“Redundant in principle”: Blood retracts paper built on double-dipping of data by co-author

blood coverBlood has retracted a 2012 paper by a pair of Swedish authors, one of whom appears to have misappropriated data from his mentor.

The article, titled “Microparticles are the basic storage units for different proteins in platelet granules,” appeared online in July 2012 and was written by Chi Zhang and Yang Yang, of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

But as the retraction notice explains, there was a problem:

The Editors wish to retract the paper cited above, prepublished in First Edition on 24 July 2012. The research presented in this paper is based on the concepts originated in the laboratory of Dr. Jerker Widengren from the Experimental Biomolecular Physics/Department of Applied Physics, SCI Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan (KTH, i.e., Royal Institute of Technology) and was generated using the resources of his lab. The paper was submitted to Blood without Dr. Widengren’s knowledge or approval, while he was the custodian of the data. The investigation carried out by KTH concluded that misconduct had occurred and recommended retraction of the article. Dr. Yang Yang was at the time employed and funded by Dr. Widnegren’s laboratory and was the recipient of a fellowship awarded to carry out this work.

A paper by Daniel Rönnlund, Yang Yang, Hans Blom, Gert Auer, and Jerker Widengren, Fluorescence nanoscopy of platelets resolves platelet-state specific storage, release and uptake of proteins, opening for future diagnostic publications. Advanced Healthcare Materials, doi: 10.1002/adhrn.201200172, was published with Dr. Yang’s knowledge and his participation as co-first author. It overlaps significantly with the Blood paper in intellectual content and experimental design. While the Blood paper was prepublished online earlier and does not contain identical text or figures with the Rönnlund et al paper, the intellectual premise of the article published in Adv Healthcare Materials preceded the Blood paper, making the Blood publication redundant in principle.

The authors were notified of the retraction, but did not respond regarding their concurrence.

0 thoughts on ““Redundant in principle”: Blood retracts paper built on double-dipping of data by co-author”

  1. We have seen this scenario before (e.g., with Maie ElKassaby and Jeffrey Williams, Jiasheng Diao and David Sanders, Hui Chai and Changyi Chen, Jessica Tang and Jeremi Leasure). The central issue is data ownership. A trainee writes a paper without a mentor’s knowledge or consent, and the manuscript is accepted for publication. The institution determines that the trainee does not have standing to submit the paper without the mentor and requests retraction. The journal complies with the request. Under these circumstances, the journal is compelled to retract a paper even though there may be nothing wrong with the science. According to the legal principle of “works for hire,” an institution owns the research data generated by its employees (this is true in Sweden as well as in the U.S.). For scholarly purposes, PIs are customarily assigned responsibility for data custody or stewardship, including copyright, by an academic institution. Postdocs and students often have the misunderstanding that they own the data that they generate, but they do not. This is an unfortunate mistake that does not work out well for anyone involved.

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