Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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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:

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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 »

University suggests journal correct diabetes paper. Publisher retracts it.

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After a publisher learned there may be issues with a 2008 diabetes paper, it asked the author’s university to investigate. The university found evidence of image duplication, and asked the journal to consider correcting the paper.

Instead, the journal has retracted it.

The backstory involves diabetes researcher Kathrin Maedler, who has one previous retraction, as well as multiple corrections. Even the paper in question, published in Diabetes, received an erratum in 2014 regarding a duplicated image, as well as an expression of concern last August after the American Diabetes Association questioned “the reliability of the data” in both the article and erratum.

According to the expression of concern, the ADA asked the University of Bremen to investigate the issues in the paper. In October, the University of Bremen concluded that several duplications present in her work were the result of negligence, not misconduct.

To resolve the issues, the university’s rector recommended that the authors publish a second erratum with corrected figures. But after conducting its own review, the ADA overruled the university, opting instead to retract the paper:

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Author duplicated a figure in three papers; two get retracted

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Two journals have retracted two papers by the same group within months of each other, after editors were independently tipped off that they contained duplicated figures representing different experiments.

The two papers were published by PLOS ONE and The Egyptian Journal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (EJBMB) in 2015 and 2014, respectively. According to the PLOS ONE paper’s corresponding author, last author Saad A. Noeman from Tanta University in Egypt used the same Figure 1 in both papers, along with another 2013 paper in EJBMB.

Corresponding author Yasser S. El-Sayed, head of the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at Damanhour University in Egypt, told us he learned of this issue after a reader brought the figure manipulation and duplication concerns to PLOS ONE’s attention.

El-Sayed said that he tried to figure out what had happened.

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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):

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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:”

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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

A paper was published in 2015; the authors already lost the data

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American Journal of Physiology Renal PhsyiologyThe authors of a 2015 study have retracted it after discovering that several Western blots in their paper “do not represent the experiments that were reported.”

They couldn’t check some of the original blots, because — according to the retraction notice in the American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology — they could not be located. The ones that could be found, however, are “inconsistent with what is presented in the figures.”

Here’s the retraction notice, published last month: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 8th, 2016 at 11:30 am

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.

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Written by Alison McCook

November 14th, 2016 at 2:00 pm