Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘misconduct investigations’ Category

High-profile biologist is suspended after two investigations found he “breached his duty of care”, committed “misconduct”

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Olivier Voinnet

Olivier Voinnet

High-profile plant biologist Olivier Voinnet has been suspended for two years from the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) following the results of two investigations that revealed a number of issues in his publication record.

An investigation at ETH Zurich found that the scientist “breached his duty of care in the handling of figures as well as in his supervisory duties as a research director.”

Another investigation at CNRS, where Voinnet also works as a researcher, also found “the existence of deliberate chart/diagram manipulations” — while not “fabrication,” these breaches “amount to scientific misconduct,” according to a press release about the report.

The ETH committee uncovered multiple errors, from the “mere confusion of correct and incorrect figures” to “the ‘beautification’ of figures,” but said that it was not scientific misconduct, according to ETH guidelines:

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Written by Ross Keith

July 10th, 2015 at 12:15 pm

AIDS vaccine fraudster sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison and to pay back $7 million

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court case

A researcher who confessed to spiking rabbit blood samples to make the results of an HIV vaccine experiment look better has been sentenced to 57 months of prison time, according to The Des Moines Register.

Dong-Pyou Han has also been ordered to repay more than $7 million to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and will have three years of supervised release following his prison term.

In December, 2013, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity announced that Han, formerly at Iowa State University (ISU), had faked his results to make an HIV vaccine look more powerful. The faulty data made their way into seven national and international symposia between 2010 and 2012 (resulting in a retracted poster in 2014), along with three grant applications and multiple progress reports. Han agreed to a three-year research ban, and resigned from ISU in October the following year.

The NIH never sent the final $1.38 million grant payment of more than $10 million awarded to Han’s boss, Michael Cho, and ISU returned nearly $500,000 it had received for Han’s salary and other costs.

However, Read the rest of this entry »

Macchiarini co-author objects to investigation’s misconduct verdict

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Paolo Macchiarini

One of Paolo Macchiarini’s co-authors on a 2011 Lancet paper describing an allegedly groundbreaking procedure to transplant an artificial trachea seeded with stem cells is objecting to a recent investigation that concluded Macchiarini had committed misconduct.

Ola Hermanson, who studies neural stem cells at Karolinska Institutet, argued in a report dated June 29 that the investigation contained “serious flaws and formal errors.”

Hermanson’s lengthy response (uploaded here except for supporting emails) is to the findings of an external review of allegations about Macchiarini’s work, conducted by Bengt Gerdin, of Uppsala University. In regards to the 2011 Lancet paper, Gerdin’s investigation found:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 1st, 2015 at 8:30 am

Oncogene to retract breast cancer paper following years-old misconduct investigation

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Oncogene is retracting a 2010 paper on the molecular details of breast cancer cells as they undergo metastasis following an investigation that discovered the first author had committed misconduct.

The thing is, the investigation concluded in 2012, and the paper — “miR-661 expression in SNAI1-induced epithelial to mesenchymal transition contributes to breast cancer cell invasion by targeting Nectin-1 and StarD10 messengers” — isn’t being retracted until next week.

According to Lucinda Haines, senior publishing manager at Nature Publishing Group, the paper will be retracted June 29.

We heard from Iris Behrmann, Head of the Life Sciences Research Unit at the University of Luxembourg:

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More “unsubstantiated conclusions” partially sink another origin of life paper

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OrigLife_ak17A trio of researchers based in Russia is asking to pull another set of figures and a table from a 2008 paper on modeling ATP formation after an investigation found the fourth researcher – the first author on the paper — “falsified or fabricated” the data they reflect.

The paper, in Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, is the second partial retraction from many of the same authors for the same reason. Both journals also issued erratum notices, which read quite similarly. Here’s the latest note:

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So you want to be a whistleblower? Part II

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john thomas

John R. Thomas

This is the second article in a series by John R. Thomas, Jr., a lawyer at Gentry Locke who represents whistleblowers in a variety of False Claims Act cases. In this installment, he writes about how whistleblowers can tell if they have a viable FCA case.

In my first article, I briefly outlined the role that the False Claims Act (FCA) can play in promoting scientific integrity and safeguarding public grant funding. This article will answer a more substantive and practical question that a potential whistleblower must consider: What constitutes a viable FCA case? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

May 6th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Trove of VA reports reveals research misconduct, medical malpractice

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va logoLast week, the Veteran Affairs Office of Inspector General released eight years of reports investigating allegations of nefarious behavior at VA hospitals and institutions around the country, ranging from mistreating a patient in Florida, misspending grant money in New York, and conducting unauthorized research in Iowa.

In one report, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Brendan Borrell

April 27th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Bielawski and Wiggins retraction count grows to six

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chemical scienceA group of chemists whose work was investigated by the University of Texas-Austin has had another paper retracted, this one of a Chemical Science study previously subjected to an Expression of Concern.

That makes six retractions for Christopher Bielawski and Kelly Wiggins.

Here’s the notice for “Homonuclear bond activation using a stable N,N′-diamidocarbene”, signed by all three authors of the paper: Read the rest of this entry »

Nature retracts epigenetics paper by author who lost two Science papers last year

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cover_natureFrank Sauer, formerly of the University of California, Riverside, has had a 2002 letter on epigenetics retracted from Nature due to “inappropriate image manipulation.”

Sauer had two papers retracted from Science last year following a university investigation. Here’s the Nature notice for “Histone methylation by the Drosophila epigenetic transcriptional regulator Ash1:” Read the rest of this entry »

Investigations into Voinnet’s work announced; critic publishes original peer review

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Olivier Voinnet

Olivier Voinnet

The story about Olivier Voinnet, a high-profile plant biologist whose work has fallen under scrutiny, continues to build momentum. Late last week, Voinnet’s employer and one of his funders announced they were investigating his work, and one of the peer reviewers of a soon-to-be-retracted paper has made her original report public.

Here’s the statement from CNRS, which funds Voinnet: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 13th, 2015 at 2:00 pm