one at Duke University under the supervision of Dr. Herman Staats, and the other at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Stavros Garantziotis, repeat the experiments in question. These laboratories have replicated the key observation that hyaluronan mediates ozone-induced airway hyperresponsiveness.

The notice includes five figures that replicate some original figures, noting the authors could validate most of the data (but “were unable to confirm that HMW-HA ameliorates ozone-induced AHR”), and concludes:

In aggregate, our repeated studies confirm the original conclusions of the manuscript, and independent research also supports our originally reported conclusions. We therefore believe that our original report is accurate and valid.

We asked a JBC spokesperson what aspect of the paper is being corrected with the notice; she told us that the six figures in the correction notice are meant to replace several images in the original article.

The 2009 paper, “Hyaluronan mediates ozone-induced airway hyperresponsiveness in mice,” has been cited 56 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

Per our records, Potts-Kant now has 15 retractions, four corrections, four partial retractions, and three expressions of concern. She had one other expression of concern, which turned into a retraction (included in the total above).

To read more about the story of Potts-Kant, Foster, and Duke, check out our recent feature in Science.

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