Science issues Expression of Concern over already-corrected Melendez-Puneet paper

Two weeks ago, we posted on a Nature Immunology retraction by a group that had earlier published a correction to figures in a Science paper. At the time, many readers suggested there was more to this story — and we had the same hunch.

Turns out those hunches were right.

Today, Science issued an “Expression of Concern” about the paper they’ve already corrected:

In the 4 June 2010 issue, Science published the Report “SphK1 regulates proinflammatory responses associated with endotoxin and polymicrobial sepsis” by P. Puneet et al. [Science 328, 1290 (2010)]. On 22 March 2011, Science learned that authorities at the authors’ principal institutions at the time of publication and the corresponding author’s more recent affiliation were investigating allegations of figure manipulation in the Science Report. The investigation has not yet reached a conclusion. Pending the results of the investigations, Science is publishing this Editorial Expression of Concern to alert our readers to the fact that serious questions have been raised about the validity of findings in the Puneet et al. paper.

Re: the corresponding author, here’s all we learned for our last post:

The corresponding author of both papers, Alirio Melendez, told us by email early last week that he was on medical leave, with intermittent access to email, but would respond as soon as he could. He is currently at the University of Liverpool, having left positions recently at the University of Glasgow and the National University of Singapore.

We’ll update with anything we find out. In the meantime, the Abnormal Science blog has a number of alleged irregularities in other papers by the group.

Please see an update on this post, with news of an investigation into some 70 papers by Melendez.

Hat tip: Toby White

17 thoughts on “Science issues Expression of Concern over already-corrected Melendez-Puneet paper”

  1. According to AsiaOne he has been suspended “without prejudice from Liverpool University pending the results of the investigation:
    “The work involved other international universities and organisations. Eight researchers in Singapore, including scientists, academics and students from NUS and DSO National Laboratories were also involved, the report said. A ‘high-level’ panel, including professors experienced in examining fraud cases, has been assembled for it. NUS has also started to relook all the work done by the scientist and his team, which amounts to about 70 papers.
    The University of Liverpool, Dr Melendez’s current employer, has suspended the man without prejudice pending the outcome of the inquiry.”
    Professor Alirio J. Melendez, (MD, BScH, PhD) Chair of Immunopharmacology, Institute of Translational Medicine, Department of Molecular & Clinical Pharmacology, MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science, University of Liverpool
    The Liverpool University Press Office has a very terse comment:
    “If you would like to speak to this expert please contact the press office”.
    See also this press release from The Embassy of Venezuela from March 2011:

  2. Utter rubbish. Nothing will come out. It is stated that “such cases do surface even in the best universities, and the last thing we want to do is sweep it under the carpet” Look at the attitude. Because bigger universities can do it, this professor is justifying this for National University of Singapore. I certainly think it will remain under the carpet. If they pull the carpet, scores of (high profile) people including including …will be uncovered.

  3. That is hilarious. Bravo National University of Singapore!! Thums up! Are scientists working there genius? It seems to be a nice platform to launch a career. I checked the past winners – unbelievable selection of candidates. The panel must have had hard time in selecting winners. Any one working at NUS can comment on this???

    1. Why are you doing this. May be the one being mentioned is wrong, and he’s probably wrong, but please please, there are many good people at work, thinking of teaching, learning, etc. For you to put them in the same league is just so sad, and they are already sad, do you think they are dumb. Sorry is the word, and I wish I can say many more times. We just hope one day NUS, will come out stronger, I just hope we can somehow translate this message on to our students with the current mess.

      1. Dear NUS: Got your point. I am sure you are one of the co-authors who got hurt by this episode. Someone needs to do this – otherwise the co-authors who got mileage out of high impact journals would have benefited immensely. What “HOW” has done is good for science and community. It is important to teach our students about good science and how one should get rewarded. If false science gets rewarded like you all, genuine and honest scientists will struggle throughout. This is what happening. Imagine, what would have happened if this case was not brought up here? Many more people would have got awards…grants…promotions…the honest ones would have suffered. HOW’s link was useful so that I could find another award winner who has a paper with Dr. Melendez.
        Look at the following video link
        Yes, it hurts..every one…What retraction watch is doing is that bringing this up to the public. Please check the where Ivan discusses with Richard van Noorden from Nature

  4. Until such investigations are completed, in my mind such speculation should be kept to a minimum. As of yet, no one here has the full data or facts and you risk damaging people who may actually be innocent and perhaps abit naive, based on the extrapolation of limited information for a story.

    It is the auditing committee’s job to ascertain and then present them in an impartial manner and you should wait for this. Just in the same manner as what happens in any other field or organizations.

    If you do not trust the review process, either at the university or by journals, then you should ask to see the report after its obtained and raise your concerns then.

    Working towards helping research universities and journals in changing their reviewing process, and suggesting constructive quality control measurements to be implemented, would be a much more appropriate use of time.

    While this site, and others raise questions on many different researchers and their work, I have read more snide remarks and conspiratory theories than anything constructive or noteworthy. My impression is these sites are primarily devoted to witch hunts and read more like scientific paparazzi, rather than a serious, non-sensationalized discussion on where science, especially academic science, can improve and grow.

    Therefore, having stumbled upon your site, i will not be reading any more of it- the News of the World was never my taste anyway.

  5. @A Scientist: Please read my above post and it has answers for your concerns. This is inevitable. Your analogy with paparazzi and witch hunt – uncalled for and not relevant. Then you agree that there are witches – in that case they should be hunted??? If not, imagine what would happen. What I sense is that this is bringing truth to the world on scientific politics – which existed for a long time but it is time to unearth those misconducts. If the auditing team is corrupt – how can we be sure that the report is not biased!!! Do you have any answers to that?

  6. You seem to be implying that auditing teams are corrupt and there is no proof of this that I can see. Just because they are silent during the auditing process does not mean that they are not doing their job. As I stated before one should wait for the facts and report before forming an opinion, and not overly speculate on stories and rumors. If the reports do not add up then you should use the appropriate channels to raise those concerns.

    I agree scientific publications are retracted and there are problems in the system, and I am not surprised by the number, but what you are also appear to be doing is punishing those who have truthfully acknowledge that their data require to be retracted due to new information or they have found they are unable to reproduce it of their own accord.

    As for hurting honest scientists, have you ever considered that you are also doing this by taking away the correct channels of investigation ? Yes its an imperfect system, but I would rather have a system that will listen and look at the facts before making an informed judgment.

    As for likening it to a witch hunt, perhaps you should consider if your act of seeking and naming in this media is a form of using extreme measures, and in some cases especially as investigations are still ongoing.

  7. @A Scientist: I don’t need to respond to this as you said you are not going to follow RW anyway. If you go through the other thread – – you will realise who is correct and the anticipated outcome of this investigation. Please return to this site once you hear about the investigation result.

  8. I read somewhere about this and bumped into this page. Any progress on this express of concern. It appears that this has taken almost 6 months now since the science notification. Do we have an update? Curiousa…

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