Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘molecular biology’ Category

Nature retracts paper by stem cell scientist appealing her dismissal

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Susana Gonzalez

A once-rising star in stem cell biology — who recently lost both her job and a sizable grant — has had a fourth paper retracted.

The notice — issued by Nature for a 2006 letter — cites duplicated images, and a lack of raw data to verify the findings. First author Susana Gonzalez — who was dismissed from her position at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain last February over allegations of misconduct — couldn’t be reached by the journal.

Here’s the full text of the retraction notice:

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The retraction countdown: How quickly do journals pull papers?

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After Tina Wenz was found guilty of scientific misconduct, how long did it take for journals to retract the problematic papers?  The answer: Between three and nine months.

In September 2016, the University of Cologne found that Wenz had committed scientific misconduct in six papers and requested they all be retracted. From that point on, the retraction clock was ticking.

We’ve explored how long it takes a journal to act over the years, and we’ve found that the time between identifying a problem to retracting the paper can vary — and sometimes last years.

In Wenz’s case, one of the papers—published in Cell Metabolism in 2009—had already been retracted in 2015. Three of the remaining five were retracted in December 2016—a 2008 paper in Cell Metabolism, a 2009 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and a 2009 paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

In January 2017, the journal IUBMB Life pulled a 2014 paper flagged in the investigation. And just over nine months after Wenz was found guilty of misconduct, the last paper—published in 2013 in Mitochondrion—has been retracted.

The most recent notice states that the University of Cologne requested the retractions, after determining that the data had been “inappropriately manipulated.”

Here’s the retraction notice in Mitochondrion:

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Fake peer review, forged authors, fake funding: Everything’s wrong with brain cancer paper

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The paper had everything: Fake peer review, forged authors, even a fake funder.

In other words, it had nothing.

A 2015 paper is the latest retraction stemming from an investigation into fake peer review by Springer, which has now netted more than a hundred papers.

According to a spokesperson at Springer: Read the rest of this entry »

Cancer paper retracted after author discovers signs of data manipulation

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A molecular biology journal has retracted a 2017 cancer paper only two months after it appeared online, after the corresponding author notified the journal about possible data manipulation.

According to the notice, Chunsun Fan, from Qidong Liver Cancer Institute & Qidong People’s Hospital in China, requested the retraction after finding “signs of data manipulation” in the paper that was published online in April. The journal, FEBS Letters, acted quickly, publishing a retraction earlier this month.

Here’s the retraction notice for “MiR-19 regulates breast cancer cell aggressiveness by targeting profilin 1:” Read the rest of this entry »

Former prof fudged dozens of images, says university

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On Dec. 2, 2013, Alison Lakin, the research integrity officer at the University of Colorado Denver, received a concerning email.

The emailer was alleging several problems in a 2012 paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, co-authored by one of its high-profile faculty members. Lakin discussed the allegations with some administrators and agreed they had merit; Lakin sequestered an author’s laptop and other materials. Over the next few months, the university learned of additional allegations affecting other papers — and discovered even more serious problems in the JCI paper. Namely, the first author had inserted changes to 21 figures in the paper after submitting it, without alerting the other authors, journal, or reviewers.

That journal retracted the paper this month, citing numerous problems:

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Author of retracted gene editing paper alleges “bullying” by former PI

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In the fall of 2015, out-of-work stem cell biologist Mavi Camarasa decided she had waited long enough. It had been three years since she and a colleague were, best they could tell, the first to successfully correct the most common cystic fibrosis mutation in stem cells derived from a patient.

But her former lab director, Daniel Bachiller, had blocked her from writing even a short report, she told Retraction Watch:

He said we are not submitting at this time, wait until [the project is] complete. “Wait, wait,” is the only answer I’d had from him ever.

Though she’d left the Spanish regenerative medicine lab in 2013 to take care of an ailing parent and had mostly been scooped by another group in April of that year, Camarasa thought she still might be able to get something out of the project. She hatched a plan to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse — an already accepted manuscript where all he would have to do is attach his name at the last minute.

But this story didn’t turn out exactly how she’d hoped — and illustrates how the pressure to publish can affect researchers at different levels in the lab.

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Journal won’t look at allegations about papers more than six years old, nor comment on those from “public websites”

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After a paper is published, how long should a journal consider allegations of misconduct? For one journal, that answer is: Six years.

We see plenty of journals that retract papers at least 10 years old over concerns regarding misconduct, but in a recent editorial, Molecular and Cellular Biology announced it would pursue allegations made within six years after a paper is published. This rule mirrors federal regulations (which apply to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity), which also decline to investigate allegations if at least six years have passed since the incident supposedly occurred — but with some exceptions, such as if the misconduct could have an impact on public health.

Incidentally, the same issue of the journal includes a retraction notice for a paper published seven years ago, citing image duplications. A spokesperson for the American Society for Microbiology (which publishes the journal) told us the journal investigated the paper in 2016, within the cutoff period.

Here’s the key text from the editorial:

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“Data had been manipulated:” Science Translational Medicine retracts paper

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Science Translational Medicine has retracted a paper by researchers based in Switzerland, after an investigation concluded two figures had been manipulated.

The investigation occurred at the University of Basel. It’s not clear what prompted it, but the paper has been discussed at length on PubPeer. After the investigation concluded two figure panels included manipulated data, the last author asked to retract the paper.

Here’s the notice:

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Researcher who sued to prevent retractions now has 12

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A diabetes researcher who once sued a publisher to prevent several retractions has just issued his 12th.

The latest retraction, like several others for Mario Saad, appears in the journal Diabetes. Although in the past Saad expended considerable effort to protect four other Diabetes papers from this same fate, the latest retraction was initiated by the authors, citing several duplicated images. The American Diabetes Association had flagged the 2009 paper with an expression of concern earlier this year.

In 2015, Saad brought a lawsuit against the ADA, claiming that it “wrongfully published” four expressions of concerns in its flagship journal Diabetes, in an attempt to prevent the papers from being retracted. He lost, and the papers were retracted in 2016.

The lawsuit also did nothing to deter the ADA from flagging other potentially problematic papers with expressions of concerns, including the latest 2009 Diabetes paper, on which Saad is last and corresponding author.  Read the rest of this entry »

Author objects to retraction after he says journal ignored his queries for three years

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In 2014, a journal contacted researcher Denis Rousseau about one of his papers that had just been published online ahead of print, raising some concerns. According to Rousseau, he sent the journal a corrected figure “almost immediately,” which he believed addressed the issue.

Rousseau, a cell biologist at the University Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France, said he then contacted the journal many times over the next three years to ask about the status of the paper — which never ended up in print — but heard nothing back.

Three years passed.

In March, the publisher finally contacted Rousseau, this time to ask him to issue a formal retraction for the paper. And despite his objections, Molecular and Cellular Biology published a sparse retraction notice, which provides little information about what went wrong:

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