Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Researcher in Ireland loses two 13-year old studies

with 3 comments

journal-of-biological-chemistryThe Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) has retracted two 2003 studies after concluding that figures in the papers had been duplicated, and portions of some figures in one paper “did not accurately represent the results of the experimental conditions.”

The two newly retracted papers have the same last author — Therese Kinsella, a biochemist at the University College Dublin (UCD), who told us the data have been upheld by subsequent research, but that she supports the retractions, which are now part of a UCD investigation.

The retractions will bring up some familiar names: The first author on one of the papers is Sinéad Miggin from Maynooth University in the Republic of Ireland; in 2014, Miggin logged two retractions in the JBC, which triggered an investigation into co-author Aisha Qasim ButtLast year, Maynooth University revoked Butt’s PhD after she admitted to “falsification and misrepresentation” of data in both studies as well as her PhD thesis. At the time, Miggin and two other researchers were fully exonerated by Maynooth University from “any wrongdoing.”

Butt, however, is not an author of either of the newly retracted papers. Although Butt’s LinkedIn page still lists her as a postdoctoral researcher at UCD, a spokesperson from the institution told us she is no longer based there.

We don’t often see such old papers retracted. Kaoru Sakabe, Manager of Publishing Issues at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which publishes JBC, told us how this decision came about:

We received a tip from a reader about potential problems with figures in the two papers. We examined the figures and determined that the concerns raised by the reader appeared to be legitimate, so we began an official investigation. In the end, we determined that the papers should be retracted.

Kinsella told us that the science in the two studies that were pulled on September 9, 2016, has been

…fully upheld in subsequent studies.

She added:

The matter of both articles came as a complete surprise to me and will be the subject of a thorough investigation which I am in complete agreement with. I will be fully cooperating with this.

Kinsella went further to explain that the follow-up investigation into the papers is being conducted at her institution. The UCD spokesperson confirmed that the investigation into the papers is underway but has not yet been completed. 

When asked why these papers were pulled, Kinsella said the authors could not provide “satisfactory answers” to the journal queries due to the papers being published so long ago. Kinsella, nevertheless, added that she agrees with the retractions since she and her co-authors weren’t able to provide the source material. 

Here’s the first retraction notice for “The α, but not the β, isoform of the human thromboxane A2 receptor is a target for nitric oxide-mediated desensitization. INDEPENDENT MODULATION OF TPα SIGNALING BY NITRIC OXIDE AND PROSTACYCLIN:

This article has been retracted by the publisher. In Fig. 5B, lanes 1 and 3 were duplicated. Fig. 8A did not accurately represent the results of the experimental conditions. In Fig. 8B, lanes 1 and 3 were duplicated, and lanes 4 and 5 did not accurately represent the results of the experimental conditions.

This paper has been cited 51 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

And here’s the retraction notice for “Palmitoylation of the human prostacyclin receptor. FUNCTIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF PALMITOYLATION AND ISOPRENYLATION:”

This article has been retracted by the publisher. Analysis by the Journal of Fig. 9A determined that many features had been duplicated in the figure.

This study has garnered 39 citations since publication.

As we reported previously, in 2013, Miggin also issued a correction to a 2007 PNAS paper to fix a figure that “appeared incorrectly.” This paper also doesn’t list Butt as an author.

Both of the newly retracted studies were previously being questioned on PubPeer. To these and other of her papers with entries on PubPeer, Kinsella said:

No remaining issues have been identified in the above listings.

We’ve reached out to Miggin for a comment, and will update the post with anything else we learn.

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  • oliver September 24, 2016 at 5:23 am

    So if every 13-year-old paper in the literature can no longer provide the original data, that is at least grounds fort a prelimineary investigation?
    Holy shit!

    • fernando pessoa September 25, 2016 at 4:17 am

      I think you need to look at the wording of the retraction notices to appreciate what the issues were.

  • fernando pessoa September 25, 2016 at 4:58 am

    How can you retract the damage?

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