Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘ori investigations’ Category

Recent finding of misconduct by federal U.S. agency sparks debate

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Nasser Chegini

In 2011, the University of Florida assembled a misconduct report about one of its ob-gyn researchers, identifying falsified data in a 2010 paper. But when an investigator at the U.S. Office of Research Integrity reviewed the report, something didn’t feel right.

“I reviewed the data, and I thought [UF] didn’t do their due diligence,” said Kristen Grace, then an ORI investigator, now heading up the compliance department of the Office of Clinical Research at the University of Pennsylvania. “Because the extent of the the falsification was so great.”

So the ORI asked the UF to re-open its investigation, expanding it to include previous years of work by Nasser Chegini, now retired. The institution also hired a new director of research compliance, who oversaw the second investigation. That report, completed in October 2013, was significantly more extensive — it documented intentional falsifications or fabrications in nine papers published between 2003-2008. (Through a public records request, we obtained a copy of this second report, which you can read in full here.) But last month, the ORI issued a finding of misconduct against Chegini that focused on only one paper; the agency said it chose to take a “targeted approach,” since eight of the nine papers had already been retracted.  

The move has prompted a debate — while some argue it’s a pragmatic use of ORI’s limited resources, others (including Grace) are concerned:

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Written by Alison McCook

August 17th, 2017 at 11:13 am

After investigation that started at least 5 years ago, retired ob-gyn prof agrees to 5 years of supervision

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Nasser Chegini

A now-retired professor tweaked the findings in seven figures of a 2007 paper, according to a new finding of misconduct released yesterday by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity.

The subject of the findings isn’t a stranger to our readers: We’ve already reported on nine retractions for Nasser Chegini, a former professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Florida (UF) who had won more than $4 million in Federal grants. And Chegini, who retired in early 2012, had been under investigation since at least 2012, with the ORI asking UF to broaden that investigation at one point.

Indeed, the ORI’s notice states that eight of Chegini’s retractions resulted from the UF’s investigation. The ORI’s findings, however, stem from another paper, published in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology, which has not been retracted.

According to the ORI, in that paper, Chegini:

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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 »

PLOS ONE retracts paper after researcher admits to fabricating data

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On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity published its first misconduct finding of the year. The ORI reported that Brandi M. Baughman — a former research training awardee at the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS) — had “falsified and/or fabricated data” in 11 figures in a 2016 paper published in PLOS ONE.

Two days later, on June 21, PLOS ONE retracted the paper. (Note: The retraction process proceeded relatively quickly, but took longer than two days; a spokesperson for the journal told us that the authors alerted the editors of their concerns about the publication in May.)   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 26th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Ex-Wayne State scientist, ORI square off in court

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WASHINGTON, D.C — Last week, former brain scientist Christian Kreipke stared down the third set of research misconduct allegations against him since 2011. Or, possibly, according to him, it was the third iteration of the same research misconduct allegations he’s faced for years, a piling on by the most powerful of the three institutions out to ruin him after he allegedly uncovered a grant fraud scheme at Wayne State University, his former employer.

All the same, over three days Kreipke faced off against the U.S. Office of Research Integrity in a virtual administrative law courtroom as he contested a finding of research misconduct and an accompanying 10-year ban on receiving federal funding. In Washington, prosecutor Patricia Mantoan, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) attorney representing the ORI, brought the government’s case against him, wrapping up well before the end of Monday, July 10. Onlookers at the public hearing watched on video monitors as Kriepke sweated, literally, through hours of testimony, much of it with him on the witness stand. Despite being confined to what his lawyer, Shereef Akeel, of Detroit-area firm Akeel & Valentine called an “85 degree” room at the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Kreipke’s defense team took their time laying out his side of the story.

Since the allegations were first raised, Kreipke’s defense has remained largely the same: the misconduct allegations from Wayne State, brought in 2011, are retaliation against him for raising doubts the year before about accounting practices related to federal grants. At trial, Akeel characterized Wayne State’s misconduct investigation as a “witch hunt” that was out to get Kreipke, no matter what. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

July 18th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Volunteer researcher faked weeks’ worth of data

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A volunteer researcher at Florida Atlantic University fabricated the results of mouse experiments over a 14-day period in June, 2016, according to a new finding issued by the U.S Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

According to the ORI, Alec Mirchandani made up the results of behavioral experiments to make it seem as if he had done the work, and falsified animal transfer logs, which affected research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.

More specifically, the ORI determined that Mirchandani had “knowingly and intentionally:”

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Written by Alison McCook

July 14th, 2017 at 11:07 am

“An evolving and inconsistent tale:” Biochemist barred from federal grants for five years

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In 2013, Frank Sauer blamed “visual distortion” for problems with the images in his papers and grant applications. That explanation gave way to the production in 2016 of a mysterious and ominous letter from an unnamed researcher claiming that they’d sabotaged Sauer’s work in a plot of revenge. Soon after, Sauer was claiming that a mysterious cabal was plotting to undermine the output of German researchers.

Whatever Sauer was selling, Leslie Rogall, an administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Departmental Appeals Board, wasn’t buying.

Rogall has concluded that the Office of Research Integrity acted properly in 2016 when it found Sauer — a former faculty member in biochemistry at the University of California, Riverside — guilty of misconduct. His offense: doctoring images in three published papers and seven grant applications to the National Institutes of Health.

In a May 22 decision first posted today, she writes (italics hers):

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Written by amarcus41

June 29th, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Unusual: Neurology removes author dinged for misconduct from 2016 paper

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Neurology has partially retracted a 2016 paper, replacing a figure and removing the author who contributed it after he was found guilty of misconduct.

The journal has replaced the figure with a new one that confirmed the findings of the original, and swapped the name of Andrew Cullinane with the scientist who constructed the new figure using a new dataset. Last year, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity declared that Cullinane had falsified data in this paper and one other while working as a postdoctoral fellow in the Medical Genetics Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Cullinane appears to be at Howard University in Washington D.C., according to his LinkedIn page. He is listed as an assistant professor in the Basic Sciences/Anatomy department of the university’s College of Medicine.

Here’s the partial retraction notice from the journal:

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ORI misconduct findings fell in 2016. Why? We ask the director

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Kathy Partin

Every year, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) issues a series of findings against researchers it has determined committed fraud of some kind. In contrast to many agencies such as the National Science Foundation and around the world, the ORI names the offender, describes the offense, and states the penalty – often a temporary ban on federal funding, for instance.

2016 brought a lot of changes to the agency – it was director Kathy Partin‘s first year, which brought reports of staff unrest (and threats to resign). But there was another notable feature of last year, as we and others have noted – the agency issued only seven findings of misconduct, compared to 14 in 2015 and 11 the year before. (Once a sanction has lifted the finding disappears from the ORI site; here is a count of the agency’s activity from previous years.) We spoke to Partin about this relative lack of action from the agency last year.

Retraction Watch: Why are there so much fewer notices this year than last?  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

January 3rd, 2017 at 11:30 am

Child psychiatrist flagged for misconduct loses two more papers

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Mani PavuluriA child psychiatrist has lost two papers after an institutional investigation concluded that she intentionally misrepresented children’s medication history in her research.

In November 2015, we reported on a retraction for Mani Pavuluri in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience following a probe at the University of Illinois at Chicago, her institution, which concluded that there was a “preponderance of evidence” that Pavuluri had committed misconduct. 

After an “unanticipated event” took place during a study, three studies by Pavuluri were halted and a letter was sent out to 350 research subjects, informing them of errors in the work. At the time, the Illinois spokesperson noted that Pavuluri — who, according to her LinkedIn page, is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry — was also asked to retract two 2013 studies in the Journal of Affective Disorders. Those papers have now been retracted, noting that Pavuluri “intentionally and knowingly” misrepresented children’s medication history.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Deficits in emotion recognition in pediatric bipolar disorder: The mediating effects of irritability:” Read the rest of this entry »