Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Child psychiatrist flagged for misconduct loses two more papers

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Mani PavuluriA child psychiatrist has lost two papers after an institutional investigation concluded that she intentionally misrepresented children’s medication history in her research.

In November 2015, we reported on a retraction for Mani Pavuluri in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience following a probe at the University of Illinois at Chicago, her institution, which concluded that there was a “preponderance of evidence” that Pavuluri had committed misconduct. 

After an “unanticipated event” took place during a study, three studies by Pavuluri were halted and a letter was sent out to 350 research subjects, informing them of errors in the work. At the time, the Illinois spokesperson noted that Pavuluri — who, according to her LinkedIn page, is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry — was also asked to retract two 2013 studies in the Journal of Affective Disorders. Those papers have now been retracted, noting that Pavuluri “intentionally and knowingly” misrepresented children’s medication history.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Deficits in emotion recognition in pediatric bipolar disorder: The mediating effects of irritability:”

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy). This article has been retracted at the request of the author.

This retraction follows the conclusion of a formal institutional investigation that was prompted by allegations of research misconduct against one of the co-authors (Mani Pavuluri), and that was conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago in accordance with the Public Health Service Policies on Research Misconduct (CFR 42 Part 93).

With regard to the above article, the Investigation Panel concluded that the allegations of research misconduct were supported by a preponderance of evidence. The Investigation Panel concluded that Dr Pavuluri intentionally and knowingly made one false statements in the Abstract and four false statements in the Methods section of the article. Specifically, these statements misrepresented the medication status of the research participants as “medication-naïve” and “unmedicated”. In addition, false statements were made regarding the use of the “…Washington University Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia…to determine placement into diagnostic group” and that “All clinical interviews and rating scales were completed by a master”s or doctoral level rater…” The Investigation Panel concluded that the false statements seriously compromised “the quality of the results and conclusions in the manuscript.”

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

And here’s the other retraction notice:

Available online 20 December 2012 This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy). This article has been retracted at the request of the author.

This retraction follows the conclusion of a formal institutional investigation that was prompted by allegations of research misconduct against one of the co-authors (Mani Pavuluri), and that was conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago in accordance with the Public Health Service Policies on Research Misconduct (CFR 42 Part 93).

With regard to the above published article, the University of Illinos at Chicago Investigation Panel concluded that the allegations of research misconduct were supported by a preponderance of evidence. The Investigation Panel concluded that Dr Pavuluri intentionally and knowingly made two false statements in the Methods section of the article whereby the medication status of the subjects recruited to participate in the research study and whose data were included in the analyses was represented as “psychotropic-naïve” and “never having taken psychotropic medications”. Further, the Investigation Panel found by a preponderance of evidence that Dr Pavuluri intentionally and knowingly made a false statement in the Methods section whereby “…Each child and their parent were interviewed by doctoral-level clinicians…” The Investigation Panel concluded that the accuracy and quality of the published results and conclusions were seriously compromised by these false statements.

This paper, “Where, when, how high, and how long? The hemodynamics of emotional response in psychotropic-naïve patients with adolescent bipolar disorder,” has been cited five times.

Pavuluri’s LinkedIn page lists her at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), but also as the cofounder and strategic advisor for Medcircle, a secure network that enables healthcare providers to communicate online with their patients.

When we previously reported on the case, a spokesperson from the UIC told us:

Following an unanticipated event during a study, a review and audit of the investigator’s research was initiated by the UIC Institutional Review Board (IRB). Based on audit findings, the UIC IRB found the investigator to be in non-compliance with federal and university research policies.

The spokesperson added that the university informed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the investigation in 2013, and filed its outcome in October 2015.

When contacted about the latest retractions, a UIC spokesperson referred us to the statement the institution provided previously; we followed up with more questions, such as whether Pavuluri was still treating patients, but have not yet heard back.

Last year, Pavuluri told us she didn’t want to make “mountains made out of molehills,” noting that she feels the responsibility is being put solely on her, as she was the principal investigator:

If there is an IRB issue, they want to go after one person. They want to go after one person. They would rather have the person take the responsibility rather than have the institution be responsible.

Alessandra Passarotti is a co-author of all three of Pavuluri’s retracted studies; Ezra WegbreitMinjie Wu and Jacklynn Fitzgerald are listed as authors on two papers each.

We’ve also found a 2014 corrigendum that Pavuluri and Passarotti issued for a 2010 paper in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, which reads:

In the article it was reported that clinicians were “blind to diagnosis”, however we recently ascertained that they were not. In the sentence “Clinicians who were blind to diagnosis rated all subjects on the YMRS and CDRS” (p. 37, column 2, line 2) the text “who were blind to diagnosis” is incorrect, as the clinicians were not blind to diagnosis. This correction does not affect the data analyses or results interpretation.

We’ve reached out to Pavuluri, and will update the post with anything else we learn.

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