There was more news today about papers co-authored by Silvia Bulfone-Paus, whose lab at Research Centre Borstel has been under investigation for scientific misconduct.
Eight of the authors (ZO, LT, UM, PB, CB, DA, RP and SB-P) wish to retract this paper, following an independent formal investigation initiated by the Research Center Borstel into scientific misconduct (see http://www.fz-borstel.de/cms/index.php?id=1). The investigation concluded that multiple figures contained PCR and western blot duplications and possible other manipulations (Figures 2A, 3A, 4A, 5, 7A and 7C, Supplementary Figures S1A, S2A and S2B, unconfirmed: Figure 1C). The above signed declare that Vadim Budagian and Elena Bulanova conducted these experiments and generated the figures. The authors declare that key experiments presented in the majority of these figures were recently reproduced and that the results confirmed the experimental data and the conclusions drawn from them. However, due to these unacceptable irregularities, the listed authors retract this paper in its entirety and regret any adverse consequences that may have resulted from its publication. Vadim Budagian and Elena Bulanova declined to sign the retraction.
As retraction notices go, this is better than average, we must say. It’s certainly better than the many opaque notices we’ve seen. But there’s a line in there that Karin Wiebauer and David Hardman, both of whom brought the notice to our attention, found curious:
The authors declare that key experiments presented in the majority of these figures were recently reproduced and that the results confirmed the experimental data and the conclusions drawn from them.
We see this every now and then, authors retracting a paper but claiming its underlying science is still correct. But Wiebauer and Hardman, who have both been following the Bulfone-Paus case for a while, wondered what exactly this meant. Had the journal editors seen the reproduced data, which had been manipulated in the original paper?
We thought that was a good question, so we asked EMBO Journal editor Bernd Pulverer. He responded:
We did not formally investigate this case at the journal and we have not seen this data, as it does not affect the retraction.
We beg to differ. The journal has just allowed someone whose lab is being investigated for fraud — and who has now had 12 retractions accepted, see below — to declare that data are valid, without having seen it. Sorry, that’s just not right. Let them retract it, and try to submit it elsewhere, subject to peer review, with lots of scrutiny. (We wanted to know if the team was planning to submit it elsewhere, too, and have a message in to Bulfone-Paus. We’ll update with anything we hear back.)
Speaking of those 12 retractions, we’d reported on six accepted retractions last month. Today, Borstel announced that there were six more. They are, with Thomson Scientific Web of Knowledge citation data:
Bulanova, E., Budagian, V., Duitman, E., Orinska, Z., Krause, H., Rückert, R., Reiling, N., and Bulfone-Paus, S. Soluble IL-15Rα is generated by alternative splicing or proteolytic cleavage and forms functional complexes with Il-15. J. Biol. Chem. 282:13167-13179 (2007, cited 37 times)
Budagian, V., Bulanova, E., Orinska, Z., Duitman, E., Brandt, K., Ludwig, A., Hartmann, D., Lemke, G., Saftig, P., and Bulfone-Paus, S. Soluble Axl is generated by ADAM10-dependent cleavage and associates with Gas6 in mouse serum. Mol. Cell. Biol. 25:9324-9339 (2005, cited 32 times)
Bulfone-Paus, S., Bulanova, E., Pohl, T, Budagian, V., Dürkop, H., Rückert, R., Kunzendorf, U., Paus, R., and Krause, H. Death deflected: IL-15 inhibits TNF-α-mediated apoptosis in fibroblasts by TRAF2 recruitment to the IL-15Rα chain. FASEB J. 13:1575-1585 (1999, cited 118 times)
Budagian, V., Bulanova, E., Brovko, L., Orinska, Z., Fayad, R., Paus, R., and Bulfone-Paus, S. Signaling through P2X7 receptor in human T cells involves p56LCK, MAP kinases, and transcription factors AP-1 and NF-kB. J. Biol. Chem. 278:1549-1560 (2003, cited 67 times)
Budagian, V., Bulanova, E., Orinska, Z., Ludwig, A., Rose-John, S., Saftig, P., Borden, E., and Bulfone-Paus, S. Natural soluble IL-15Rα is generated by cleavage that involves the tumor necrosis factor-α-converting enzyme (TACE/ADAM17). J. Biol. Chem. 279:40368-40375 (2004, cited 47 times)
Budagian, V., Bulanova, E., Orinska, Z., Pohl, T., Borden, E., Silverman, R., and Bulfone-Paus, S. Reverse signaling through membrane-bound Interleukin-15. J. Biol. Chem. 279:42192-42201 (2004, cited 31 times)
We should also note that while there is no retraction notice text yet for a previously accepted retraction, in the Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, the paper’s abstract and PDF are both marked as retracted. The PubMed abstract doesn’t say it’s been retracted, either.
There will be more news on all of this, we’re sure. Twelve retractions is a lot, although Naoki Mori is up to 14.