Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Eighth Voinnet paper retracted — this one from Science

with 5 comments

Olivier Voinnet

Olivier Voinnet

A high-profile plant scientist who has been racking up corrections and retractions at a steady clip has had another paper — this one from Science — retracted.

The retraction, of a paper that had been previously corrected, is the eighth for Olivier Voinnet. According to the notice, the correction did not address all the figure problems with the paper, which “cannot be considered the result of mistakes.”

Here’s the notice in full:

On 22 January 2016, Science published an Erratum (1) to the Report “Small RNA duplexes function as mobile silencing signals between plant cells” by P. Dunoyer et al. (2), one of three papers coauthored by Dr. O. Voinnet for which Science issued Errata. However, Science has been recently informed by Dr. Voinnet that the Erratum to Dunoyer et al. does not address all the figure irregularities in the paper and that these irregularities are, in fact, extensive and inappropriate image duplications and manipulations that cannot be considered the result of mistakes.

Co-authors G. Schott, C. Himber, D. Meyer, T. Takeda, J. Carrington, and O. Voinnet have supplied the following details of the manipulated figures:

Figure 1B: The rRNA loading control was partially duplicated from an unrelated figure in a 2007 publication (3).

Figure 1D: The rRNA loading control was partially duplicated from another figure in the same 2007 study, flipped vertically and resized.

Figure 2B: The rRNA loading control was duplicated from another figure in the 2007 publication.

Figure 3D: In the bottom panel, the protein loading control has been created by inversion-duplication of an image of unknown origin. In the upper panel, the rRNA loading control was duplicated from another figure in the 2007 publication and inserted into a larger, artificial black frame to match the figure’s layout.

Figure S2C: The rRNA loading control was duplicated from another figure in the 2007 publication and inserted into a larger, artificial black frame to match the figure’s layout.

Figure S2D: The RNA loading control was duplicated from another figure in the 2007 publication and inserted into a larger, artificial black frame to match the figure’s layout. The first rRNA band on the left was bent by illegitimate image editing to match the aberrant migration pattern of the SS RNA displayed above.

Figure S3C: The rRNA loading control was duplicated from another figure in the 2007 publication and inserted into a larger, artificial black frame to match the figure’s layout.

All of the authors have agreed the paper should be retracted, except Dr. Dunoyer who did not respond to our communications.

Thus, Science is retracting this paper.

Correction (13 October 2016): Due to an oversight in the production process, D. Meyer is omitted from the list of authors in the second paragraph in the print version. The author list is correct online.

Editor’s Note: On 13 October 2016, after this Retraction went to press, Dr. Dunoyer contacted Science and approved the Retraction.

“Small RNA duplexes function as mobile silencing signals between plant cells” has been cited 226 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

The retraction is the latest development in a case we’ve been following since January 2015, when Voinnet said he would be correcting a number of papers following critiques on PubPeer. With the upgrading of this previous correction, Voinnet is now up to 17 corrections and eight retractions, some of which he shares with Dunoyer. His sanctions include a funding ban, and a revoked award.

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Comments
  • Dave October 14, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Does he still have a job?

    • Turingsbrain October 16, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      Good question. I thought that there were rumours that his laboratory/group was in the process of being disbanded, but the ETHZ web page http://www.rb.ethz.ch still lists lots of people, and ongoing activities…

  • Sylvain Bernès October 14, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    The French Academy of Sciences published a press release 3 days ago, regarding the status of Olivier Voinnet as an elected Member of this Academy. See:
    http://www.academie-sciences.fr/fr/Communiques-de-presse/communique-de-l-academie-des-sciences-concernant-olivier-voinnet.html

  • Toby October 15, 2016 at 10:46 am

    If I understand correctly, the Académie are in a wait-and-see mode and a bit on the safe side as he has not as yet been formally received as académicien. The CNRS, his employers in France, on the other hand, have decreed a 2 year suspension after which I think he will not be reinstated. The ETH appear to be more lenient so far.

  • Quentin October 17, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Not exactely: O.V. will recover his position after the 2-year suspension.
    As for now, he is paid by ETH which means the sanction does not produce any effect on his wages.
    So, at the end, it seems the punishment does not look like a real punishment…

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