Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘image manipulation’ Category

Drug paper gets a fix, notching several corrections

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rsc_tb_1_3_COVER.inddThe Journal of Materials Chemistry B has issued a laundry list of corrections for a 2014 chemotherapy paper, which address re-use of “some text”, incorrectly stated doses, and miscalculations of the drug concentration, among other issues.

The paper described a new way to deliver gemcitabine via nanoparticles, focusing the drug on the tumors.

It turns out the authors’ focus wasn’t so clear when writing the paper. The researchers, at the Chinese Academy of Medical Science, Peking Union Medical College, and Tianjin University in China, said they used “some text” from two 2013 papers by a team of French oncologists “without appropriate attribution,” as well as repeatedly getting the in vivo dose wrong. The manuscript also contained several incorrect calculations of the “drug loading,” or the proportion of active drug.

Here’s the correction for “Tailor-made gemcitabine prodrug nanoparticles from well-defined drug–polymer amphiphiles prepared by controlled living radical polymerization for cancer chemotherapy” (free, but requires sign-in): Read the rest of this entry »

Nothing gold can stay: gold nanoparticle paper retracted for figure theft

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matresexpA paper on gold nanoparticles has been retracted after the publisher learned one of the figures had a “high degree of similarity” to a figure published by other authors a few months prior.

According to the notice, it was two authors of the retracted paper themselves who pointed out the overlap. The first author, Pratap Sahoo, is not mentioned, although it does say all three authors agreed to retract. The corresponding author of the original paper told us he was unaware of the incident.

You can compare the figures for yourself – on the left is figure 6(a) from the retracted Materials Research Express paper, rotated 90 degrees. On the right is figure 4(e) from “Porous Au Nanoparticles with Tunable Plasmon Resonances and Intense Field Enhancements for Single-Particle SERS,” published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters: Read the rest of this entry »

“Not faithful” figures kill apoptosis paper

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iaicoverA paper on apoptosis in mice has been retracted by Infection and Immunity after a reader tipped them off that several figures were “not faithful representations of the original data.”

When the journal, published by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), contacted the authors at Anhui Medical University in Hefei, China, they claimed they couldn’t provide the experimental data thanks to “damage to a personal computer,” said Ferric Fang, editor of the journal and a member of the board of directors of the Center for Scientific Integrity, Retraction Watch’s parent organization. Seven figures in total were compromised, including several that were duplicated throughout the article.

Here’s the notice for “Reactive Oxygen Species-Triggered Trophoblast Apoptosis Is Initiated by Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress via Activation of Caspase-12, CHOP, and the JNK Pathway in Toxoplasma gondii Infection in Mice”: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors retract PNAS Epstein-Barr virus paper for “anomalous and duplicated” figures

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pnas 2515PNAS has retracted a paper on the cancer-causing Epstein-Barr virus just two months after publication, in a notice that fingers a now-former graduate student for manipulating figures.

The paper tries to explain how Epstein-Barr virus blocks the immune system’s attempts to destroy it. According to the notice, the three “nonexperimentalist authors” – identified in the paper as two P.I.’s from University of Texas at Austin and one from the University of California, San Francisco – didn’t know the figures “were not reflective of original Northern blot and immunoblot data.”

That leaves UT Austin PhD student Jennifer Cox under the bus. Her LinkedIn says she pursued a PhD from 2010-2015, though it’s unclear if she’s received a degree. Cox’s name is at the top of P.I. Christopher Sullivan’s list of past lab members, and she’s the only one on the page whose name doesn’t hyperlink to additional information, such as a contact.

The school issued a press release about the study that quoted Cox, which has been removed from the UT site but is still available on Science Daily: Read the rest of this entry »

Two more retractions appear for prominent MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg

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genes and developmentTwo identical retraction notices have popped up for MIT professor Robert Weinberg, a highly-cited cancer researcher who had a retraction and a correction in 2013, both in Cancer Cell. 

These two new retractions, in Genes and Development, stem directly from another paper by Weinberg and colleagues in Cell that will apparently be retracted, as the “same analytical methodology was used,” according to the notices [see bottom of the post for an update].

Weinberg is highly regarded, and at least 20 of his papers have been cited over a thousand times.

First author Scott Valastyan was a promising postdoc at the time of the paper’s publication. He was a 2011 Runyon Fellow at Harvard, a three-year, $156,000 award for outstanding cancer postdocs. He doesn’t seem to have published anything since 2012, though he is listed as a joint inventor with Weinberg on patents filed in 2009 and 2014.

Here are the notices for “Concomitant suppression of three target genes can explain the impact of a microRNA on metastasis” (cited 73 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge) and “Activation of miR-31 function in already-established metastases elicits metastatic regression” (cited 54 times), both paywalled: Read the rest of this entry »

Second cell bio retraction from UPitt investigation of tweaked images

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Journal of Cellular Physiology: Volume 229, Number 10, October 2Two researchers, Tong Wu and Chang Han, have lost a second paper as the result of a University of Pittsburgh investigation into image manipulations.

The first retraction, in Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, went live in February. The researchers, currently based at Tulane University, were originally tapped by pseudonymous tipster Juuichi Jigen, who created a website in 2012 to chronicle the allegations.

The blog lists six papers by the pair with supposedly questionable figures. According to Jigen, this latest retraction, in the Journal of Cellular Physiology, contains a figure (2A) that appears to reuse data from another paper, and another figure (3) where the data appear to be manipulated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sun sets on Sun Yat-sen University cell bio paper

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j cell scienceResearchers at Sun Yat-sen University in China have lost a paper in the Journal of Cell Science for “inappropriate figure manipulations,” which they blame entirely on the first author.

According to the notice, three figures were “inappropriately modified” — cells or nuclei were moved, and the edges of cell images were trimmed. The researchers place the responsibility on first author Liping Chen, claiming that “her co-authors were completely unaware.”

The modifications didn’t affect the conclusions, the note says, but after an investigation by Sun Yat-sen University, the journal decided to retract the paper. Liping Chen says she “regrets the inappropriate figure manipulations,” according to the note.

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PLoS ONE mega-correction, but no retraction, for researcher who sued diabetes journal

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Mario Saad, via

Mario Saad, via

PLoS ONE has just issued a 12-figure correction on a paper by Mario A. Saad, who sued the American Diabetes Association unsuccessfully in an attempt to prevent it from retracting four papers in its flagship journal Diabetes.

The corrections include taking out Western blots copied from another Saad paper, as well as several figures where the bands were “misplaced.”

PubPeer commenters suggest this may not be enough, calling seven additional figures into question. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

March 4th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Heart journal issues expression of concern after fraud report

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circulationThe American Heart Association’s journal Circulation has issued an expression of concern for a paper about the molecular underpinnings of arrhythmias that was co-authored by a biomedical engineer who committed fraud on a massive scale.

According to an investigation by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), former Vanderbilt engineer Igor Dzhura faked nearly 70 images and drastically over-estimated the number of experiments he conducted. He was banned from receiving federal funding for three years.

The fraud has resulted in six retracted papers, Dzhura has agreed to retract six papers, which have been cited more than 500 times. [Ed. note: at this time, only one paper has actually been retracted]

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SfN journal retracts paper, bans UPenn researchers over “data misrepresentation”

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journal of neuroscienceThe Journal of Neuroscience has yanked an Alzheimer’s paper and banned three University of Pennsylvania authors from publishing there temporarily, following conflicting investigations by the university and the publisher, the Society for Neuroscience, into the data.

The 2011 paper looked into the cellular makeup of the characteristic plaques that develop in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been cited 64 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

While the notice states that Penn’s investigation “supports the journal’s findings of data misrepresentation,” last author Virginia Lee said she asked the journal to simply issue a correction of the faulty data, since the findings are “extremely important” for the field and have been affirmed by a later paper. According to author John Trojanowski (who is married to and publishes regularly with Lee), he and Lee have been barred from publishing in Journal for Neuroscience for several years. Senior Co-author Edward Lee is out for a year [see update at the bottom of this post].

Lee provided us with a letter Vice Dean of Research Glen Gaulton sent to the journal (click here to read), in which he says an investigation found “no evidence of research misconduct” and the “errors…do not detract from or otherwise alter the conclusions of the manuscript.”

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