Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Researcher sued to stop retractions; he just earned two more and is now up to 11

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The notices keep coming for diabetes researcher Mario Saad.

Diabetes has just retracted two more of his papers, both of which had been flagged by expressions of concern, citing problems with duplications. What’s more, the journal added another expression of concern to a 2009 paper on which Saad — based at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil — is listed as last author, again over concerns of duplication.

This isn’t Saad’s first run-in with the journal: In 2015, the researcher sued the publisher, the American Diabetes Association, after it issued expressions of concern for four of his papers. Later that year, a judge dismissed Saad’s defamation suit. The journal eventually retracted the papers.

The latest articles flagged by Diabetes appear to be part of an intricate publishing web, as the journal suggests all papers have used features of previous papers, and also include elements that have been republished by subsequent articles.

Here’s the first retraction notice, for “A Central Role for Neuronal AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) and Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) in High-Protein Diet–Induced Weight Loss:”

The above-cited article has been retracted by the American Diabetes Association, the publisher of Diabetes. This article was previously the subject of an expression of concern in the April 2016 issue of the journal (Diabetes 2016;65:1122–1123. DOI: 10.2337/ db16-ec04a. PMID: 27208022).

Because of ongoing concerns related to instances of potential image duplication, the American Diabetes Association’s Panel on Ethical Scientific Programs (ESP) believes that the study as a whole is unreliable and that the only responsible course of action for updating the status of Diabetes 2008;57:594–605 is to issue a full retraction. The American Diabetes Association has approved the Panel’s recommendation.

The detailed notice mentions “instances of potential duplication,” and images that “appear to have been subsequently republished in independent and unrelated experiments.” Saad is the second to last author on the 2008 paper, which has been cited 121 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Tub Has a Key Role in Insulin and Leptin Signaling and Action In Vivo in Hypothalamic Nuclei,” on which Saad is the last author:

The above-cited article has been retracted by the American Diabetes Association, the publisher of Diabetes. This article was previously the subject of an expression of concern in the April 2016 issue of the journal (Diabetes 2016;65:1121–1122. DOI: 10.2337/ db16-ec04. PMID: 27208021). As noted in the April 2016 expression of concern, the American Diabetes Association asked the corresponding author’s institution, the University of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil), to investigate concerns related to the possible duplication of several images presented in this article.

The American Diabetes Association did not receive a response from the university, but the lead author of the article, who is also listed as a guarantor of the study, provided a point-by-point response to address the issues reported in the expression of concern. After reviewing the author’s response, the American Diabetes Association’s Panel on Ethical Scientific Programs (ESP) maintains that the following instances of potential duplication affect the overall reliability of the study.

The notice mentions strips that appear “to have been previously published, with horizontal rotation,” republished in subsequent papers, previously published in earlier papers, and other issues that arose after the journal published its expression of concern.

On the basis of its review of the lead author’s response and the additional concerns described above, the ESP believes that the study as a whole is unreliable and that the only responsible course of action for updating the status of Diabetes 2013;62:137–148 is to issue a full retraction.

The 2013 paper has been cited 11 times.

Now, here’s the expression of concern for a 2009 paper, “EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (PD153035) Improves Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Action in High-Fat Diet–Fed Mice,” on which Saad is again listed as last author:

On the basis of the recommendation of the American Diabetes Association’s Panel on Ethical Scientific Programs (ESP), the American Diabetes Association, the publisher of Diabetes, is issuing this expression of concern to alert readers to questions about the reliability of the data in the above-cited article.

The notice mentions duplicates and suggestions some images have been republished in later articles.

The Panel has contacted the corresponding author to inform him of these concerns, and the corresponding author’s institution, the University of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil), has been asked to undertake an investigation of these issues. Diabetes will make a final decision on the publication status of this article after the journal obtains more information on the reliability of the data and conclusions presented in the article.

The paper has been cited 33 times since it was published in 2009.

With these additional notices, Saad now has 11 retractions under his belt.

We contacted Saad; he acknowledged receiving our email, but did not respond to any questions.

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