Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Prominent NIH researcher up to a dozen retractions

with 10 comments

Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport hasn’t had much luck with his co-authors.

Recently, we’ve reported on multiple retractions of papers co-authored by Rapoport after three different first authors were found to have committed misconduct. Now, the fallout from one of those cases had led to four more retractions, bringing Rapoport’s total to 12.

The latest batch of retractions stem from the actions of Jagadeesh Rao.

Here’s the first notice, issued by Psychopharmacology:

The National Institutes of Health has found that Dr. Jagadeesh S. Rao engaged in research misconduct by falsifying data in this article. Data in in Figures 4A-B were falsified. Therefore, Dr. Stanley I. Rapoport has requested a full retraction.

Chronic fluoxetine increases cytosolic phospholipase A2 activity and arachidonic acid turnover in brain phospholipids of the unanesthetized rat” has been cited 30 times since it was published in 2007, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

Here’s the second notice, issued by the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology:

The National Institutes of Health has found that Dr. Jagadeesh S. Rao engaged in research misconduct by falsifying data in “Decreased GRK3 but not GRK2 expression in frontal cortex from bipolar disorder patients, Jagadeesh S. Rao, Stanley I. Rapoport and Hyung-Wook Kim, Int. J. Neuropsychopharmacology 12: 851–860, 2009.” Data in Figures 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B were falsified. Dr. Rao was solely responsible for the falsification. None of the other authors are implicated in any way.

Decreased GRK3 but not GRK2 expression in frontal cortex from bipolar disorder patients” has been cited 13 times since it was published in 2009.

Here are two additional retractions, both from the Journal of Neurochemistry. Both cite each other, along with an investigation at the National Institutes of Health:

The above article from Journal of Neurochemistry, published online on 13 April 2007 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) and in volume 102, issue 6, pp. 1918−1927, has been retracted by agreement between the corresponding author Stanley Rapoport, co-author Richard Bazinet, the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief Jörg Schulz, and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

The Editorial Office was contacted by the author Stanley Rapoport with the request to retract this and a related publication (see below), informing the Editor-in-Chief that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had found Dr. Jagadeesh S. Rao guilty of research misconduct by falsifying data in the referenced paper. The Editorial Office was forwarded a letter signed by investigation committee members on behalf of NIH and NIA, which states:

“[…] The National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigated allegations of research misconduct involving the falsification of data in “Chronic NMDA administration to rats up-regulates frontal cortex cytosolic phospholipase A2 and its transcription factor, activator protein-2.” Jagadeesh S. Rao, Renee N. Ertley, Stanley I. Rapoport, Richard P. Bazinet, and Ho-Joo Lee. J. Neurochemistry 102, 1918−1927, 2007. Based on the unanimous decision of a five member committee, composed of NIH investigators, NIH found that Dr. Jagadeesh Rao, corresponding author, knowingly and intentionally committed research misconduct by falsifying data in Figures 3 and 5 in the manuscript listed above. Dr. Rao was solely responsible for the falsification and all other authors were uninvolved. The report was submitted to the HHS Office of Research Integrity for its review. Because Dr. Rao was the corresponding author, Dr. Stanley I. Rapoport, Senior Advisor for the former Laboratory of Brain Physiology and Metabolism Section, is acting for Dr. Rao, who was his representative, and approves this request to retract this publication using the recommended language, in italics above.”

A related paper has also been retracted:

Keleshian VL, Modi HR, Rapoport SI, Rao JS. (2013) Aging is associated with altered inflammatory, arachidonic acid cascade, and synaptic markers, influenced by epigenetic modifications, in the human frontal cortex. J. Neurochem. 125: 63−73.

Chronic NMDA administration to rats up-regulates frontal cortex cytosolic phospholipase A2 and its transcription factor, activator protein-2” has been cited 44 times since it was published in 2007.

The second notice from the journal reads very similarly, noting that the investigative committee concluded that Rao had falsified data in Figures 1A, 1G, 3G, and 4D of the paper. “Aging is associated with altered inflammatory, arachidonic acid cascade, and synaptic markers, influenced by epigenetic modifications, in the human frontal cortex” has been cited 19 times since it appeared in 2013.

Late last year, Rapoport told us that more retractions of papers co-authored by Rao were in the works.

In a story we posted last December, Rapoport shared his reaction to multiple cases of misconduct by his colleagues, including the two first authors we’ve already reported on, Fei Gao and Mireille Basselin:

The misconduct, as I now understand it, was very technical and outside of my areas of expertise.  In retrospect, I don’t think I could have spotted the  misconduct earlier.  Data were presented at internal meetings, when the misconduct was not identified. Basselin and Gao and Rao had PhDs and strong letters of recommendation.

He added:

In these days of complex interdisciplinary research, one depends on the trustworthiness of colleagues who use methodologies with which one has no personal experience. I regret missing the falsifications  by Dr. Rao…

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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Comments
  • John H Noble Jr March 16, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Hmm . . . “one depends on the truth worthiness of colleagues who use methodologies with which one has no personal experience.” I guess I’m old-fashioned in my belief that one doesn’t publish anything except on the basis of one’s personal knowledge and experience. One’s span of control and accountability depend on it! NIH and Dr. Rapoport need to rethink their modus operandi. The skepticism of Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” might serve them well.

  • Michael March 16, 2017 at 10:49 am

    According to this guy’s Linked-In page he has 3 Ph.D.s. One from NIH in India (did not know India had an NIH branch), and two from NIH-Bethesda, USA (did not know NIH awarded Ph.D.s). And, surprise, surprise, he is still employed as a PI at NIH?!
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/jagadeesh-rao-674bbb50

    • Muster Mark March 16, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      That’s a misunderstanding. although it’s listed 3 times (unclear why), the period in each listing remains the same 1994- 1998. So, it’s only one PhD, from India.

  • mph March 16, 2017 at 11:02 am

    It is not three Ph.D.s He has mentioned it three times – 1994 50 1998. It is not NIH in India but it is National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences – NIMHANS in India. Just for your information!

  • TL March 16, 2017 at 11:39 am

    To overlook the misconduct of an underling once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a habit.

  • Paul Brookes March 16, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    A quick look at the flagged figures indicates they’re mostly letterboxed western blots with only 2 lanes and no molecular weight markers, and clear suggestions of undisclosed splicing and potential duplications between panels.

    If this kind of data is being presented in lab meeting and allowed to pass on to submission, then the responsibility relies 100% with the PI for allowing it. The lessons are simple… insist on raw data in lab meetings, and FFS journal peer reviewers and editors, step up your game and demand an end to this letterboxing malarkey!

    • Gary March 17, 2017 at 6:41 am

      I must confess I have not looked at the figures but if manipulated westerns are the cause of the retraction then the statement by Dr. Rapoport that: “The misconduct, as I now understand it, was very technical and outside of my areas of expertise” bemuses me somewhat.
      A western blot was outside area of expertise? Really? Perhaps I have misunderstood.

  • Sylvain Bernès March 17, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Whatever may be the actual technical issue that initiated the retraction process, the blame game doesn’t work anymore. The ICMJE recommendations clearly state that authorship includes

    “[the] agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.”

    This applies from undergraduates through Nobel laureates.

    • lhac March 17, 2017 at 11:03 am

      And what is actually gained by such a recommendation? That you alway find everybody accountable in case something goes wrong? No matter who actually cheated?
      The effect of such clever regulations is that nobody needs to feel responsible for the accuracy of their work any more, because if something goes wrong, you will never be responsible personally, but the blame conveniently will be shared by all co-authors. It’s like abolishing personal responsibility. It is convenient for those who have the lowest working-standards.

    • Marco March 17, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      I don’t see how the part you quoted changes anything about “the blame game”. Is there any evidence Rapoport did not ensure any questions related to the accuracy or integrity were appropriately investigated and resolved?

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