Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

NIH neuroscientist up to 16 retractions

with 11 comments

Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport just can’t catch a break.

Rapoport, who’s based at National Institute on Aging, is continuing to experience fallout from his research collaborations, after multiple co-authors have been found to have committed misconduct.

Most recently, Rapoport has had four papers retracted in three journals, citing falsified data in a range of figures. Although the notices do not specify how the data falsification occurred, Jagadeesh Rao, who was recently found guilty of research misconduct, is corresponding author on all four papers.

Back in December, Rapoport told us that a “number of retractions [for] Rao are still in the works:”

He appears to have made the same mistakes in many of his contributions.

Indeed, several months later, we found four new retractions for Rapoport and Rao, all of which explained that Rao committed “research misconduct by falsifying data.” Two of the retraction notices described a National Institutes of Health investigation into Rao’s work.

Now, four more papers by Rao and Rapoport have been retracted in three different journals—two in BMC Neuroscience, one in Journal of Neuroinflammation, and the fourth in Translational Psychiatry— all citing falsified data.

As we’ve reported in the past, three of Rapoport’s co-authors have committed research misconduct. The retractions began in 2014 when the NIH found evidence that “Fei Gao engaged in research misconduct by fabricating and/or falsifying data” on several figures.

The following year, the NIH discovered that another co-author, Mireille Basselin, had committed misconduct, resulting in a second retraction.

In 2016 and 2017, the retractions kept on coming. By the end of 2016, Rapoport had six more papers retracted, five of which were traced back to misconduct committed by Gao and Basselin. The sixth stemmed from misconduct committed by a third Rapoport co-author—Jagadeesh Rao.

Now we have four new retractions of papers co-authored by Rapoport and Rao to report. The new retractions brings Rapoport’s tally to 16, by our count. In total, Rao’s misconduct has led to nine retractions, while Gao’s has led to five and Basselin’s to two.

Although we did not hear back from Rapoport about the new retractions, he has shared his thoughts about his co-authors in the past:

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.

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…

Rao’s LinkedIn profile still lists him at the NIH; we tried reaching out to Rao at his NIH emails, but they bounced back.

Here’s the first BMC Neuroscience notice:

This article has been retracted by the editor because author Stanley I Rapoport alerted the editor, and the National Institutes of Health subsequently confirmed, that the data represented by Figures 1B and 2B were falsified. Stanley I Rapoport and Hyung-Wook Kim support this retraction. The other authors have not responded to our correspondence with them about the retraction of their article.

Chronic NMDA administration to rats increases brain pro-apoptotic factors while decreasing anti-Apoptotic factors and causes cell death,” published in 2009, has been cited seven times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters. Rao is the last and corresponding author on this paper.

Here’s the second, similarly worded, notice in BMC Neuroscience:

This article has been retracted by the editor because author Stanley I Rapoport alerted the editor, and the National Institutes of Health subsequently confirmed, that the data represented by figure 5A and 5C were falsified. Stanley I Rapoport supports this retraction. The other authors have not responded to our correspondence with them about the retraction of their article.

Dose-dependent changes in neuroinflammatory and arachidonic acid cascade markers with synaptic marker loss in rat lipopolysaccharide infusion model of neuroinflammation,” published in 2012, has been cited 10 times. Rao is last author on this paper and Basselin is second author.

Here’s the third retraction notice for a 2011 paper in Journal of Neuroinflammation:

This article has been retracted by the editor because author Stanley I Rapoport alerted the editor, and the National Institutes of Health subsequently confirmed, that the data represented by Figs. 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 were falsified. Stanley I Rapoport, Andrew David Kraft, Gaylia Jean Harry, Matthew Kellom, Hyung-Wook Kim and Dede Greenstein support this retraction. The other authors have not responded to our correspondence with them about the retraction of their article.

Increased neuroinflammatory and arachidonic acid cascade markers, and reduced synaptic proteins, in brain of HIV-1 transgenic rats,” which has been cited 39 times, lists Rao as first author and Basselin as last author. This study also received an erratum in 2012 (which we’ve covered).

And here’s a fourth notice for a 2011 paper published in Translational Psychiatry:

The above article has been retracted by the editor because author Stanley I Rapoport alerted the editor, and the National Institutes of Health subsequently confirmed, that the data represented by Figures 4 and 5 were falsified. Stanley I Rapoport and Hyung-Wook Kim support this retraction. The other author has not responded to our correspondence with them about the retraction of their article.

The paper, “Altered neuroinflammatory, arachidonic acid cascade and synaptic markers in postmortem Alzheimer’s disease brain,” on which Rao is first author, has been cited 22 times.

We’ve reached out to the journals and publishers. The head of communications at Springer, which publishes Translational Psychiatry, referred us to the retraction notice. We will update the post if we receive more information.

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Comments
  • John H Noble Jr June 1, 2017 at 11:43 am

    I’m not surprised, given the looseness with which co-authorship is claimed. I find myself increasingly reading Retraction Watch to learn which authors, journals, and journal publishers are untrustworthy sources of information. It would be helpful if Retraction Watch or other source could publish a summary report listing the number of retractions by (a) author, (b) journal, (c) journal publisher, and (d) research topic. Knowing the research topic would enable one to identify possibly affected meta-analyses and treatment guidelines.

    • Anonymous June 1, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      They’re actually working on a retraction database. Although it’s not entirely finished, you can access it. There’s a post somewhere here about it. Additionally, this site also hosts a retraction leaderboard you can check out.

    • fernandopessoa June 2, 2017 at 4:43 am

      Try scrolling down the right sidebar.

      “Retraction posts by author, country, journal, subject, and type”.

  • LadyProf June 1, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    On the one hand, I don’t see that it’s appropriate to post about this guy rather than his dishonest collaborators. On the other hand, how do you end up with THREE such coauthors? What is the probability that this guy really is engaged with the research and has this happen to him three times?

    • Dave Fernig June 1, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      The is part of the problem – senior person, doesn’t know how to operate a centrifuge, only does admin, yet claims to be a researcher so gets name on paper. No sympathy.

    • Tom June 1, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      How does he have three dishonest collaborators? He is a high profile researcher at the NIH so he is going to attract investigators who want to publish papers with him. They are not so much motivated by their interest in science as by how to advance their careers by any means – unfortunately too many people like this are out there in the biomedical research community.

  • Sharon Kramer June 1, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    I would like to know the process of how papers are retracted. Is there a committee that reviews complaints? If so, how many reviewers and what are their credentials? Do publishers investigate all complaints? How many complaints do publishers typically receive in a year? Do the authors get to know who complained and have a chance for rebuttal? Does the complainant get a response if papers are not retracted, etc.?

    • Regret June 1, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      If only there were a blog which explored these kinds of questions ….

  • herr doktor bimler June 1, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    The misconduct, as I now understand it, was very technical and outside of my areas of expertise.

    I would be reluctant to sign my name to work that I didn’t understand.

    • anon June 2, 2017 at 7:56 am

      I sort of agree but realistically, it’s not possible for any single person to understand all details of some large collaborative projects. I don’t know if that’s the case here, though.

  • Botheration June 2, 2017 at 3:55 am

    This is the peril of how funding is distributed: requiring significant preliminary data concentrates funding on large labs with the resources to produce the data from existing funding. This leads to big labs with diverse specialties inside and a single administrator/group leader that can’t hope to cover everything, and a duty to keep the whole enormous engine running.
    Postdocs need significant support from their supervisors to get good tenure-track positions, due to the difficulty of getting ‘big’ funding if you start a lab from scratch, so both are biased towards endless productivity and a product to publish, rather than carefully considered results. No wonder a “see no evil” approach ends up infecting a lab. Blogs like this are one of the few outlets which can dent the reputation of labs that work on these kinds of principles, and hopefully restore some balance.

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