Author with six recent corrections retracts JBC paper questioned on PubPeer

jbc 8-23-13Rakesh Kumar, a professor at the George Washington University, has retracted a paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) that was recently questioned on PubPeer.

Here are Peer1’s comments from PubPeer about the paper, “Mechanism of MTA1 Protein Overexpression-linked Invasion:”

Fig. 8 of this paper shows image of fluorescent cells. The top panel of 8B (Ctrl.) and the lower left panel of Fig. 8D (MCF-7/MTA1, Ctrl. siRNA) has part of the same image used to represent a completely different experimental condition.

Furthermore, the top right panel of Figure 8D (MCF-7/pcDNA, HMMR overexpression) contains portions of an image from another paper by this group (Figure 7C, top right panel of JBC 2012; 287: p5615-5626, PMID: 22184113). The panel below this (lower right of 8D) also contains part of the image from the lower right portion of Fig. 7C in the other JBC paper. Identical images presented for completely unrelated experimental conditions.

Notably the images are not re-used “straight”, but are re-sized, different exposure, contrast, brightness, and moved slightly in the field of view. This makes it unlikely that this was simply an accidental pasting of the wrong image during manuscript preparation.

Finally, Fig. 8C of this paper shows cell migration (scratch wound) assays. Portions of the top right panel are again identical to images in the top right panel of Figure 7A in the other JBC paper.

The paper’s PDF is marked as retracted, but the abstract is not marked yet. JBC tells us that the notice will be quite scant:

Dr. Kumar’s retraction will only state “This article was withdrawn by the authors”  since we have not received a report from GWU or ORI concerning this article.

The paper, originally published in December 2011, has been cited six times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Neither Kumar nor the other corresponding author responded to our requests for comment.

The anonymous PubPeer poster also points out that Kumar has had six other corrections “in recent months, due to inadvertent errors during figure preparation:”

16 thoughts on “Author with six recent corrections retracts JBC paper questioned on PubPeer”

  1. PubPeer seems to be working, slowly. A question, how can one lab make so many “inadvertent” mistakes in figure preparation? Time to reach for the thesaurus of euphemisms? At least we can paraphrase Oscar Wilde: To make one inadvertent error, Dr Kumar, may be regarded as a misfortune. To make two looks like carelessness”. Sadly, Wilde does not provide us with any guidance as to what to say if there are seven sets of such errors.

    1. I propose extending the O. Wilde definition as follows: To make three errors may be regarded as stupidity. To make more than three errors should be regarded as fraud.

      1. Prose OK, but rhythm of the language doesn’t work – I guess neither of us has Wilde’s genius. You have to consider that the words will come from Lady Bracknell’s mouth (in the new version we are working up here, she could be “Professor Lady Bracknell!) and that this is one of the most biting social satires ever (and so well worth going to see, it is remains absolutely relevant).

    1. Probability of “inadvertent error” does seem high, doubtless telling us something important, though I couldn’t possibly think what that might be…

  2. Those are a lot of high profile journals to have corrections in. This kind of ‘figure preparation’ is exactly the way you get higher-profile papers. Very suspicious.

  3. Finally, this lab had a large quantity of papers (around 35, if I remember it correctly) with image issues at the SF-blog just before it was forced to close down.

    1. It is hard to find records of this lab, even wayback on the SF-blog. But I recall (from a comment to R-W on May 10, 2013) that Junk Science was prudent, and has saved copies. Junk Science, I salute you!

    2. Yes Junk Science, this is surely another posthumous result from the Science-fraud blog. Hopefully PubPeer will last a bit longer. (RW, too, but it already has.)

      One of the figures seared into my mind was from the Kumar/Badlamudi list posted on S-F when Kumar was based at that most Feng Shui’d of cancer research institutes, the MD Anderson, occasionally featured on this blog and sensitively portrayed in a recent open access Cancer Letter special issue here:

      The figure construction that I remember so clearly from S-F is Figure 3D of a 2002 Nature Cell Biology article (PMID: 12198493). The middle (FLNa) lane has a vertical noise smear that deconstructs into eight repeated squares of an otherwise noisy pattern. We’ll probably never know why the figure constructor thought this was important to the credibility of the figure. The article is not in the list of corrections supplied above, so the figure continues to be available for those who might appreciate or wish to learn from it.

      1. Ah yes, Scrutineer, a fine example of what Rossner and Yamada (JCB 2004 166: 11–15) referred to as using the “Rubber Stamp” or “Clone” tools to “touch up” images. This technique is the one used to “touch up” figures in papers that featured in R-W post “McGill committee says Nature figures were “intentionally contrived and falsified””.

  4. not just image manipulation, but some duplication….of an article retracted for plagiarism….

    The following article has been retracted from publication in the Taylor & Francis journal Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A:
    R. Kumar (2012): Development of ELISA for the detection of transgenic vegetative insecticidal protein in GM crops/produce, Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A: Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure & Risk Assessment, DOI: 10.1080/19440049.2011.648660.
    It has been determined that parts of this paper are substantially similar to that of an already published and retracted article titled, Immunodiagnostic analysis of transgenic vegetative insecticidal protein in genetically modified crops/produce, Food Chemistry 126 (2011) pp. 786–792.
    As a result, the article published in Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A has been retracted and should not be cited. It is Taylor & Francis policy that this article be kept online, but marked as a retracted paper, together with a link to this Statement to ensure the integrity of the scientific record.
    Taylor & Francis
    July 2012″

  5. One error could be due to oversight. But so many errors in many articles are not acceptable. What about the scientific merit of the research?

  6. Junk Science
    Finally, this lab had a large quantity of papers (around 35, if I remember it correctly) with image issues at the SF-blog just before it was forced to close down.

    Is it possible to have the references of the papers mentioned above. Are these by the same authors?

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