Pulp fiction: doubtful “veracity” leads to retraction of endodontics paper

This one’s like taking candy from a baby.

The Journal of Endodontics — or JOE — has retracted a 2011 article (its online date) on the prospects of tissue engineering for the mouth by a group of Chinese authors who appear to have tried to pass bogus data into print.

The paper was titled “Mineralized Tissue Formation by Bone Morphogenetic Protein-7–transfected Pulp Stem Cells“. According to the notice:

The Editorial Board of the Journal of Endodontics has received an allegation of data fabrication of an article published in the February issue of the Journal (Yang et al., JOE 38:170–76, 2012). After review of available evidence, the Editorial Board believes there is sufficient evidence to doubt the veracity of the publication. Accordingly, we have retracted publication of this article.

We had a few questions about this case — who made the allegation of faked data, what did the authors have to say, was there an institutional inquiry — but we didn’t get far with the journal. Editor Kenneth Hargreaves replied to our email with the following:

Without knowing you or your company, I will restrict our statement to what has been published in the JOE.

We urged Hargreaves to check out our bona fides, but he evidently wasn’t impressed enough to respond with more information.

If he had done, we would gladly have told him that we’ve covered lead author Xuechao Yang before. He had a paper retracted last year — also on dental pulp — after including the name of a former mentor from the United States in the list of authors without informing that researcher. And Yang’s name appears as the first author on an article in Biomaterials, “The mesenchymal stem cell potential of human dental pulp derived cells transfected with embryonic transcription factor Oct-4,” that was withdrawn in February.

Oh, and there’s also this retraction, from the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, from last month:

Retraction: The following article from Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, “Pro-inflammatory cytokines induce odontogenic differentiation of dental pulp-derived stem cells,” by Xuechao Yang, Siyuan Zhang, Xin Pang, and Mingwen Fan, published online on January 5, 2012 in Wiley Online Library (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor in Chief, Gary S. Stein and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed due to overlap with the article published in Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, “Retracted: Effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines on mineralization potential of rat dental pulp stem cells,” by Xuechao Yang, X. Frank Walboomers, Zhuan Bian, John A. Jansen, and Mingwen Fan published online on July 11, 2011.

In other words, a closed-mouth attitude about retractions may serve a purpose — but not a good one that we can see.

Hat tips: Clare Francis, Marco de Weert

0 thoughts on “Pulp fiction: doubtful “veracity” leads to retraction of endodontics paper”

  1. More than “Retraction Watch”, this blog is becoming a Little Shop of Editorial Horrors…

    I wonder if anti-social skills are part of the job specs for managing a science journal? /sarc

  2. There are very few papers I review from China that are not either sloppy or suspicious (assuming the English can be parsed to begin with). This is just a fact.

  3. “Without knowing you or your company”… implies that if he/she DID know you, might be more forthcoming, but… only if he/she knew you would keep your mouth shut? Some people just don’t like journalists, or publicity, or the Internet. Makes you wonder why they became editors in the first place.
    Why is it so important to them to keep this information secret? Fear of lawsuits? Or just a phobia?

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