Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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

“[W]e can learn from these bad actors:” Trail of retractions follows former Vanderbilt researcher’s fraud

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JPhysiol_ak15Authors have retracted three papers from the Journal of Physiology because they contained “falsified or fabricated data.”

The papers, which address calcium signaling in heart muscle cells, are among the six pegged for retraction after an Office of Research Integrity (ORI) investigation into one of the authors, Igor Dzhura, formerly of Vanderbilt University. The ORI found that Dzhura had committed an enormous amount of fraud, involving dozens of faked images and more.

Dzhura was fired from a job at Novartis in November after the company discovered that his application had included the fraudulent work.

The three retracted Journal of Physiology papers and their citation figures, courtesy of Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, are: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alla Katsnelson

May 14th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Clinical trial of Achilles tendon therapy retracted for not actually being a clinical trial

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JBJS_ak6The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery has retracted a 2012 paper because of ethical violations, initially flagged by the journal in 2013.

The study, which examined the use of autologous cell therapy in treating Achilles tendinosis, claimed in its abstract to have “conducted a randomized, double-blind study on forty Achilles tendons in thirty-two patients.” Apparently, though, it wasn’t actually a clinical trial but was somehow, according to the retraction notice, “misclassified” as such “in error.”

The problem was originally flagged by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which wrote the journal to tell them that it hadn’t granted ethical approval for the study, as we reported in 2013. At the time, there was a question about whether the lead author had retained records of the results, which is addressed in the retraction notice, signed by editor-in-chief Marc F. Swiontkowski and editor-in-Chief Emeritus Vernon T. Tolo: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alla Katsnelson

May 14th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Déjà vu: JBC epigenetics paper is retracted, then largely re-published with fewer authors

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JBCA group of authors have withdrawn a 2011 Journal of Biological Chemistry paper, but then appear to have re-published almost the same paper a month later, only this time with just five of the original nine authors.

The paper, “HDAC3-dependent reversible lysine acetylation of cardiac myosin heavy chain isoforms modulates their enzymatic and motor activity,” concerns a type of protein regulation important to cardiac stress. Written by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Pittsburgh, it has been cited 16 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. It was rated “Exceptional” by a reviewer on the Faculty of 1000 website.

As we’ve come to expect from the JBC, here’s the full retraction notice, in all its inexplicit glory: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Megan Scudellari

May 13th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Third retraction for GWU biologist as university seeks to dismiss his $8 million lawsuit

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Rakesh Kumar, via George Washington University

Rakesh Kumar, via George Washington University

Cancer biologist Rakesh Kumar has chalked up another retraction, this time for “identical,” “duplicated,” and “replicated” figures and images.

It comes on the heels of a flurry of motions in Kumar’s $8 million lawsuit against his employer, George Washington University, for breach of contract and emotional distress because it removed him as department chair last year and placed his research on hold. Kumar remains employed by the university.

The retracted paper, published in Development in 2004, “Metastasis-associated protein 1 deregulation causes inappropriate mammary gland development and tumorigenesis,” analyzed the role of a protein, MTA1, in mammary gland development and cancer. It was published while Kumar was at M.D. Anderson in Houston, and has been cited 81 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

By our count, Kumar now has three retractions and five corrections. Numerous anonymous comments on Kumar’s papers have been posted on PubPeer, many of them critiquing images. Here’s the complete notice from Development: Read the rest of this entry »

Dude, whose gene is that? Genetics paper retracted for lack of permission

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pbrPlant Biotechnology Reports is retracting a 2009 paper by a group of researchers in South Korea because the authors submitted the article “without the permission” of the owner of a gene used in the study.

The paper abstract is no longer online, though the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) recommends that retraction notices be linked to the retracted article wherever possible. So we can’t even tell you what the paper is about, outside of its title: “T1 transgenic tobacco plants carrying multicopy T-DNAs at the same locus exhibit various expression levels of transgenes.”

Here’s all we’ve got—the retraction notice itself: Read the rest of this entry »

PNAS paper on dengue virus pulled due to contamination

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PNAS_ak11smThe authors of a paper on dengue virus vaccine design published last year in PNAS are retracting it after discovering that their experimental dengue virus was contaminated.

Although they are confident that the strategy is sound, the authors write in their commendably detailed retraction notice that the “inadvertent error” rendered the results “uninterpretable.”

Here’s the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alla Katsnelson

May 12th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Double-dipping equals double retraction for fracking paper

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tran por medTransport in Porous Media and the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering have retracted two articles on shale gas by Chinese researchers for duplication and other “mistakes.”

The articles came from a group at the State Key Laboratory of Oil and Gas Reservoir Geology and Exploitation at Southwest Petroleum University, in Chengdu. The articles share a corresponding author.

According to the abstract of the TPM paper, “Pressure Transient Analysis for Multi-stage Fractured Horizontal Wells in Shale Gas Reservoirs”:

The presented model could be used to interpret pressure signals more accurately for shale gas reservoirs.

Make that a double, according to its notice:

Read the rest of this entry »

NIH cancer paper retracted for faked data

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JCIFollowing an investigation into research misconduct, the Journal of Clinical Investigation has retracted a cancer genetics paper from a laboratory at the National Institutes of Health due to “data falsification and fabrication” of four figures and a table in the paper.

The paper, “FOXO3 programs tumor-associated DCs to become tolerogenic in human and murine prostate cancer,” describes an overexpressed gene in mouse prostate cancers that appears to suppress immune system cells.

The journal retracted the paper following an investigation into author Stephanie K. Watkins, then a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute. According to a NIH press release released about the study in March 2011, the work “has led to the submission of a patent application by the NIH on behalf of Hurwitz and Watkins to target FOXO3 as a way to boost immune responses in cancer and to silence excessive immune responses in autoimmune diseases.” We found an NIH record of the patent application, but no record of an approved patent at the United States Patent and Trademark Office under either Hurwitz or Watkins’ names.

The paper has been cited 62 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the full notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Weekend reads: Should retirement-age scientists make way?; no pay-for-fast-track peer review

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booksThe week at Retraction Watch featured lots of news about exercise. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 9th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads