Paper by Silvia Bulfone-Paus to be retracted

At least one of the dominoes may be falling from a scandal at Research Center Borstel.

Retraction Watch has learned that one of six papers that an investigation found to include data manipulation will be retracted by the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. The paper, “ATP induces P2X7 receptor-independent cytokine and chemokine expression through P2X1 and P2X3 receptors in murine mast cells,” includes Silvia Bulfone-Paus as a co-author. The retraction notice will appear in the March issue of the journal, editor Luis Montaner told Retraction Watch today.

Bulfone-Paus is at the center of a complex case, and we’ll refer you to Nature‘s excellent coverage. As Nature reported last month:

An external investigation, launched in July and chaired by Werner Seeger, a biomedical researcher at the University of Giessen, Germany, found that two former postdocs with the centre’s immunology group were guilty of using pictures of protein blots from unrelated experiments to support their findings on signalling in cells involved in allergic reactions such as asthma. The pair’s supervisor, Silvia Bulfone-Paus, who chairs the centre’s immunology and cell biology department, bears “substantial responsibility” for the manipulations, the committee found, but added that they found no evidence of data fabrication.

Bulfone-Paus has also been the subject of what Nature called a “high-profile Internet smear campaign.”

We’ve tried to contact her, and will update with anything we hear back.

Please see an update about four more papers whose retractions have been accepted.

6 thoughts on “Paper by Silvia Bulfone-Paus to be retracted”

  1. The commission stated, after inspection of (only) 8 papers that there were some manipulations in 6, but there was no data fabrication, and that the core messages of the papers are still valid (!!).

    HOWEVER, the Center’s authorities declared that they have asked the editors of journals to retract a total of 12 papers!
    (in German only, I’m afraid).

    Meanwhile, Silvia Bulfone-Paus declared that she will not be acting director of the Center until the allegations (old and new ones) have been investigated.

    As it appears from the published statements, the Center’s leaders did much more than one would have expected after the rather benign statement of the commission. Well done!

  2. I don’t know if you can give the management of the institute such good marks. In the Scientist they are blaming somebody for bring the issues to light, yet themselves admit that:

    “Because of all this, we’ve tried to be as transparent as possible,” said Schaible.

    Which means without somebody pointing the problems out they would not have been transparent. The acting director’s words, not mine.

  3. The outrage about the so-called smear campaign against Bulfone-Paus highlights another, more serious issue: the lack of investigative German science journalists with the means and willingness to carry out thorough, independent investigations. According to NATURE, an unknown agitator using the pseudonym Marco Berns was engaged in an e-mail and Internet offensive against B.-P. whom he accused of scientific fraud. It is obvious that this campaign which lasted through 2010 failed to attract the attention of German investigative science journalists as German print media covered the Borstel scandal not until Jan 2011, four weeks after an official report was released.
    Back in 2001 till 2003, two science journalists, Holger Wormer and Hubert Rehm, bothered listening to us when we blew the whistle on Kugler and Ringert in Goettingen. Without their stubborn search for and competent assessment of all available evidence, we would not have succeeded in stopping Kugler and Ringert from treating thousands of carcinoma patients with a fake tumour vaccine. Since 2004, Wormer has been head of the dept. of science journalism at the technical university Dortmund. Rehm remained on active duty as the most prominent German investigative science journalist till he retired recently. Both are sadly missed. Adequate replacement is not yet on the horizon. Without the help of experienced investigative science journalists, however, German whistleblowers will have to increasingly resort to the internet when confronted with fraudsters and incompetent or reluctant ombudsman commissions.

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