Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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Brazil research foundation sues scientist over $103k scholarship

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The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), a state-level agency in Brazil that funds scientific research, is suing Paty Karoll Picardi, a protégé of Brazilian diabetes researcher Mario Saad.

According to a São Paulo Court of Justice website, the reason stated is for “recebimento of bolsa de estudos,“ which translates to “receipt of scholarship.” FAPESP is suing for 334,116 Brazilian Reals ($102,927).

Now, Picardi is counter-suing, according to a case document released Nov. 17 — although we’re not sure for what, and why.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

November 30th, 2017 at 11:26 am

Lawyers call libel suit against journal and critic “lawless” but “well written”

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Mark Jacobson

A $10 million defamation suit filed by a Stanford University professor against a critic and a journal may be an assault on free speech, according to one lawyer, but at least it’s “well written.”

Kenneth White, a lawyer at Southern California firm Brown White & Osborn who frequently blogs about legal issues related to free speech at Popehat, told us:

It’s not incompetently drafted, but it’s clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.

Scientists have publicly bemoaned the suit’s existence, as reported by several outlets, including Mashable and Nature. Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford, has alleged that he was defamed in a June article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which was critical of a 2015 paper co-authored by Jacobson in the same journal. In a complaint filed Sept. 29 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Jacobson accused the journal’s publisher, the National Academy of Sciences, and the paper’s first author, Christopher Clack, an executive at a renewable energy analysis firm, of libel.

White told us that there are several pitfalls that could trip up the lawsuit, including a DC law that allows defendants an early opportunity to ask the court to dismiss cases muzzling free speech and recover attorneys’ fees. But another attorney said the complaint should at least clear the lowest hurdle in the way of getting to trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

November 13th, 2017 at 11:10 am

Diabetes researcher who sued to prevent retractions now has 13

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A diabetes researcher who sued a publisher to protect several papers from being retracted recently received his 13th, in a prestigious gastroenterology journal.

Mario Saad, based at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil, has had a string of retractions over the past few years, including four in Diabetes after he lost a legal battle with the American Diabetes Association.

The latest retraction appears in Gastroenterology, citing possible image duplication. Saad is second-to-last author on the 2012 paper.

According to the retraction notice, the journal investigated data in several figures, and believes some were duplicated. The authors explained that the duplications resulted from inadvertently using wrong blots; still, the editors chose to retract the paper after determining they no longer had confidence in its conclusions.  

Here’s the retraction notice for “Obesity-Induced Increase in Tumor Necrosis Factor-α Leads to Development of Colon Cancer in Mice:” Read the rest of this entry »

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:

Read the rest of this entry »

Researcher who sued to prevent retractions now has 12

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A diabetes researcher who once sued a publisher to prevent several retractions has just issued his 12th.

The latest retraction, like several others for Mario Saad, appears in the journal Diabetes. Although in the past Saad expended considerable effort to protect four other Diabetes papers from this same fate, the latest retraction was initiated by the authors, citing several duplicated images. The American Diabetes Association had flagged the 2009 paper with an expression of concern earlier this year.

In 2015, Saad brought a lawsuit against the ADA, claiming that it “wrongfully published” four expressions of concerns in its flagship journal Diabetes, in an attempt to prevent the papers from being retracted. He lost, and the papers were retracted in 2016.

The lawsuit also did nothing to deter the ADA from flagging other potentially problematic papers with expressions of concerns, including the latest 2009 Diabetes paper, on which Saad is last and corresponding author.  Read the rest of this entry »

Journal flags another paper by diabetes researcher who sued to stop retractions

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It would seem that resorting to legal means to avoid editorial notices doesn’t always work.

We’re coming to that conclusion after seeing yet another notice for Mario Saad, based at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil. In this case, it’s an expression of concern from the Journal of Endocrinology, on a 2005 paper that lists Saad as the second-to-last author. According to the notice, the journal is concerned the paper contains spliced and duplicated images; although the authors offered to repeat the experiments, the journal considered that potential delay “unacceptable.”

Despite Saad’s legal efforts, he is now up to 11 retractions, along with multiple expressions of concern.

Here’s the full text of the notice (which is paywalled, tsk tsk):

Read the rest of this entry »

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:”

Read the rest of this entry »

Researcher logs three retractions for image duplications — two of which with familiar co-authors

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A researcher in Brazil is taking responsibility for accidentally mixing up images in three papers in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. 

The corresponding author on the three papers told us the mistake happened because the studies were conducted simultaneously, and relied on one computer.

There’s a side note to these retractions: The co-author list on two papers includes names that should be fairly well-known to our readers — Mario Saad, the researcher who unsuccessfully sued the American Diabetes Association to stop retractions of his papers, and Rui Curi, a researcher whose legal threats assisted in the shutdown of Science-Fraud.org. This makes Saad’s ninth retraction.

According to the retraction notices, Lício Velloso  — who, like his co-authors, is based at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil — assembled all the figures. He told Retraction Watch that the authors initially wanted to correct the papers, adding: Read the rest of this entry »

Judge tosses case, saying that court-ordered retractions are not part of scientific publication

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“Retractions are part and parcel of academic and scientific publication. Court ordered retractions are not.”

So ends a judge’s September 30, 2016 opinion dismissing a case brought in 2014 by Andrew Mallon, a former Brown University postdoc, alleging that his advisor and former business partner, John Marshall, had published a paper in 2013 in PLOS Biology that should have listed him as a co-author.

As with most court cases, this one had a long backstory: An earlier version of the paper had listed Mallon as a co-author, but was rejected by Neuron in 2011; after the authors had a dispute over the data, a different version of the manuscript was submitted to PLOS Biology in 2012, leaving Mallon off the co-author list. So Mallon had sued to have the paper retracted.

In communications with Retraction Watch and other media, as well as during depositions of the plaintiffs, Mallon referred frequently to allegations of scientific misconduct, including the fact that the first author of the PLOS Biology paper had an unrelated paper retracted in 2010 for duplicated data. However, this case was brought under the Copyright Act, which focused on the authorship dispute.

Kevin Tottis, who represented Marshall and co-defendant Dennis Goebel, told Retraction Watch his clients “are delighted with the judge’s decision.” Massachusetts District Court Judge Timothy Hillman, he said, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 14th, 2016 at 1:00 pm

New funding for researcher who sued to stop retractions (and now has 8)

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Mario Saad

Mario Saad

A diabetes researcher with eight retractions — despite his attempts to block some in court — has received a new batch of research funding.

According to a release from public funding agency Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo (FAPESP), Mario Saad is among 33 researchers who will receive funding from partnerships between federal and state agencies, including FAPESP.

It’s unclear how much Saad’s project will individually receive, but the total for all projects exceeds 640 million Brazilian Real, equivalent to $185 million USD.

Saad’s name should be familiar to our readers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

November 14th, 2016 at 2:00 pm