Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Researcher loses 4th paper flagged by misconduct probe

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A researcher in Germany has logged her fourth retraction following an investigation by her former employer that found evidence of scientific misconduct.

The latest retraction for Tina Wenz in the Journal of Applied Physiology mentions the probe at the University of Cologne in Germany, which recommended retracting six of her papers. One had already been retracted by the time the report was released; last month, we reported that two others had been pulled. Now, we’ve come across a fourth.

Here’s the latest retraction notice:

Wenz T, Diaz F, Hernandez D, Moraes CT. Endurance exercise is protective for mice with mitochondrial myopathy. J Appl Physiol 106: 1712–1719, 2009. First published March 12, 2009; doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.91571.2008.—An investigation by the University of Cologne regarding the work of the first author, in accordance with the Guidelines for Safe-guarding Good Academic Practice and Dealing with Academic Misconduct of the University of Cologne, has determined that “serious scientific misconduct by way of data manipulation (according to §§6 1.a), b) GWP-O) and the violation of obligatory documentation requirements (according to § 1(1) GWP-O)” has occurred in this publication. Although the investigation report sent to the APS did not specify the errors in the article, the authors are aware that three Western blots in Figure 2C (ND39, SDH, and ATPβ in muscle mitochondria) were also published in an article in Cell Metabolism (DOI 10.1016/j.cmet.2009.04.010) to represent different experimental findings. Therefore, whether or not the main conclusions are still valid, the other authors request retraction of this publication because the scientific integrity of the study was compromised. The authors sincerely apologize to the scientific community.

The 2009 paper, “Endurance exercise is protective for mice with mitochondrial myopathy,” has been cited 49 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

The Cell Metabolism paper mentioned in the retraction notice was retracted in October, 2015, citing duplication; Wenz now has a total of four retractions, by our count.

Wenz now works for the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. A spokesperson for the firm told us last month:

…Dr. Wenz has always been transparent to us about the ongoing investigation and the respective outcome and has taken the full responsibility for any misconduct that happened in her laboratory or through her coworkers at the University of Cologne.

We have no doubt in the quality of the research of Dr. Wenz at Boehringer Ingelheim. Integrity and validity of data resulting out of Boehringer Ingelheim’s research are of utmost importance for us and we have rigorous validation processes in place to assure the high quality of these data.

According to the Google-translated version of a press release (in German) from the University of Cologne dated September 29, 2016 the newly pulled paper (and four others flagged by the probe)

show clear signs of deliberate manipulation and deception. This is a question of scientific misconduct by data manipulation in accordance with Art. Section 6 (1a) and (b) GWP-O. It is unlikely that the image manipulations in publications 2 and 3 are due to copying errors. The complexity of the image changes (horizontal and vertical reflections, rotations and distortions, adjustment of brightness and contrast, rotation, angular changes) are against accidental copying. 

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Comments
  • Clarence A Williams January 2, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Has a journal ever tried to recover damages from the author(s) of a paper that was retracted for an intentional act (e.g., fraud via data manipulation)?

  • chris January 2, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Fortunately the video in which the results are explained is still up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS2uBD1-acE
    Anywhere familiar with the Care-for-Rare Foundation that posted this video?

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