Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Journal flags two more papers by diabetes researcher who sued to stop retractions (and now has 12)

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A diabetes journal has issued two notices of concern for papers co-authored by a researcher who took another publisher to court after it did the same thing — but ultimately lost.

The notices are for two papers co-authored by Mario Saad — who, after losing his legal battle with the American Diabetes Association, has since accumulated 12 retractions. Both notices — from the journal Diabetologia, published by Springer and the the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) — say they have alerted Saad to their concerns about some of the images in the papers, and the university where he is based was asked to investigate more than one year ago. Since the journal has not yet received any information from the University of Campinas in Brazil, however, it decided to issue expressions of concern for the two papers.

Here’s the text of the first notice:

On the basis of the recommendation of the EASD’s Scientific Integrity Panel, the Editor-in-Chief is issuing this expression of concern to alert readers to questions about the reliability of some of the data in the article cited above.

In particular it appears that the immunoblots for total IKKβ in Fig. 4g and k of this paper may have been duplicated.

In line with guidelines issued by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the journal has informed the corresponding author, Mario Saad, of this concern. The author’s response was considered unsatisfactory and the low resolution of the images provided to us prevented further analysis to conclusively confirm or refute this possible duplication. The University of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil) was asked, in March 2016, to undertake an institutional investigation. As no results from this investigation have been forthcoming this expression of concern is being issued to alert readers to exercise caution when interpreting the content and conclusions of this article. This expression of concern will remain in place until such a time as further evidence is available.

Modulation of gut microbiota by antibiotics improves insulin signalling in high-fat fed mice” has been cited 88 times since it was published in 2012, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

Here’s the text of the second notice:

On the basis of the recommendation of the EASD’s Scientific Integrity Panel, the Editor-in-Chief is issuing this expression of concern to alert readers to questions about the reliability of some of the data in the article cited above.

In particular, it appears that the bands for α-tubulin in Fig. 4b are the same as the first three bands for total p70S6K in Fig. 6k in Ropelle ER et al (2008) (A central role for neuronal AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in high-protein diet-induced weight loss. Diabetes 57(3): 594–605. DOI:10.2337/db07-0573).

The journal has been unable to obtain the high resolution image used in Ropelle et al from the corresponding author, Dr Carvalheira, and the editorial office of Diabetes no longer had a copy of this image. It has therefore not been possible to use image forensics to conclusively confirm or refute this concern.

In line with guidelines issued by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the journal has informed the corresponding author, Mario Saad, of this concern. The University of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil) was asked, in March 2016, to undertake an institutional investigation. As no results from this investigation have been forthcoming this expression of concern is being issued to alert readers to exercise caution when interpreting the content and conclusions of this article. This expression of concern will remain in place until such a time as further evidence is available.

Aspirin attenuates insulin resistance in muscle of diet-induced obese rats by inhibiting inducible nitric oxide synthase production and S-nitrosylation of IRβ/IRS-1 and Akt” has been cited 28 times since it was published in 2009.

The Diabetes paper referenced in the EOC was retracted earlier this year.

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

This isn’t the first publisher to question the University of Campinas’s actions regarding Saad — as part of his lawsuit against the American Diabetes Association, it was revealed that the ADA asked the school to reinvestigate four articles that the university had concluded were “healthy,” and refused to accept any papers from its faculty until the issues were resolved. The publisher eventually retracted the papers — earning it the first-ever Doing The Right Thing Award from our co-founders.

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