Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘Legal Threats’ Category

“Existence and motive to retaliate:” Judge hands victory to whistleblower scientist

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A Michigan researcher whose accusations of misconduct against his former employers led to years of legal battles has won a judge’s ruling that could earn him one of his jobs back.

Over the past few years, Christian Kreipke has been embroiled in legal battles with the Detroit VA Medical Center and Wayne State University, where he held a dual appointment. In 2010, Kreipke accused Wayne State of misusing federal funds — then was fired in 2012 when the university brought its own case of research misconduct against him. In 2013, the VA followed suit. In 2014, Kreipke lost a whistleblower lawsuit against the university. As a result of the Wayne State investigation, journals have retracted five of his papers, some as recently as last month.

In March, a judge ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to reinstate Kreipke’s position, among other requests.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

April 24th, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Chemist wins injunction against university trying to revoke her degree

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A scientist has won an injunction against the University of Texas at Austin, which was deciding whether or not to revoke her PhD.

We’ve been covering the case of Suvi Orr, a chemist now based at Pfizer who earned a PhD in 2008, for a few years. During that time, UT has tried to revoke her degree twice, after the paper that made up part of her dissertation was retracted in 2012 — for allegedly containing falsified data, according to the school. The university revoked her degree in 2014, then reinstated it after she sued.

Last year, the school tried to revoke it again, prompting Orr to sue for a second time — and ask for more than $95,000 in legal fees and expenses.

In a decision released April 20, a Texas Court of Appeals has upheld Orr’s request for an injunction against UT, preventing it from deciding whether to revoke her degree. Specifically, Orr asked that UT not be allowed to make a decision until the court has weighed in on a separate appeal, in which Orr argues the university doesn’t have the right to revoke her degree.

According to her lawyer, David Sergi:

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Written by Alison McCook

April 21st, 2017 at 2:52 pm

A diabetes researcher sued his former employer for defamation. Here’s the story.

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Franck Mauvais-Jarvis

The last decade hasn’t exactly been drama-free for Franck Mauvais-Jarvis, head of the Diabetes Research Program at Tulane University.

After being accused of falsifying three figures in a submitted manuscript, Mauvais-Jarvis sued his accusers and officials at his former employer — Northwestern University — for defamation and conspiracy in 2011.

In 2014, a judge dismissed the suit. We wish we could tell you more details about it—such as what the university’s misconduct investigation found, or how the lawsuit was concluded—but they remain shrouded in mystery. What we know is based on court records from the lawsuit, which we recently obtained through an unrelated public records request. Even without all the details, it’s a long, sordid tale, involving a lot of finger-pointing and allegations of misconduct.

In 2008, a former research technician in the lab of Mauvais-Jarvis, then an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University, raised concerns of fabrication in two figures in a paper on the regulation of insulin synthesis that had been submitted the Journal of Biological Chemistry. An inquiry committee at the university unanimously concluded that research misconduct charges against Mauvais-Jarvis were not credible.

But then a third figure in the manuscript was found to be “inaccurate,” and the university initiated a second inquiry. That’s when Mauvais-Jarvis — whose papers have been cited more than 2,000 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters — initiated a lawsuit. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Megan Scudellari

April 12th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Scientist who sued university earns two more retractions, bringing total to five

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A scientist who sued his employer for millions of dollars has earned two more retractions, for papers that had already been flagged by the journal.

By our count, Rakesh Kumar now has five retractions and multiple corrections.

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.

The two newest retractions in the Journal of Biological Chemistry — which tagged the papers with Expressions of Concern last year — both state that, according to Kumar, the problematic figures were assembled by “specific co-authors” — unnamed — in his lab. Here’s the first notice:

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Two more retractions for stem cell researcher appealing her dismissal

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Susana Gonzalez

Susana Gonzalez, a rising star in stem cell research, has had a rough year.

In addition to being fired from her former research institute (which she is now appealing), one of her grants (totaling nearly 2 million Euros) was suspended. Most recently, she has received two new retractions in Nature Communications over figure duplications and missing raw data. By our count, she has a total of three retractions.

Both of the new notices say the papers contained figures duplicated in other papers by Gonzalez, and neither includes Gonzalez among the list of co-authors who agreed to the retraction.

Gonzalez was dismissed from her position at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain last February over allegations of misconduct. According to the head of basic research at CNIC, Gonzalez is still embroiled in a legal battle with the Center over her dismissal. Vicente Andrés could not go into detail because of the ongoing litigation, but he told us: Read the rest of this entry »

After lawsuit threat, journal forces author to heavily revise education paper

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Under threat of a lawsuit, an education journal changed its mind about publishing a paper that it had already accepted after peer review.

Last summer, Education Policy Analysis Archives, published by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, informed San Francisco State University professor Stanley Pogrow that the journal would be publishing his paper criticizing a widely used reform intervention for schools in poor districts called Success For All.

According to Success For All‘s website, the program is currently used in more than 1,000 schools in 48 states and received just over $10.5 million in grant funding in 2015. In 2010, the program was one of four recipients of the U.S. Department of Education’s $50 million Investing in Innovation Scale‑up grant.

Yet when Success For All’s co-developer, Robert Slavin at Johns Hopkins University, read a pre-publication draft of the paper, he threatened the journal with legal action if they published it. According to Slavin, the manuscript contained “libelous” and “defamatory” statements.

Subsequently, ASU declined to publish the accepted paper, and instead told Pogrow they would only publish a revised piece on the methodology used to evaluate which school interventions are effective — and thus should receive public funds. The revised paper does not directly mention Success For All or Slavin in the text (although it cites past articles by Pogrow criticizing the program). The revision, which Pogrow agreed to, “gutted the article,” he told us.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Megan Scudellari

March 15th, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Researcher sued to stop retractions; he just earned two more and is now up to 11

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The notices keep coming for diabetes researcher Mario Saad.

Diabetes has just retracted two more of his papers, both of which had been flagged by expressions of concern, citing problems with duplications. What’s more, the journal added another expression of concern to a 2009 paper on which Saad — based at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil — is listed as last author, again over concerns of duplication.

This isn’t Saad’s first run-in with the journal: In 2015, the researcher sued the publisher, the American Diabetes Association, after it issued expressions of concern for four of his papers. Later that year, a judge dismissed Saad’s defamation suit. The journal eventually retracted the papers.

The latest articles flagged by Diabetes appear to be part of an intricate publishing web, as the journal suggests all papers have used features of previous papers, and also include elements that have been republished by subsequent articles.

Here’s the first retraction notice, for “A Central Role for Neuronal AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) and Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) in High-Protein Diet–Induced Weight Loss:”

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If you use this research tool without permission, you’ll hear about it

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Sometimes, a seemingly run-of-the-mill retraction notice turns out to be much less straightforward.

Such was the case with a recent retraction of a 2016 paper in a journal published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, apparently over permission to use an evaluation scale designed to test whether patients take their medications as prescribed. But when we looked into this story, we learned this retraction was only the tip of the iceberg – a representative of the evaluation scale (titled “Chief Investigator”) told us he has contacted hundreds of so-called “infringers” over the last year who used the scale without permission. The authors must then apply retroactively and show they’ve used it correctly, and may even have to pay fees. Or, in the case of the retraction we saw (and at least one other in 2016), pull the paper.

According to the chief investigator, Steve Trubow, who oversees licensing and use of the scale worldwide, for some uses, there is no fee – but depending on what the researchers are using the Morisky Medication Adherence Scale (MMAS-8) for, it can cost up to $100,000. Once they’ve used it without permission, there are fees for that, too, Trubow told us:

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A Harvard whistleblower was subjected to a forced mental exam. Here’s why.

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Last March, a PhD student at Harvard filed a misconduct allegation against his mentor, a prominent stem cell researcher. Three months later, he was taken from his home by police in the middle of the night for a forced psychiatric evaluation.

How did this happen? Read the rest of this entry »

Major publisher threatened to sue author who didn’t realize he owed open access fees

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Around two years ago, when mathematics researcher Jean Ecalle submitted a paper to Acta Mathematica Vietnamica, he saw that he had the option of making the paper open access. So he checked a box on the submission form — which included a mention of the fees that he apparently missed — and didn’t think anything of it.

The paper “Eupolars and their Bialternality Grid” appeared online in October, 2015

So Ecalle was quite surprised when, sometime later, he received an email from a representative of the publisher saying he owed 2,640 Euros. He responded in January 2016, guessing what the fees might stem from:

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Written by Alison McCook

January 13th, 2017 at 8:00 am