Expression of Concern for a Bulfone-Paus paper

Retraction Watch readers may recall the story of Silvia Bulfone-Paus, who has been forced to retract 12 papers and has another under review at Blood. All of that scrutiny came after an investigation by her home institution, Germany’s Borstel Institute, that found evidence of image manipulation.

The latest development is perhaps no surprise. It concerns a review Bulfone-Paus and her colleagues published in BioEssays in 2006. Here’s the Expression of Concern, which was published online in July but just came our attention (we’ve added links to our coverage of specific retractions):

Related to:

The interleukin-15/interleukin-15 receptor system as a model for juxtacrine  and reverse signaling. Silvia Bulfone-Paus, Elena Bulanova, Vadim Budagian and Ralf Paus. BioEssays 28: 362 – 377. 2006. DOI: 10.1002/bies.20380

The following papers referenced in the above review have since been retracted by the respective journals:

50. Bulanova E, Budagian V, Orinska Z, Krause H, Paus R, et al. 2003. Mast cells express novel functional interleukin-15 receptor α isoforms. J Immunol 170: 5045–5055.

52. Bulfone-Paus S, Bulanova E, Pohl T, Budagian V, Dürkop H, et al. 1999. Death deflected: IL-15 inhibits TNFα-mediated apoptosis in fibroblasts by TRAF2 recruitment to the IL-15Rα chain. FASEB J 13: 1575–1585.

54. Bulanova E, Budagian V, Pohl T, Krause H, Dürkop H, et al. 2001. The IL-15Rα chain signals through association with Syk in human B cells. J Immunol 170: 5045–5055.

55. Budagian V, Bulanova E, Orinska Z, Thon L, Mamat U, et al. 2005. A promiscuous liaison between IL-15 receptor and Axl receptor tyrosine kinase in cells death control. EMBO J 24: 4260–4270.

58. Budagian V, Bulanova E, Orinska Z, Ludwig A, Rose-John S, et al. 2004. Natural soluble interleukin-15Rα is generated by cleavage that involves the tumor necrosis factor-α-converting enzyme (TACE/ADAM17). J Biol Chem 279: 40368–40375.

92. Budagian V, Bulanova E, Orinska Z, Pohl T, Borden EC, et al. 2004. Reverse signaling through membrane-bound interleukin-15. J Biol Chem 279: 42192–42201.

The six references are among 102 in the review, which has been cited 28 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Update, 9:30 p.m. Eastern, 11/9/11: BioEssays editor Andrew Moore tells us that the journal has not published Expressions of Concern before, but notes that he became editor only three years ago. Since then, the journal has not published any retractions, either. We asked him whether it should be standard practice for editors to call attention to potentially flawed reviews in situations like this:

I felt it wise to consult the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) in this case. The action that I took (the publication of the Expression of Concern) was the result of a consultation with COPE members in which I participated during one of the COPE forums. I believe that editors who are concerned about what to do in such a case would find it useful to consult COPE.

Hat tip: “Clare Francis”

3 thoughts on “Expression of Concern for a Bulfone-Paus paper”

  1. The editors should also be concerned about another paper cited in this review:

    Musso T, Colosso L, Zucca M, Millesimo M, Piliti M, et al. 1998. Interleukin-15 activates proinflammatory and antimicrobial functions in polymorphonuclear cells. Infect Immunol 66: 2640–2647.

    The two halves of Figure 1A look uncannily similar.

  2. Another interesting observation:
    I just browsed through the web pages of Ralf Paus (the husband, and often co-author, of Mrs Bulfone-Paus).

    In his bibliography, he lists the recently published retraction notices as separate publications (see here: ). Under the 2011 section of what appear to be ‘his’ publications, I found four retraction notices to papers published in earlier years. The retracted papers themselves don’t appear in the list because it only goes back to 2006.

    I personally think this is a very, um, ‘creative’ way to make one’s publication list look more impressive (not to say that Paus’ list is short). I’m rather shocked by things like this.
    But maybe there are different views on that… One could also argue that he deals openly with his retractions. In that case, however, why are the retractions listed as if they were separate papers, and not just added as a note next to the original publication. Or, since the original papers don’t appear in that list, why do the questionable entries not contain the word “RETRACTION” to make clear what they are?
    How should we think of this – an example of openness and honesty, a sloppy publication list, or continued deceiving and unethical behaviour?

  3. There is also the case of the disappearing Dr. med/MD degree.

    The Dr med title is still claimed at this official website (forgot to take it down methinks, watch this space):

    but not at this one

    Dr med in Germany became MD in the U.K. both based on an Italian first degree in medicine, which counts as neither.

    A brief explanantion here:

    No mention of MD degree today at Manchester.

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