Graham Ellis-Davies says January 25th was one of the worst days of his life. That was when the journal ChemBioChem retracted an article, published barely two weeks earlier, for a mistake Ellis-Davies blames squarely on himself.
The steady drip-drip-dripping sound you hear from the cancer literature these days comes from the stream of retractions involving studies by Naoki Mori, the now jobless scientist whose work on cancer viruses appears to be evaporating before our eyes.
Cancer Science, which used to be called the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, has retracted three more of Mori’s papers, each of which, according to the journal, contained multiple unreliable images. That brings the tally of retractions involving Mori’s articles to 14 by our count, an impressive number by any measure. Mori has more than 50 papers to his name, however, so it’s possible that the number of retractions will grow.
We have a little more information on the lab-tech case out of the University of Chicago that we reported on last week. A brief summary: The journal Small retracted a 2007 paper on a method of producing insulin-secreting cells after one of the co-authors, a technician named Matthew Connors, was found to have fabricated a key figure. Connors has had a long career as a lab tech and his name has appeared on several published articles.
Readers of this blog are aware that many of the retractions we’ve covered involve the misadventures of post-docs. That makes some superficial sense: post-docs, after all, are trainees, and therefore might be more likely to make mistakes. They’re also hungry to break into their chosen specialty, and how better to do that than by producing spectacular results? (None of this is to say that post-docs are by nature incompetent or venal — only that the raw ingredients exist for typecast villainy.)
But one figure about whom we haven’t written (to the best of our knowledge) is the career lab tech — until today.
Readers of three science publications may be wondering, “Where in the world were the editors?” after retractions appeared recently in the journals sounding the same theme: The articles in question had too much “overlap” between previous publications.
For example, the Journal of Fish Biology notice reads, in part: “The retraction has been agreed due to overlap between this article and several previously published articles.”