There may be some deeply rooted issues in the work of high-profile plant biologist Olivier Voinnet, biology department research director at ETH in Zurich. Corrections have continued to pile up months after his work was hit with a barrage of criticism on PubPeer. We’ve tracked a total of seven corrections over the past five months (not including the April retraction of a 2004 paper in The Plant Cell). One of the corrected papers also received an Expression of Concern this week.
Collectively, the corrected papers have accumulated more than 1200 citations.
In January, Voinnet said he planned to correct multiple papers, after receiving “an anonymous email.”
One of the recent corrections we found is for a 2003 article in The Plant Journal, “An enhanced transient expression system in plants based on suppression of gene silencing by the p19 protein of tomato bushy stunt virus,” which details using proteins from a tomato virus to help alter gene expression. The study has been cited 862 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the correction notice, posted June 8:
Olivier Voinnet, a researcher at ETH in Zurich who has corrected a number of his papers following critiques on PubPeer dating from late last year, is retracting a 2004 paper in The Plant Cell, according to the journal’s publisher.
Voinnet, the winner of the 2013 Rössler Prize, is a high-profile scientist, and scrutiny of his work has only grown since the initial revelations. In an unusual move, the journal and its publisher, the American Society of Plant Biologists, put out a press release about the situation today. Here’s the statement: Read the rest of this entry »
A high-profile plant scientist who has been racking up corrections and retractions at a steady clip has had another paper — this one from Science — retracted.
The retraction, of a paper that had been previously corrected, is the eighth for Olivier Voinnet. According to the notice, the correction did not address all the figure problems with the paper, which “cannot be considered the result of mistakes.”
We have found another correction for high-profile plant scientist Olivier Voinnet, bringing his total count to 22. Voinnet, who works at ETH Zurich, also has seven retractions, a funding ban, and a revoked award.
Voinnet’s most recent corrections involve problems with figures; the same issue is cited in this latest correction notice, for “Competition for XPO5 binding between Dicer mRNA, pre-miRNA and viral RNA regulates human Dicer levels.”
The correction notice in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, issued earlier this year, explains:
The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) “promotes excellence in the life sciences” in Europe, in part by awarding prizes to promising young scientists. Voinnet and Sonia Melo earned their awards by exhibiting potential as young scientists studying genetics — of plants and cancer, respectively — but now EMBO is skeptical of the papers that formed the basis of their applications.
Melo’s Installation Grant from EMBO was announced just last month, and consists of 50,000 Euros annually for three to five years. She is currently based at the University of Porto, in Portugal.
Voinnet’s problems are well-documented on this blog — 21 corrections, seven retractions, and two investigations. Earlier this week, we reported that the Swiss National Science Foundation had cut off Voinnet’s funding, and banned him for three years. Read the rest of this entry »
The Swiss National Science Foundation has stopped funding prominent plant scientist Olivier Voinnet, following months of questions about his work that have culminated in multiple retractions and corrections.
The agency confirmed to us that it has also banned Voinnet from seeking funding from the SNSF for three years.
We asked the SNSF the amount of funding Voinnet was receiving from SNSF at the time of this decision. They told us it was 1.25 million Swiss francs, equivalent to roughly the same in U.S. dollars.
By our count, Read the rest of this entry »
Prominent plant biologist Olivier Voinnet has issued three more corrections in this week’s issue of Science.
Collectively, the papers have earned more than 1400 citations, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
By our count, he’s now at 21 corrections and seven retractions, following months of questions about his work. He’s been the subject of an investigation that found he “breached his duty of care,” and another which found evidence of scientific misconduct.
One correction goes against the recommendation of the ETH Commission to retract the paper for “well documented intentional manipulations.” According to the correction note, the incorrect figures did not “alter the data in any material way that could be construed to benefit the results and their conclusions.” That correction is the only one of the three for which Voinnet takes full responsibility.
The other two corrections place the responsibility on Read the rest of this entry »
Olivier Voinnet, a high-profile plant scientist at ETH Zurich, has earned a mega-correction. It wrapped up a rough year for the biologist, which included his seventh retraction, and a CNRS investigation that found evidence of misconduct.
This latest correction, to a paper on the mechanisms behind RNA silencing in Arabidopsis, was published in RNA. The 2007 paper has been cited 101 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The corrigendum modifies three figures in total.
The notice is long, so we’re not going to post the whole thing here. The first error in “Transitivity in Arabidopsis can be primed, requires the redundant action of the antiviral Dicer-like 4 and Dicer-like 2, and is compromised by viral-encoded suppressor proteins” is a clarification to a legend:
Olivier Voinnet, a well-known plant scientist at the ETH in Zurich, has notched his 7th retraction for a highly cited paper. The 2003 paper was pulled when “additional image manipulations” came to light after The Plant Journal issued a correction earlier this year.
The retraction follows an investigation into — and then retraction of — several other papers co-authored by Voinnet. The authors originally corrected the paper after they learned one image had been duplicated, and repeating the experiment found the “same interpretation and conclusions” held true. But when the corresponding author learned of additional “data manipulation,” they decided to retract the paper altogether.
A sixth paper co-authored by plant researcher Olivier Voinnet has been retracted by PLOS Pathogens “following an investigation into concerns.”
The investigation found “several band duplications” in one figure provided by fifth author, Patrice Dunoyer, who took it from “the Master thesis of a former student working under his supervision, without the prior consultation or consent of this student,” according to the notice. There was also an incorrect “loading control” in another figure, attributed to first author Raphael Sansregret and last author Kamal Bouarab.
Voinnet and Bouarab, the study’s corresponding authors, took full responsibility for “the publication of this erroneous paper.”
Although investigators found that the raw data in the duplicated figure backed up its conclusions, “given the nature and extent of data manipulation,” the authors asked the journal to retract the paper .