Two retractions for scientist whose work is “not fully supported by the available laboratory records”

SK Manna
SK Manna

The head of immunology at India’s Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Sunil Kumar Manna, has retracted two papers for image problems.

Here’s the notice from Cell Death and Differentiation for “Inhibition of RelA phosphorylation sensitizes apoptosis in constitutive NF-kappaB-expressing and chemoresistant cells:”

The corresponding author wishes to retract the above paper for the reason that the images in some of the Figure panels in the paper could not unambiguously be attributed in the laboratory notebooks. Thus, the results presented in this paper are not fully supported by the available laboratory records. All the authors have agreed to sign this retraction notice. We deeply regret this circumstance and apologize for any adverse consequences that this retraction might cause to the scientific community.

The paper, which has been cited 22 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, had already been subject to a Corrigendum in September 2012:

The authors have made the following errors that they would like to correct.

Since the publication of the article the authors and editors have determined that incorrect pictures for Figure 3b and Figure 6b were incorporated by mistake. The figures below are the correct versions:

Figure 3:

manna figure 3

P3-25 induces apoptosis. (b) HuT-78 cells were treated with varying concentrations of P3-25 or 5 μM BAY for 72 h and percentage of dead cells (red color) were counted using the ‘Live & Dead’ cell assay kit and indicated in mean percentage in bracket from triplicate assays

Figure 6:

manna figure 6

P3-25 potentiates apoptosis mediated by chemotherapeutic agents. (b) HuT-78 cells were treated with 100 nM P3-25 for 4 h followed by treatment with doxorubicin, taxol, or cisplatin (1 μM each) for 72 h. The number of dead cells (red color) were counted using the ‘Live & Dead’ cell assay kit and indicated in percentage in brackets

The other retraction notice, for “A Dihydrobenzofuran Lignan Induces Cell Death by Modulating Mitochondrial Pathway and G2/M Cell Cycle Arrest,” from the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, notes that Manna’s home institution had investigated the issue:

This paper was withdrawn at the request of the authors due to inappropriate and duplicate images, representing violations of the Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research of the American Chemical Society, at the recommendation of a committee convened by the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting & Diagnostics. The original paper was published ASAP on April 29, 2009, and withdrawn on February 6, 2013.

The paper has been cited 12 times.

Manna — who according to his bio worked as a postdoc for MD Anderson’s Bharat Aggarwal, whose work is also under investigation — has also had a correction for a figure mixup in a 2010 paper in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

We’ve tried him for comment, and will update with anything we learn.

12 thoughts on “Two retractions for scientist whose work is “not fully supported by the available laboratory records””

  1. “[N]ot fully supported by the available laboratory records” – this will be a new entry in the forthcoming edition of the Large Encyclopaedia of Euphemisms.
    I recall a few guest posts on RW by Serbians lamenting the research culture in their homeland. Judging by the frequency with which Indian scientists feature on RW pages, their country does seem to have a similar problem. This perception might be due to the sheer number of Indian scientists working all over the world but it is damaging regardless.

    1. Probably just means Indians are more likely to be scape-goated. Doesn’t apply in this case of course. But when you have a large group, the easiest response is to blame the foreign scientist and everyone else to put their hands on their hearts and say we really had no idea – he fooled us all – honest guv.

      Does India have a National Merit Scholar scheme like the US? I have been admiring Anil Potti’s CVs. I have to confess I had never heard of the National Merit Scholars before now – is it a big thing in the states?

      1. This case is in India. I can understand your point about being “scaped goated” outside their country, but not inside.

        I think the home institute should be commended for recommending the withdrawal of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry paper.

      2. In the US, “National Merit Scholarships” are awarded to high school students for their undergraduate studies. (I remember as a high school student we all thought they were a big deal, as no one seemed to get them. Looking at it now, I see how small the awards are, and wonder what the true motives of the organizers really are. Testing fees, probably.)

        I suppose “National Merit Scholar” is a tempting addition to any foreign CV since it could mean almost anything, and apparently here no one ever checked.

        1. Whoever prepared the CVs didn’t seem to know what a National Merit Scholar was – or rather the person who prepared one CV did and the other person didn’t. One CV has him getting the National Merit Scholar award in 1989 when he was India and the other has him receiving in 1995 when he took his residency in North Dakota.

          Just a communications glitch I suppose – easy enough to do when you are coordinating people in different parts of the country before a print deadline.

      3. When I was in high school in India (-1973), there was a National Science Talent Search Scholarship scheme. One had to compete by appearing in a two-part written examination. Each part was three hours in duration and covered science. A certain fraction of applicants were then selected for an interview by notable scientists. This interview was based in in part on the submission of a report on scientific research project. Successful applicants did not exceed 300 in number every year. Success meant a free ride for five years at a university or institute of national renown. Sometime in the early 1990s, that scheme was renamed the National merit Scholarship scheme.

        1. As far as I can tell it still named the Jagadis Bose National Science Talent Search Scholarship.
          Of course it may have had its name changed to the National Merit Scholarship in the 90s and then been changed back again.

      4. In India the 10th grade exams are usually conducted by state-wide education boards, or one of two nation-wide education boards. One of the national boards, Central Board of Secondary Education, awards “certificates of merit” in each subject to the top 0.1% of the students. There isn’t any monetary component, it is just a certificate of acknowledgement. Apart from this there is also a ‘National Scholarship’ which is given by the Govt. of India, to the top 1% of students of any state-wide or nation-wide education boards. There is an income criteria in order to actually get the monetary component of the National Scholarship, if the income of the family is above the that criteria, then only a certificate is issued.

  2. These people should be explained that their figures prove nothing and add nothing to the numbers. They only beg question: Do you think that your figures make your numbers more believable? They had to show one picture with red and green, that’s all. Another question should be asked: Any of the authors had training in US? Where in US?

  3. Unusual and surprising to see a retraction recommended by the institution; in broad terms this is to be respected. Admitting mistakes allows people to move on.

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