Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘misconduct investigations’ Category

Soon-to-be-ex-rector of top Belgium university blames coverage of misconduct case for ouster

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May was quite a month for Rik Torfs, the rector of a prominent university in Belgium. On May 9, Torfs lost his re-election campaign for rector of KU Leuven by a slim margin—out of more than 2100 votes, he lost by a mere 48. And just 20 days later, on May 29, Torfs wrote his final column for the Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard  — whom he believes was at least partly to blame for his election loss.

Specifically, it was the paper’s reporting on the university hospital’s (UZ Leuven) investigation into pediatric oncologist Stefaan Van Gool, which came just months before the election, that Torfs said he believes may have led to his ouster: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

June 26th, 2017 at 10:00 am

“Searching our souls”: Authors retract paper after researcher admits to fabricating data

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Researchers at a prominent Japanese university have retracted a 2016 paper in a chemistry journal after the first author admitted to scientific misconduct.

According to the notice, Kyushu University investigated and verified that the first author had committed scientific misconduct.

We requested a copy of the misconduct report, which revealed that the researcher, Prasenjit Mahato, a postdoctoral fellow at Kyushu University who is no longer affiliated with the university, “admitted to falsifying research” in two papers on which he was first author: a highly cited 2015 paper in Nature Materials, which was retracted in 2016, as well as the 2016 paper in Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), retracted earlier this month. The university investigated and confirmed misconduct in both papers.

We covered the Nature Materials retraction last year, but at the time, the paper’s corresponding author, Nobuo Kimizuka, only told us that the “matter has been under investigation by the formal investigation panel of our University.”

According to the five-page misconduct report — which we translated from Japanese using One Hour Translation and is also available in Japanese on the university’s website — in July 2016, a member of the lab (“Faculty Member B”) began to suspect a problem after he reviewed the data with Mahato (“the defendant”): Read the rest of this entry »

12 years after researcher found guilty of misconduct, journal retracts paper

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In 2005, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity found an obesity researcher had engaged in scientific misconduct.

More specifically, the ORI report revealed that Eric Poehlman, then based at the University of Vermont, had “falsified and fabricated” data in 10 papers. The 2005 report asked that the journals issue retractions or corrections to the papers. By 2006, six of those papers were retracted (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). In 2006, a judge sentenced Poehlman to one year and one day in prison for falsifying research data.

In 2015, we explored how long it takes a journal to retract a paper. We found that four of the 10 papers had still not been retracted — one appeared to be missing from Medline, another had received a correction (as the ORI report requested), and two had not been retracted or corrected (1, 2).

Until now. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

June 21st, 2017 at 11:45 am

German institute sanctions director after finding him guilty of misconduct

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The executive board of the Leibniz Association in Germany has reprimanded the director of its institute on aging for “grossly negligent scientific misconduct.”

Besides a written reprimand, the executive board has removed Karl Lenhard Rudolph’s “passive voting rights” in association committees, and excluded the institute under his leadership from receiving funds from a multi-million Euro internal funding competition, both for a period of three years.

The executive board identified problems in eight out of 11 reviewed papers, published between 2001 and 2016; it has asked Rudolph to retract one and issue errata for the others. The papers — some of which have been discussed on PubPeer — appear in journals such as Cell, Nature Cell Biology, and the EMBO Journal, and have been collectively cited 552 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Rudolph is the director of one of the 91 independent research institutions that make up the Leibniz Association. He told us he is putting the position of Director of the Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) in Jena “on hold” while he investigates the allegations:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 20th, 2017 at 11:39 am

NIH researcher doctored 11 figures in 2016 paper, says ORI

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A former Research Training Awardee at the National Institutes of Health “falsified and/or fabricated data” in 11 figures in a 2016 paper, according to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity.

This is the first finding of misconduct issued this year by the ORI.

According to the finding, published in the Federal Register, Brandi M. Baughman — formerly at the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS) — tweaked data and text in a PLOS ONE paper about screening for compounds that inhibit an enzyme known as inositol phosphate kinase. According to the notice, however, some of those experiments didn’t proceed as described:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 19th, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Journal flags cancer paper from Karolinska researchers

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A journal has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for a 2011 cancer paper, while Karolinska Institutet investigates “concerns” about some of the data.

After the Journal of Cell Science (JCS) received a tip from a reader, it investigated, but was unable to resolve the concerns. So the journal asked KI–where all the authors work–to investigate further, and issued an EOC to alert readers that there may be an issue with the paper.

According to the notice, the questions center on data from Fig. 1A, but the notice does not specify the nature of the concerns. The 2011 paper received a correction in 2016, which cites inadvertent figure duplication.

Earlier this year, the paper’s last author Boris Zhivotovsky and second author Helin Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg retracted a 2008 paper from Oncogene over potential image duplication. That retraction caught our attention because it was prompted by a 2016 correction to the paper, which had raised additional questions about potential duplication; ultimately, the authors retracted both the paper and its correction.

Here’s the expression of concern for the 2011 JCS paper: Read the rest of this entry »

Career derailed, ex-prof to sue Montana State for wrongful termination

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Ryan Jones. Credit: Kelly Gorham/MSU

A former assistant professor at Montana State University who was fired last year is planning to sue the school for defamation, wrongful termination, and violation of due process.

Ryan Jones, a microbiologist, was forced to leave his tenure-track position — which was technically a one-year contract, so could be terminated before he had the opportunity to apply for tenure. The case highlights the insecurity of non-tenured academic jobs, an issue the planned suit is tackling head on. In addition to monetary damages, the lawsuit seeks to void all one-year contracts at Montana State, which can be terminated for any reason — a system that exists elsewhere in academia.

Jones told Retraction Watch that he believes he was forced out based on what he alleges are cooked-up charges of research misconduct — specifically, he brought back insect samples from the Amazon but didn’t fill out a permit:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

June 15th, 2017 at 10:45 am

Ex-researcher who shot dean found guilty of attempted murder

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Hengjun Chao Credit: Westchester County DA


A New York jury has found Hengjun Chao, a former research assistant professor at Mount Sinai, guilty of attempted second degree murder and two other charges.

Last year, Chao shot Dennis Charney, a Mount Sinai dean who had fired him in 2010 for misconduct, outside of a deli in a wealthy New York suburb. After the incident, Chao admitted to police he shot Charney. During the trial, Chao’s lawyer argued that Chao had done so to draw attention to what he believed to be misconduct at Mount Sinai.

As reported by the Chappaqua Patch, in addition to one count of attempted second degree murder, Chao was convicted of one count of criminal use of a firearm and one count of assault. He faces a maximum of 25 years in state prison.

Chao’s attorney, Stewart Orden, told Retraction Watch:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

June 14th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

OSU researcher under investigation corrects paper cited 500 times

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An EMBO journal has issued a correction for a well-cited 2012 review co-authored by a cancer researcher under investigation.

Carlo Croce, the last author on the review, has been beleaguered by misconduct accusations that have followed him for years (recently described in a lengthy article in the New York Times), and his university has recently re-opened an investigation into his work.

By our count, Croce — based at The Ohio State University — has logged six retractions, along with multiple expressions of concerns and corrections. The latest correction, in EMBO Molecular Medicine, notes the review lifted passages from multiple publications — and was in turn reused in later papers, as well.

Here’s the notice:

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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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