Update: Microbiologists face two more retractions for Northern blot problems

microbiologyWe have an update on a case we reported last week involving four papers in two different journals. The Journal of Bacteriology retracted two papers by Carlos Barreiro and colleagues, in notices that referred to the fact that

…identical bands for the 16S rRNA probe controls in the Northern blots were reported to correspond to experiments using different strains and experimental conditions in articles published in this journal and in Microbiology over a period of 5 years…

We checked with the editor of Microbiology, Agnes Fouet, who tells us:

I confirm that I am aware of the two retractions in Journal of Bacteriology by Carlos Barreiro, et el. Indeed Microbiology has two retraction notices for papers published by Dr Barreiro scheduled for its June issue (online publication date 02/06/13).  The Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Bacteriology and I were approached jointly by a reader who alerted us to the issue on 5th December 2012. Identical bands for the 16S rRNA probe controls in the Northern blots were reported to correspond to experiments using different strains and experimental conditions in these articles in all four published manuscripts.

Microbiology does not tolerate scientific misconduct and we followed the COPE guidelines for how to handle the retraction process appropriately. I contacted the authors on 12th December 2012; the authors responded in late January 2013 and agreed, in mid-February, to retract the papers. We have worked together with Journal of Bacteriology to agree with the authors on publishing retractions that are all consistent in wording. As noted above, these will both be published in the June Issue of Microbiology.

Referral to the authors’ institutions is pending whilst all the facts are reviewed.

The two papers are “Transcriptional analysis of the F0F1 ATPase operon of Corynebacterium glutamicum ATCC 13032 reveals strong induction by alkaline pH” and “Microarray studies reveal a ‘differential response’ to moderate or severe heat shock of the HrcA- and HspR-dependent systems in Corynebacterium glutamicum.” They have been cited 17 and 9 times, respectively, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Please see an update on this post.

4 thoughts on “Update: Microbiologists face two more retractions for Northern blot problems”

  1. I have been seeking some logical response to something I have observed for at least 2 years now, related to “image problems” (or rather possible image theft or inappropriation of images, or possibly failure to acknowledge the source of figures, any of which appears to have resulted in retractions in other journals, even by the same publishers, at least as reported on RW), so I linked it to this blog entry. Can anyone explain if I am having vision problems with these two papers, or is there someone else in the community that feels that something is seriously wrong here? Despite complaints, logical explanations and, well, the evident proof, no action by the two leading publishers. Is there a term for this, or should I just get a new set of contact lenses? At issue:
    Biologia Plantarum Springer (2006):
    Scientia Horticulturae Elsevier (2009): http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304423809003641
    You be the judge.

    1. The text of the 2009 review paper does explicitly credit Chen and Chang (2006) for Figures 1 and 2. It’s not clear whether permission to re-publish the Figures was obtained from the authors and/or publisher of the first paper.

      1. Dear David, I have checked the PDF. In the text it simply lists the two figures and then adds the 2006 reference in parenthesis behind it. I disagree with you that this constitutes crediting the original source. Nowhere do the authors explicitly indicate in either the acknowledgements or in the figure legends, the exact source, or whether permission was obtained. If this is the precendent and no erratum or notice has been posted by Elsevier, then we are in dangerous publishing waters. I should note that there are serious flaws in the manuscript, reflecting editorial weaknesses, and also an over-accentuation of Indian references, while totally ignoring other key references of this topic. This also indicates serious editorial oversight. For these three reasons I am convinced that this paper should be withdrawn as it is, plain and simple, misleading on so many fronts. Did I forget to add that I am an orchid biotechnologist? So I know this work in this field like the back of my hand. Unofrtunately, I see so much injustice in plant and agricultural science, but the political forces in the background are preventing more retractions from taking place.

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