Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘united states’ Category

The Harvard lab head, the grad student, and the restraining order: An ongoing saga

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Lee Rubin via Harvard

Regular Retraction Watch readers may recall a remarkable story from January involving Harvard’s Lee Rubin and one of his graduate students. As we reported in Science at the time, the graduate student, Gustavo German, said he had been subjected to a forced psychiatric evaluation as “an act of revenge by Rubin, retaliation prompted by German’s allegation of scientific misconduct against Rubin and two of his students.” And a judge “agreed with German, concluding [last August] that Rubin was ‘motivated by bias and revenge, not by a legitimate interest in keeping German safe.'”

That led to a restraining order that required Rubin to remain 100 feet from German at all times — including in the lab where German was working on his PhD.

Today, we have an update on the story, also in Science: “At Harvard, extraordinary court battle between Ph.D. student and prominent researcher grinds on.” As our Alison McCook writes: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 27th, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Why did it take a journal two years to retract a paper after a misconduct finding?

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A 2014 paper containing data manipulated by a former graduate student has finally been retracted, two years after the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) published its findings.

In August 2015, the ORI published a report that Peter Littlefield, who was working on his PhD at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), had committed “research misconduct by falsifying and/or fabricating data” in two papers. Littlefield agreed to correct or retract the papers–one published in Chemistry & Biology and the other in Science Signaling.  

When we contacted Chemistry & Biology back in August 2015, a spokesperson for Cell Press told us the journal was figuring out “the best way to correct the scientific record.”

Apparently that took two years. In the meantime, the journal did not issue an expression of concern or otherwise notify readers of the issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Controversial CRISPR paper earns second editorial note

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Against the authors’ objections, Nature Methods has added an expression of concern to a 2017 paper that drew fire for suggesting a common gene editing technique could cause widespread collateral damage to the genome. The latest note — the second to be added in two months — alerts readers to an alternative interpretation of the findings.

When “Unexpected mutations after CRISPR–Cas9 editing in vivo” was published May 30, it immediately drew criticism from many of the top scientists working with CRISPR, including those associated with companies seeking to develop CRISPR-based therapies for humans. Share prices for the two largest companies pursuing CRISPR therapies, Editas Medicine and Intellia Therapeutics, dropped following publication of the article.

On June 14, the journal published a notice to alert readers to “technical criticisms” of the paper. Apparently, that wasn’t sufficient, because the journal is now providing more details on the nature of the criticisms, despite the objections of the paper’s authors:

Read the rest of this entry »

PLOS ONE retracts paper after researcher admits to fabricating data

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On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity published its first misconduct finding of the year. The ORI reported that Brandi M. Baughman — a former research training awardee at the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS) — had “falsified and/or fabricated data” in 11 figures in a 2016 paper published in PLOS ONE.

Two days later, on June 21, PLOS ONE retracted the paper. (Note: The retraction process proceeded relatively quickly, but took longer than two days; a spokesperson for the journal told us that the authors alerted the editors of their concerns about the publication in May.)   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 26th, 2017 at 8:00 am

NIH section chief with 19 retractions is no longer running a lab

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Stanley Rapoport.
Source: NIH

A former section chief at the National Institutes of Health who has had 19 papers retracted is no longer running a lab, Retraction Watch has learned.

In the last three years, Stanley Rapoport, who is based at the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA), has lost 19 papers due to the misconduct of three different co-authors—Jagadeesh Rao, Fei Gao and Mireille Basselin.

And now, Rapoport, who was chief of the brain physiology and metabolism section of the NIA, no longer runs a lab.

According to a spokesperson at the NIA: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 24th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Months after neuroscientist flagged errors, Nature journal corrects them — and more

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When a neuroscientist noticed there were problems with his January 2017 paper in Nature Neuroscience, he didn’t wait for the journal to take action — instead, he published his concerns about four figures on PubMed Commons. Months later, the journal has issued formal corrections to those figures — along with several more.   

In February 2017, we praised Garret Stuber for alerting the scientific community to issues in his paper only 10 days after it first appeared online. On Twitter, he directed followers to the comment on PubMed Commons and asked them to retweet “for the sake of science integrity” — yet another example of how more researchers are taking matters into their own hands to alert readers to flaws in their papers. But according to the journal, the problems with the paper were more extensive than Stuber initially reported. Read the rest of this entry »

Drip, drip: UCLA investigation finds more image duplications

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Image duplications and unsupported data continue to plague a network of cancer researchers that includes the former vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Los Angeles, James Economou.

On July 2, the editors at Cancer Research retracted a 2011 paper that Economou published as last author, saying it suffered from image duplication and unsupported figures. This is the second retraction we’re aware of to come out of an investigation by UCLA’s Office of Research Policy and Compliance that has touched this group of scientists.

Here’s the notice for “Molecular Mechanism of MART-1+/A*0201+ Human Melanoma Resistance to Specific CTL-Killing Despite Functional Tumor–CTL Interaction,” which says the retraction comes at the request of UCLA: Read the rest of this entry »

What a report into scientific misconduct reveals: The case of Frank Sauer

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Oct. 3, 2011, was the beginning of the end for Frank Sauer’s tenure at the University of California, Riverside. On that day, an anonymous emailer contacted Sauer’s institution with accusations that the biochemist had cooked his research in at least eight papers over a 16-year period.

Sauer was found to have doctored images in studies using government money — nearly $3 million of it. He went on to lose his position at UC Riverside, several papers to retraction, and, in May, a subsequent legal battle over the severity of the federal sanctions. Along the way, he concocted a fantastic tale of sabotage against German scientists (like himself), replete with poison-pen letters and fabricated credentials. 

Retraction Watch has obtained a copy of UC Riverside’s report on the Sauer case through a public records request. The report, which is undated but which describes committee meetings and interviews from October 2011 to October 2012, lists 33 allegations of scientific misconduct against Sauer, 20 of which the committee determined to involve deception. Of the remaining 13, the committee either could not find proof of guilt or determined that the data were legitimate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Science journal flags cancer paper under investigation for image manipulation

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Science Signaling has issued an expression of concern for a 2016 paper, citing an institutional investigation into image manipulation.

According to a spokesperson for the journal, the corresponding author, Tanya Kalin, became concerned that two images in the paper had been manipulated. Kalin then notified the research integrity officer at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where she is based.

On May 9 2017, Kalin alerted the journal to the investigation. A week later, the hospital’s research integrity officer followed up with the journal, flagging the figures under question.  The journal then prepared an expression of concern (EOC) to alert readers to the issues and the institution’s investigation.  

Here’s the EOC notice for “The transcription factor FOXF1 promotes prostate cancer by stimulating the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK5:” Read the rest of this entry »

Ex-Wayne State scientist, ORI square off in court

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WASHINGTON, D.C — Last week, former brain scientist Christian Kreipke stared down the third set of research misconduct allegations against him since 2011. Or, possibly, according to him, it was the third iteration of the same research misconduct allegations he’s faced for years, a piling on by the most powerful of the three institutions out to ruin him after he allegedly uncovered a grant fraud scheme at Wayne State University, his former employer.

All the same, over three days Kreipke faced off against the U.S. Office of Research Integrity in a virtual administrative law courtroom as he contested a finding of research misconduct and an accompanying 10-year ban on receiving federal funding. In Washington, prosecutor Patricia Mantoan, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) attorney representing the ORI, brought the government’s case against him, wrapping up well before the end of Monday, July 10. Onlookers at the public hearing watched on video monitors as Kriepke sweated, literally, through hours of testimony, much of it with him on the witness stand. Despite being confined to what his lawyer, Shereef Akeel, of Detroit-area firm Akeel & Valentine called an “85 degree” room at the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Kreipke’s defense team took their time laying out his side of the story.

Since the allegations were first raised, Kreipke’s defense has remained largely the same: the misconduct allegations from Wayne State, brought in 2011, are retaliation against him for raising doubts the year before about accounting practices related to federal grants. At trial, Akeel characterized Wayne State’s misconduct investigation as a “witch hunt” that was out to get Kreipke, no matter what. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

July 18th, 2017 at 8:00 am