Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Cancer researcher earns 5th retraction after misconduct finding

with 2 comments

oncoimmunologyA cancer researcher has logged her fifth retraction following an investigation that concluded she had committed scientific misconduct.

We’ve previously reported on four retractions of papers by Stephanie Watkins, a researcher at Loyola Medicine. The previously issued notices — in The Journal of Clinical Investigation and Cancer Research — note that an investigation committee appointed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found Watkins to be solely responsible for the misconduct, with none of the co-authors aware of it.

The editor of OncoImmunology previously informed us that the journal was investigating another one of Watkins’ papers; the journal has now pulled that paper, citing “fabrication and falsification of data” in the original studies referenced in the paper.

Here’s the retraction notice, published online earlier this year:

We, the Editors and Publisher of OncoImmunology, have removed the following manuscript that was posted online 1 March 2012:

Stephanie K. Watkins & Arthur A. Hurwitz, “FOXO3 A master switch for regulating tolerance and immunity in dendritic cells” DOI: 10.4161/onci.1.2.18241. OncoImmunology.

We are now cognizant of fabrication and falsification of data related to the original studies referenced in the article, as confirmed by a full investigation by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Agency Intramural Research Integrity Officer (AIRIO).

These actions constitute a breach of warranties made by the authors with respect to data accuracy. We note we received, peer-reviewed, accepted, and published the article in good faith based on these warranties, and censure this action.

The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as RETRACTED.

The 2012 study, “FOXO3 A master switch for regulating tolerance and immunity in dendritic cells,” has so far been cited 12 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

Arthur Hurwitz, based at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, is listed as the last author of all four of Watkins’s now-retracted papers.

A spokesperson from Loyola Medicine told us:

Stephanie Watkins, PhD, is a researcher employed by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. She does not provide clinical care to patients.

A commenter on PubPeer has pointed out that another of Watkins’s papers in Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy also cites the now-retracted work. Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg, editor-in-chief of the journal, previously told us:

Our understanding of the situation is that Dr. [Watkins’s] case has gone through the NCI intramural review process, but has not as yet been reviewed by the NIH Office of Research Integrity. Since Dr. [Watkins] refutes the charges, we feel it is only appropriate/fair for her case to receive a full review before we make a decision.

We contacted Ostrand-Rosenberg again after the new retraction, and she told us the journal is still waiting to make a decision on the case.

Two more of Watkins’s papers are also being questioned on PubPeer.

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Comments
  • Rosey October 13, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out if these scientists that have had so many papers retracted still have a job? I’m guessing they still hold high positions in respected universities.

    • Dean October 14, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Yup. Of course they do. *I* don’t respect those universities, but my opinion doesn’t count.

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