On April 27, the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) retracted nine papers by a researcher based in Israel, including some dating back to 2000.
The reason: Image manipulation.
Michal Neeman, vice president of The Weizmann Institute of Science, told us that the researcher, Rony Seger, is under investigation following an allegation of misconduct affecting papers in multiple journals.
So far, we’ve found 11 retractions for papers by Seger, a molecular biologist. In the notices, the authors state they have “full confidence” in the findings, and in many instances have replicated the work.
A cancer biologist at Harvard who’s issued multiple editorial notices in recent years has received an expression of concern about a 2011 paper, citing “credible concerns” with the data and conclusions.
The publisher does not detail the nature of the issues in the notice.
When journals learn papers are problematic, how long does it take them to act?
We recently had a chance to find out as part of our continuing coverage of the case of Anil Jaiswal at the University of Maryland, who’s retracted 15 papers (including two new ones we recently identified), and has transitioned out of cancer research. Here’s what happened.
As part of a public records request related to the investigation, we received letters that the University of Maryland sent to 11 journals regarding 26 “compromised” papers co-authored by Jaiswal, four of which had been retracted by the time of the letter. The letters were dated between August and September 2016 (and one in February) — although, in some cases, the journals told us they received the letter later. Since that date, three journals have retracted nine papers and corrected another, waiting between four and six months to take action. One journal published an editorial note of concern within approximately two months after the university letter.
And six journals have not taken any public action.
A prominent diabetes researcher based at Harvard Medical School has retracted a third paper, citing manipulation of multiple figures.
Late last year, Carl Ronald Kahn—also chief academic officer at Joslin Diabetes Center—retracted two papers for similar reasons. In November, Kahn pulled a 2005 paper from The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) and a month later, he retracted a 2003 paper from The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), both times citing duplications that the authors said were introduced while assembling the figures.
Last month, Kahn retracted his third paper, also published in JBC in 2003, because the authors omitted data when constructing the images. Still, the authors remain confident in their findings, given that data from other labs “have confirmed and extended the conclusions of the manuscript.”
A biology society is hiring three editors to screen images in submissions to its journal, Journal of Biological Chemistry — which we think is a great idea.
We don’t typically mention job ads on our site, except when they become relevant to cleaning up the literature — and with the latest job ad, the JBC joins the ranks of other journals that have taken a proactive stance against image problems, including manipulation. The publisher, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), plans to hire three “Technical Image Editors,” which will screen the images contained within the thousands of papers the journal publishes each year, many of which contain multiple panels and supplemental data.
Kaoru Sakabe,Data Integrity Manager at ASBMB, told us:
But the moment may have been short-lived. Today, Croce received two expressions of concern (EOCs) from PNAS for two well-cited papers published over a decade ago, on which Croce — chair of the Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU) — is last author. The two EOCs cite concerns over duplicated bands. What’s more, another journal recently decided to retract one of his papers, citing figures that didn’t represent the results of the experiments.
Kumar sued his employer, George Washington University, for $8 million, alleging emotional distress when they put him on leave from his position as department chair following a finding of misconduct. That suit was settled last year, for undisclosed terms.
A researcher who claimed image problems in a retracted paper were the result of a software glitch, and not intentional, has lost three more papers — all for image manipulation.
In two notices, the Journal of Biological Chemistry specifies that duplicated images were used to represent different experimental conditions; one notice simply says the paper was affected by image manipulation.
All of the notices specify the papers are being retracted by the publisher, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology — which this month published a set of recommendations for preparing a paper, including how to avoid excessive manipulation.
The papers were published between 2002 and 2010, and all share the same last author (Paul Kuo, currently chair of surgery at Loyola Medicine) and first author (Hongtao Guo, at Duke).
The former president of the Joslin Diabetes Center has withdrawn a second article within a month of his first, and issued extensive corrections to another paper in the same journal, all due to figure errors.
In November, we reported that Carl Ronald Kahn — also affiliated with Harvard Medical School — had pulled a highly cited 2005 paper from The Journal of Clinical Investigation because of image duplication issues, which Kahn told us were introduced during figure assembly. This December, Kahn retracted a 2003 paper published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC)—again due to duplication issues that the authors believe “were inadvertently introduced during figure assembly.”