Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘misconduct investigations’ Category

Nearly 500 researchers guilty of misconduct, says Chinese gov’t investigation

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Four hundred eighty-six authors have been found guilty of misconduct by the Chinese government, the fall-out from a sweep of retractions by one journal earlier this year.

In April, Tumor Biology retracted 107 papers that had been accepted based on faked reviews. Since many of the authors were based in China, the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) launched an investigation. On Friday, the news outlet Xinhua reported the results of the government’s investigation:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 31st, 2017 at 11:24 am

Toronto wife-husband research team lose bid to re-open labs

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Shereen Ezzat. Source: University Health Network

Sylvia Asa. Source: University of Toronto

A pair of Canadian scientists may be running out of options to save their laboratories, which have been permanently closed based on findings of research misconduct.

Sylvia Asa, once the head of the largest hospital diagnostic laboratory in Canada, and her husband and collaborator Shereen Ezzat, have spent almost five years fighting allegations of research misconduct involving data falsification and fabrication in more than a dozen published papers. The couple’s work has been scrutinized by their employer, University Health Network (UHN), a healthcare system affiliated with the University of Toronto, in two investigations. The investigations did not find evidence that Asa or Ezzat were directly involved in image falsification or fabrication; however, they concluded that, as supervisors, they failed to conform to accepted standards and practices as they related to scientific rigor and accountability.

After the first investigation, UHN decided to temporarily close both Asa and Ezzat’s labs. After the second, the UHN decided to make that closure permanent. The couple have had three papers retracted and at least one correction.

Recently, the pair faced yet another setback. After they asked an Ontario court to review two of UHN’s decisions, on July 13, a judge found no fault with either one. Justice Ian Nordheimer, one of three judges who considered Asa and Ezzat’s request, said in his written opinion Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

July 28th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Uni dings schizophrenia studies for problems with informed consent, other flaws

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Psychiatry journals have retracted two papers evaluating a schizophrenia drug after a university in Japan flagged issues, such as a lack of written informed consent.

The papers—published in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical & Experimental in 2012 and Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences in 2014—examined the safety and effectiveness of an antipsychotic drug in patients with schizophrenia.

According to the retraction notice in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, the ethics committee at St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Kawasaki found that “the trial included subjects who did not satisfy inclusion criteria.” For instance, not all patients provided written informed consent. But the university found no evidence for data falsification or fabrication.

A spokesperson for Human Psychopharmacology told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Work by group at Australian university faces scrutiny

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A journal is investigating research by a group in Australia, after receiving “serious allegations” regarding a 2017 paper about treating eye burns.

The journal, Frontiers in Pharmacology, has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for the 2017 paper while it investigates. The notice does not specify the nature of the allegations.  Meanwhile, several other papers by the three researchers, based at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia, have also come under scrutiny. Late last month, Frontiers in Pharmacology retracted a 2015 paper by Kislay Roy, Rupinder Kanwar, and Jagat R Kanwar, citing image duplication. A 2015 paper in Biomaterials received a correction in May 2017, again flagging image duplication.

Roy, the first author on the papers, is a postdoctoral research fellow; Rupinder Kanwar, a middle author, is a senior lecturer; and Jagat R Kanwar, the corresponding author on all three, is head of the Nanomedicine-Laboratory of Immunology and Molecular Biomedical Research.

Gearóid Ó Faoleán, the ethics and integrity manager at Frontiers in Pharmacology, explained that the investigation into the flagged article is ongoing and the EOC “must serve as the extent of our public statement for the present.”

A spokesperson for Deakin University declined to comment on the allegations: Read the rest of this entry »

Weizmann bans grad students from researcher’s lab over “serious misconduct”

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Rony Seger

The Weizmann Institute in Israel has barred a biologist from mentoring graduate students, after an investigation uncovered ” a case of serious misconduct that included manipulation of data.”

In a letter posted on PubPeer, President Daniel Zajfman describes some of the disciplinary measures taken against an unnamed scientist, including also retracting or correcting all affected papers. Michal Neeman, vice president of The Weizmann Institute of Science, confirmed to us that the letter describes Rony Seger, a molecular biologist who has already retracted 11 papers.

Neeman told us the investigation was unable to determine who was responsible for the manipulations, but as the head of his lab, Seger was ultimately accountable:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

What a report into scientific misconduct reveals: The case of Frank Sauer

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Oct. 3, 2011, was the beginning of the end for Frank Sauer’s tenure at the University of California, Riverside. On that day, an anonymous emailer contacted Sauer’s institution with accusations that the biochemist had cooked his research in at least eight papers over a 16-year period.

Sauer was found to have doctored images in studies using government money — nearly $3 million of it. He went on to lose his position at UC Riverside, several papers to retraction, and, in May, a subsequent legal battle over the severity of the federal sanctions. Along the way, he concocted a fantastic tale of sabotage against German scientists (like himself), replete with poison-pen letters and fabricated credentials. 

Retraction Watch has obtained a copy of UC Riverside’s report on the Sauer case through a public records request. The report, which is undated but which describes committee meetings and interviews from October 2011 to October 2012, lists 33 allegations of scientific misconduct against Sauer, 20 of which the committee determined to involve deception. Of the remaining 13, the committee either could not find proof of guilt or determined that the data were legitimate.

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Science journal flags cancer paper under investigation for image manipulation

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Science Signaling has issued an expression of concern for a 2016 paper, citing an institutional investigation into image manipulation.

According to a spokesperson for the journal, the corresponding author, Tanya Kalin, became concerned that two images in the paper had been manipulated. Kalin then notified the research integrity officer at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where she is based.

On May 9 2017, Kalin alerted the journal to the investigation. A week later, the hospital’s research integrity officer followed up with the journal, flagging the figures under question.  The journal then prepared an expression of concern (EOC) to alert readers to the issues and the institution’s investigation.  

Here’s the EOC notice for “The transcription factor FOXF1 promotes prostate cancer by stimulating the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK5:” Read the rest of this entry »

NIH neuroscientist up to 19 retractions

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Stanley Rapoport.
Source: NIH

The string of apparent bad luck continues for Stanley Rapoport.

Rapoport, a neuroscientist based at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, has lost three more papers in three journals due to the misconduct of his co-authors. By our count, these retractions bring his tally to 19 — and tie him for 21st place on our leaderboard.

The journals—Schizophrenia Research, Journal of Affective Disorders, and Biological Psychiatry— retracted the papers because the National Institutes of Health had found that one of Rapoport’s co-authors, Jagadeesh Rao, had “engaged in research misconduct by falsifying data.” Rao was corresponding author on all three papers.

According to a spokesperson for Elsevier, which publishes the journals, the Schizophrenia Research paper was retracted in July, the JAD paper in late May and the Biological Psychiatry paper in late April. The spokesperson told us that the publisher first received an email from the NIH about the misconduct findings on September 20, 2016, and that: Read the rest of this entry »

Leibniz Prize belatedly awarded to scientist cleared of misconduct

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Just before the March ceremony to bestow the coveted Leibniz Prize, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) received some disturbing allegations. An anonymous tipster accused one of the 10 scientists slotted to receive the award, materials scientist Britta Nestler, of misconduct. So the DFG held the ceremony on March 15, but suspended Nestler’s award.

Four months later, Nestler now has her Leibniz, along with the €2.5 million in prize money. This week, the DFG — which awards the Leibniz — announced that it had given Nestler her prize on July 4, during its annual meeting, after determining the accusations were without merit.

Secretary General of the DFG and Chair of the Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct Dorothee Dzwonnek said in a statement:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 14th, 2017 at 7:00 am

Failed whistleblower suit is a reminder that public universities are hard to sue

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The University of Louisville’s Kornhauser Library via Wikimedia

Suing the government is difficult. And because public universities often function as an arm of state governments, that makes them hard to sue, too, a fact reiterated in a whistleblower case decided earlier this year.

In January, Judge David Hale of the Western District of Kentucky dismissed a lawsuit filed by former employees of the University of Louisville alleging that the institution fraudulently secured millions in federal grants due to a biosafety program that had fallen out of compliance with federal regulations. The biosafety officers also alleged that they were wrongly terminated for pointing out the compliance issues to Louisville, the National Institutes of Health, and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the judge’s order came before those issues would even be considered.

According to the suit, filed in 2015, plaintiffs Karen Brinkley and Carol Whetstone alleged that the university, seven principal investigators, and an administrator had worked to wrongly obtain as much as $165 million from the National Institutes of Health. Around 2008, according to the plaintiffs, the defendants began allowing persistent biosafety issues — improper training and biological material disposal methods, protocols with expired institutional biosafety committee approvals, performance of research tasks in labs with insufficient biosafety ratings — to taint their applications for multiple federal grants (the complaint didn’t specify how many). Brinkley and Whetstone filed suit under the False Claims Act (FCA), which allows individuals to recover money on behalf of the U.S. government; allegedly, the grants were improperly obtained because the defendants had certified that they were in compliance with NIH’s biosafety requirements, even though they knew that they were not. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

July 7th, 2017 at 11:00 am