Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘Chemistry and Biology’ Category

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A 2014 paper containing data manipulated by a former graduate student has finally been retracted, two years after the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) published its findings.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

Misidentified DNA leads authors to retract zebrafish cholesterol paper

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Authors are retracting a 2012 paper on cholesterol metabolism in zebrafish after realizing it included a case of mistaken identity in a DNA sequence crucial to some aspects of the experiment.  

A postdoc misidentified the plasmid in question after failing to fully sequence it before including it in the experiment. A technician in the lab found the mistake, last author Steven Farber, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Maryland, explained:

When the omitted region was correctly sequenced we discovered it had an error.

He told us in a phone interview what that felt like:

We were like, holy crap.

Next came months of back and forth with the journal, discussing whether to correct or retract the paper. Farber tells us the mistake, which affects two figures,

was unfortunate. Most of the paper is in fact correct.

The paper, “Visualization of Lipid Metabolism in the Zebrafish Intestine Reveals a Relationship between NPC1L1-Mediated Cholesterol Uptake and Dietary Fatty Acid,” published in Chemistry & Biology, has been cited 21 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Here’s the detailed retraction noteRead the rest of this entry »

Former UCSF grad student fudged data in two papers

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ORIA former graduate student at the University of California, San Francisco “knowingly falsified and/or fabricated” data in two published papers, according to the Office of Research Integrity.

According to a case summary published this morning, Peter Littlefield was working on his PhD, studying the ways that cells respond to external signals, when he published the two problematic papers. He is the first author on the papers; Natalia Jura, whose lab he worked in, is the last on both.

The report’s findings are based on, among other sources, “the respondent’s admission.”

The first paper, “Structural analysis of the EGFR/HER3 heterodimer reveals the molecular basis for activating HER3 mutations” was published in Science Signaling and has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Three figures in the paper are problematic, says the ORI summary:

Read the rest of this entry »

Structure error sinks NIH-MIT-SNU peptide paper

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CHBIOL_21_9.c1.inddA mistake in structure identification has sunk a paper by researchers at the NIH, MIT, and Seoul National University in the Cell Press journal Chemistry and Biology.

Here’s the notice for “Peptide-Based Inhibitors of Plk1 Polo-box Domain Containing Mono-anionic Phosphothreonine Esters and Their Pivaloyloxymethyl Prodrugs”: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

October 29th, 2014 at 11:30 am