Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Diabetes researcher loses prestigious professorship

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The German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced today that it is withdrawing a professorship it awarded leading diabetes researcher Kathrin Maedler in 2014.

In recent years, Maedler — based at the University of Bremen in Germany — has faced questions about her work, including allegations of duplication and image manipulation. So far, she has issued one retraction, two expressions of concern, and multiple corrections. After an investigation, the University of Bremen concluded last month that Maedler’s work contained several duplications that were the result of negligence, noting there is not enough evidence to support charges of scientific misconduct.

But this hasn’t stopped the DFG from revoking the prestigious Heisenberg professorship it awarded Maedler in 2014. A Google-translated version of statement released by the DFG (in German) today concludes that Maedler did, in fact, commit misconduct, as she

had neglected [her] duty of supervision over these employees in a gross way, which also led to a co-responsibility and a scientific misconduct according to the DFG procedural regulation.

The release quotes the Secretary General of the DFG and chairman of the Committee on the Investigation of Prophesies of Scientific Misconduct, Dorothee Dzwonnek:

In view of the mistakes and deficiencies of the supervisory and organizational obligations observed, Frau Mädler no longer fulfills the prerequisites for the appointment of a Heisenberg professorship. The Heisenberg professorship is approved as a “career milestone” annually in only a few cases by the DFG and is not just a project, but a promotion of people with high requirements, even and precisely scientific integrity, and with high role model. These conditions are no longer available at Frau Mädler, which is why, according to the current state, [she] would not be granted a Heisenberg professor.

According to the release, the DFG launched an investigation into Maedler in March 2015, which was suspended after the University of Bremen began its investigation. After Bremen concluded its investigation, the DFG re-launched its misconduct probe.

The investigation report released by the University of Bremen in October (which we translated from German) concluded that Maedler

had published duplicate pictures in several cases and had repeatedly failed to exert due diligence in organising her area of study over a long period of time. In addition, she failed to store the original data on durable and secure storage media, which amounts to negligence.

It went on to note that

the conclusion that Dr. Mädler was guilty of “scientific misconduct” would require proof of “deliberate or grossly negligent misrepresentation.” After weighing all evidence, the members of the Commission unanimously conclude that there is insufficient indication of deliberate or grossly negligent misrepresentation. An external review also concluded that so far, none of the experiments has been refuted in terms of content — on the contrary, additional checks confirmed the results.

The report also mentions a warning that Bernd Scholz-Reiter, the University of Bremen’s rector, issued to Maedler.

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Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 9th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Comments
  • fernandopessoa April 4, 2017 at 5:08 am

    2017 corrigendum for J Clin Invest. 2002 Sep;110(6):851-60.
    Glucose-induced beta cell production of IL-1beta contributes to glucotoxicity in human pancreatic islets.
    Maedler K1, Sergeev P, Ris F, Oberholzer J, Joller-Jemelka HI, Spinas GA, Kaiser N, Halban PA, Donath MY.
    Author information
    1
    Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/479EF98E32BC94B688B66F5A5329D2#fb119304

    2017 corrigendum.
    https://www.jci.org/articles/view/92172

    The editors recently became aware that three images in Figure 4F of this article are duplicated in a 2002 Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America (PNAS) publication by this group (1). The specific panels of Figure 4F that were duplicated are the Fas-stained islets cultured in 5.5 mM glucose + IL-1β, the insulin-stained islets cultured in 5.5 mM glucose, and the insulin-stained islets cultured in 5.5 mM glucose + IL-1β. The images appear in the PNAS publication as representing different treatment conditions. The authors were able to provide the original source data for both the JCI and PNAS figures. They determined that the correct images appear in the PNAS paper; however, the same images were inadvertently incorporated into the JCI paper due to similarities in the blinded code file numbers assigned to the correct images. The authors also determined that the incorrect image was used for the Fas/insulin double-stained islets cultured in 33.3 mM glucose. The corrected panel appears below.

    Footnotes
    See the related article at Glucose-induced β cell production of IL-1β contributes to glucotoxicity in human pancreatic islets.

    References
    Maedler K, et al. FLIP switches Fas-mediated glucose signaling in human pancreatic beta cells from apoptosis to cell replication. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002;99(12):8236–8241.
    View this article via: PubMed CrossRef Google Scholar
    Version history
    Version 1 (April 3, 2017): Print issue publication

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