Cell pulls fruit fly article, citing image manipulation

The journal Cell has retracted a paper on fruit fly genetics over concerns that the first author, a postdoc in a German laboratory, might have manipulated dozens of electron micrographs in the manuscript.

The article, published in November 2009, was titled “Assembly of Endogenous oskar mRNA Particles for Motor-Dependent Transport in the Drosophila Oocyte.” It has been cited six times since then, according to the Thomson Scientific Web of Knowledge.

Not having the foggiest notion of what those words might mean, other than that the paper was about fruit flies, we called in a ringer, Jeff Perkel, who explained as patiently as he could that the gist of the research involved Continue reading Cell pulls fruit fly article, citing image manipulation

Nature comes clean about retractions and why they’re on the rise

courtesy Nature

This week’s Nature includes a refreshing and soul-searching editorial about retractions. Excerpt (we added links and corrected a misspelling and wrong country in the editorial after a reader noted the errors below):

This year, Nature has published four retractions, an unusually large number. In 2009 we published one. Throughout the past decade, we have averaged about two per year, compared with about one per year in the 1990s, excluding the pulse of retractions of papers co-authored by [Austrian German physicist Jan Hendrick Hendrik Schön].

Given that Nature publishes about 800 papers a year, the total is not particularly alarming, especially because only some of the retractions are due to proven misconduct. A few of the Nature research journals have also had to retract papers in recent years, but the combined data do no more than hint at a trend. A broader survey revealed even smaller proportions: in 2009, Times Higher Education commissioned a survey by Thomson Reuters that counted 95 retractions among 1.4 million papers published in 2008. But the same survey showed that, since 1990 — during which time the number of published papers doubled — the proportion of retractions increased tenfold (see http://go.nature.com/vphd17).

The editorial highlights Continue reading Nature comes clean about retractions and why they’re on the rise

A retraction in the Potti case?

In our very first post, we noted the case of Anil Potti,

a Duke researcher who posed as a Rhodes Scholar and appears to have invented key statistical analyses in a study of how breast cancer responds to chemotherapy[.The case] has sent ripples of angst through the cancer community. Potti’s antics prompted editors of The Lancet Oncology to issue an “expression of concern” — a Britishism that might be better expressed as “Holy Shit!” — about the validity of a 2007 paper in their journal by Potti and others.

There hasn’t been any further movement on The Lancet Oncology study, as far as we know, but on Friday the Raleigh News & Observer reported that one of Potti’s co-authors on a 2007 Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) paper had requested a retraction: Continue reading A retraction in the Potti case?

Top German anesthesiologist’s cardiac surgery paper retracted over “very serious misrepresentations”

Self-plagiarism alert: A very similar version of this post is being published online in Anesthesiology News, where one of us (AM) is managing editor.

A leading German anesthesiologist with more than 200 papers to his name has been accused of misrepresenting critical aspects of a paper  — possibly including the data itself — published late last year in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.

In a retraction notice published online today, Steven L. Shafer, editor-in-chief of the journal, writes that Joachim Boldt and his coauthors failed to obtain approval from an institutional review board, did not get patient consent and did not follow up as promised with volunteers in their study, reported in the December 2009 article, “Cardiopulmonary Bypass Priming Using a High Dose of a Balanced Hydroxyethyl Starch Versus an Albumin-Based Priming System.”

In addition, the journal said, it has reason to suspect that data in the paper were fabricated, a possibility that is being investigated by German authorities. As the notice states: Continue reading Top German anesthesiologist’s cardiac surgery paper retracted over “very serious misrepresentations”

UK government research watchdog publishes new retraction guidelines

The UK’s Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) has just published “Guidance for researchers on retractions in academic journals.” The document is an adaptation of existing guidelines by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a UK charity.

Nothing has changed, COPE chair Liz Wager told Retraction Watch. UKRIO just decided to convert COPE’s existing guidelines, targeted to journal editors, so that they were useful to researchers.

Warts and all: Derm pub retracts plantar paper after author cries foul

Both Retraction Watch bloggers are all too familiar with the artwork in dermatology journals. One of us, AM, used to write for Skin & Aging, while the other, IO, waited eagerly for issues of Cutis sent to his pediatrician father to show up on the coffee table. And IO recently broke the incredibly important story of “Mexican beer dermatitis.”

But we always trusted that the images we were looking at were real. A group of Egyptian dermatologists seems to have hit on a novel solution to the problem of uncooperative images: Continue reading Warts and all: Derm pub retracts plantar paper after author cries foul

Third retraction for Indiana University scientist who altered figures in NIH-funded research

Another shoe has dropped in the case of Emily M. Horvath, the Indiana researcher whose tinkering with figures while on a $369,000 federal grant ended in sanctions by government officials.

Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, an Elsevier title, has retracted another paper on which Horvath was an author, bringing to three the number of her articles tainted in the scandal. The paper, “A novel membrane-based anti-diabetic action of atorvastatin,” was published online in June 2008, and cited four times since, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. (Atorvastatin is sold as Lipitor.) According to the journal: Continue reading Third retraction for Indiana University scientist who altered figures in NIH-funded research

They wuz robbed: Editorial TKO for boxing paper leads to retraction, republication

In the blue corner: California researchers who reviewed trends in death rates among professional boxers.

In the red (ink) corner: The editors of Neurosurgery, who misclassified the article, leading to an abbreviated version appearing in print.

The decision: A retraction, followed by a reclassification and republication of the complete article: Continue reading They wuz robbed: Editorial TKO for boxing paper leads to retraction, republication

Update on Axel Ullrich retractions: Lead author manipulated figures, says Ullrich

Axel Ullrich, courtesy the Max Planck Institute

Yesterday, we noted that Axel Ullrich, a decorated cancer researcher, had retracted two papers in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The journal gave no explanation for the retractions, and our conversation with the publication director for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which puts out the journal, was less than illuminating. This morning, Ullrich responded to all of the questions we sent him by email, and our follow-ups. The picture is now a lot more clear.

Ullrich tells Retraction Watch that he found out from a “private investigator” several months ago that the papers’ lead author, Naohito Aoki, had manipulated their figures. Aoki was a postdoc in Ullrich’s lab in the early 1990s: Continue reading Update on Axel Ullrich retractions: Lead author manipulated figures, says Ullrich

Leading cancer scientist retracts two papers, one 14 years old, but journal won’t say why

One of the world’s leading cancer researchers, Axel Ullrich of Germany, has retracted two papers published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Ullrich, director of microbiology at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, has been a central figure in many groundbreaking discoveries, from the development of genetically engineered insulin to the identification of the breast cancer gene HER2. The founder of several biotech firms, he also runs an international consortium, the Singapore Oncogenome Project, looking for other so-called oncogenes linked to protein-tyrosine kinase, or PTK, an enzyme that regulates cell growth and which, when run amok, is implicated in a variety of tumor types.

The retractions involve two articles, published eight years apart, on protein-tyrosine. The first, from 1996, was titled Continue reading Leading cancer scientist retracts two papers, one 14 years old, but journal won’t say why