Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘cell biology’ Category

Dutch investigation of researcher violated rules of “fair play”: Ombudsman

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Pankaj Dhonukshe

Pankaj Dhonukshe

The National Ombudsman of The Netherlands has criticized some aspects of an investigation by Utrecht University that found a researcher had committed “a violation of academic integrity.”

Specifically, the Ombudsman found the investigation — which we covered last year — did not adequately involve the affected researcher, Pankaj Dhonukshe, and therefore violated rules of “fair play.” Dhonukshe expressed relief in a statement he emailed to us about the ruling: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 6th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Author appeals retraction after co-authors dispute Nature Comm paper

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nature comm

Two weeks after Nature Communications published a paper on asymmetric cell division in July, it posted a retraction notice saying the paper was submitted “without the knowledge or consent” of all but the corresponding author.

The following day the journal “amended” the retraction note to include the initials of the corresponding author, Aicha Metchat, then based at European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.

The final notice for “An actin-dependent spindle position checkpoint ensures the asymmetric division in mouse oocytes” reads:

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Former UCSF grad student fudged data in two papers

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ORIA former graduate student at the University of California, San Francisco “knowingly falsified and/or fabricated” data in two published papers, according to the Office of Research Integrity.

According to a case summary published this morning, Peter Littlefield was working on his PhD, studying the ways that cells respond to external signals, when he published the two problematic papers. He is the first author on the papers; Natalia Jura, whose lab he worked in, is the last on both.

The report’s findings are based on, among other sources, “the respondent’s admission.”

The first paper, “Structural analysis of the EGFR/HER3 heterodimer reveals the molecular basis for activating HER3 mutations” was published in Science Signaling and has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Three figures in the paper are problematic, says the ORI summary:

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Voinnet notches second retraction, two more corrections

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PNASOlivier Voinnet — a plant researcher who was recently suspended for two years from the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) after an investigation by ETH Zurich and CNRS found evidence of misconduct — has issued his second retraction and two more corrections.

PNAS posted the retraction earlier this week for a 2006 article after an inspection of the raw data revealed “errors” in study images. Authors confirmed the issues in some figures and revealed “additional mounting mistakes” in others.

Voinnet has promised to issue retractions and corrections for every study that requires them. These latest notices bring our tally up to nine corrections, two retractions and one Expression of Concern.

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Cell biologist Hanna issues two errata; images mysteriously disappear from Imgur

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Jacob Hanna

Jacob Hanna

Cell biologist Jacob Hanna, the highly cited stem cell researcher currently at the Weizmann Institute of Science,  has posted a long erratum for a 2005 paper in Blood for “inadvertent mistakes,” among other issues; soon after, Hanna’s team issued another erratum for a 2009 Cell Stem Cell paper.

There’s more to tell: Last month, commenters on PubPeer noticed that images from at least 10 of the research papers Hanna coauthored in seven journals — that commenters had posted on the image hosting website Imgur and linked to on PubPeer — had been deleted.

Imgur did not confirm whether these specific images had been deleted, but told Retraction Watch:

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Corrections (and one EoC) propagate for distinguished plant biologist, Olivier Voinnet

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Olivier Voinnet

Olivier Voinnet

There may be some deeply rooted issues in the work of high-profile plant biologist Olivier Voinnet, biology department research director at ETH in Zurich. Corrections have continued to pile up months after his work was hit with a barrage of criticism on PubPeer. We’ve tracked a total of seven corrections over the past five months (not including the April retraction of a 2004 paper in The Plant Cell). One of the corrected papers also received an Expression of Concern this week.

Collectively, the corrected papers have accumulated more than 1200 citations.

In January, Voinnet said he planned to correct multiple papers, after receiving “an anonymous email.”

One of the recent corrections we found is for a 2004 article in The Plant Journal, “An enhanced transient expression system in plants based on suppression of gene silencing by the p19 protein of tomato bushy stunt virus,” which details using proteins from a tomato virus to help alter gene expression. The study has been cited 862 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the correction notice, posted June 8:

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“Significant overlap” between figures spurs note of concern for 13-year-old retinoblastoma paper

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AmJPatholThe American Journal of Pathology has posted a note of concern to a 2002 paper about retinoblastoma after discovering two sets of figures “share significant overlap… suggesting that they did not originate from different specimens.”

The overlap was “simultaneously brought to the attention of the Editors” by both the corresponding author and a “concerned reader.”

The paper examined the role of a transcription factor called NF-kappaB in driving retinoblastoma, and suggested that inhibiting the molecule’s activity could be a therapeutic strategy.

The authors attribute the overlap to “an inadvertent misidentification of the original files at the stage of image capture.” They add that they “sincerely regret this inadvertent error;” because other data in the paper show “concordant results,” they stand by the paper’s findings.

Here’s the note:

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Written by Alla Katsnelson

June 15th, 2015 at 9:30 am

“Significant concerns” and formal investigation unwind Nature Nanotech sequencing paper

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NatureNanoFollowing “significant concerns” raised by outside researchers and a formal university investigation, a group of authors in Taiwan has retracted a Nature Nanotechnology paper on DNA sequencing after they “could not reproduce the results of the work,” or even provide “a complete set of raw data for the original experiments.”

The paper, “DNA sequencing using electrical conductance measurements of a DNA polymerase,” describes a technology to sequence single DNA molecules — a technique that the authors, all based at National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, suggest could be used to “cheaply and quickly” sequence DNA.

Concerns about the paper’s data were first raised in May 2013 by the community, according to an editorial from the journal. Then, the journal asked the university to investigate, says “Notes on a retraction”: Read the rest of this entry »

Cell Press investigating possible image manipulation in influential yeast genetics paper

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cellCell Press is looking into anonymous allegations that a pair of influential papers on gene activation in yeast may contain more than two dozen instances of image manipulation, according to a spokesperson for the journal.

The accusations first appeared in March on PubPeer, where they triggered a small avalanche of comments, including one asserting “unambiguous and repeated examples of data re-use.”

The concerns raised on PubPeer have even sparked an investigation by an institution in Spain, which found no evidence to support the allegations. But not everyone agrees with that verdict.

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Harvard biofilm paper in Cell breaks down after challenged findings can’t be repeated

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CELL_161_4.inddResearchers at Harvard have retracted a Cell paper on biofilm disassembly after they repeated the experiment—following contradictory results from another team—and the new results “can no longer support” the original conclusions.

The 2012 paper, “A Self-Produced Trigger for Biofilm Disassembly that Targets Exopolysaccharide,” describes a factor called norspermidine, produced by the bacteria Bacillus subtilis, that appeared to break down biofilms. The researchers used it to prevent biofilm formation of B. subtilis, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus. The paper was cited 72 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Two years after it was published, a team from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the University of Dundee in the UK contradicted the findings in another Cell publication, “Norspermidine Is Not a Self-Produced Trigger for Biofilm Disassembly.” This time, the authors concluded that norspermidine is not present in B. subtilis biofilms, and actually promotes, rather than breaks down, biofilms. They wrote: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Megan Scudellari

May 14th, 2015 at 3:15 pm