A stem cell journal is retracting a paper by Gerold Feuer, a researcher at the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse who was also found to have misused grants.
The Feuer story is complicated. Heralded in 2008 for landing $6.2 million in grants from the New York Stem Cell Board, Feuer was suspended in October 2010 while the university investigated allegations he had misused funds, specifically to funnel state dollars to HuMurine, a company he founded in 2008. In December 2010, Upstate said they had found evidence he had committed 53 acts of financial misconduct, and dismissed him.
From an August 2012 court ruling on a case Feuer brought to fight that dismissal:
In December 2010, Dr. Feuer was served with a Notice of Discipline charging him with fifty-three separate specifications of misconduct related to work he allegedly performed on behalf of or in furtherance of HuMurine’s interests while employed by SUNY Upstate and while using SUNY Upstate’s resources and/or personnel. SUNY Upstate also alleged that Dr. Feuer directed State employees to submit charges for services performed for HuMurine to be paid from a State grant.
Despite the fact that an arbitrator agreed with Upstate on 30 of the charges, Feuer won that case, and was reinstated:
By her August 20, 2012 Award, the Arbitrator determined (1) that SUNY Upstate did have just cause to immediately suspend Dr. Feuer pending resolution of the disciplinary charges; (2) that Dr. Feuer was guilty of thirty of the alleged acts of misconduct; (3) that Dr. Feuer was not guilty of the remaining alleged acts of misconduct; (4) that the penalty of termination was “not appropriate under the totality of circumstances”; and (5) that the appropriate penalty was suspension from the effective date of his termination to the date of the award.
That meant, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported in March, that
Upstate reinstated Feuer, a tenured professor of microbiology and immunology, Feb. 18 at an annual salary of $116,196 and placed him in an off-campus assignment.
Neither the university nor Feuer would tell the paper what that off-campus assignment was.
Meanwhile, Upstate tells Retraction Watch that a separate scientific misconduct inquiry was ongoing in parallel with the financial investigation. That inquiry wrapped up in April of this year, and found large amounts of misconduct. The university ultimately found three researchers guilty. Two of those were Feuer and Prabal Banerjee, now an employee at HuMurine. But Michelle Sieburg and Elizabeth Samuelson were among those found not to have done anything wrong.
Following the recommendation of the investigation committee, the university’s research integrity officer has requested retractions of three papers, the first of which appeared on October 4:
- “Human T-cell lymphotrophic virus type 1 infection of CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells induces cell cycle arrest by modulation of p21cip1/waf1 and survivin,” published in the journal Stem Cells (Stem Cells 2008;26:3047-3058). (cited five times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge)
- “Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma development in HTLV-1-infected humanized SCID mice,” published in the journal Blood (Blood 2010 April 1; 115(13): 2640-2648). (cited 16 times)
- “Induction of cell cycle arrest by human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 tax in hematopoietic progenitor (CD34+) cells: modulation of p21cip1/waf1 and p27kip1 expression,” published in the Journal of Virology (J. Virol. 2005, 79 (22): 14069-14078). (cited 30 times)
Here’s the first of those notices, which ran in Stem Cells:
The following article in STEM CELLS, “Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 Infection of CD341 Hematopoietic Progenitor Cells Induces Cell Cycle Arrest by Modulation of p21cip1/waf1 and Survivin,” by Banerjee P, Sieburg M, Samuelson E, and Feuer G, first published online 25 September 2008 in Wiley Online Library (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1634/stemcells.2008-0353/abstract) and then in print Volume 26, Issue 12 3047–3058, December 2008, has been retracted by agreement between the Senior Editors of STEM CELLS, AlphaMed Press, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. This retraction follows an investigation by the Research Misconduct Committee of the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, and Senior Editors of STEM CELLS.
By a preponderance of the evidence, SUNY’s Investigation Committee concluded that data in Figures 2D, 2G, and 2I had been fabricated and/or falsified “by manipulating the same flow cytometry sample analysis to represent different cell treatment groups and time points”. By a preponderance of the evidence, the Investigation Committee further concluded that data in Figures 3 (E, F, G, and H) and Figures 5 (E, F, G, and H) had been fabricated and/or falsified “by using flow cytometry samples analyzed under different fluorescent channels to represent the same samples and analysis”. Lastly, by a preponderance of the evidence, the Investigation Committee concluded that data in Figures 3 (E and F), 4 (A and B) and 5 (F and G) had been fabricated and/or falsified “by duplicating flow cytometry control plots”.
Feuer, who hasn’t responded to our requests for comment, received NIH grants, and so the committee’s report has been forwarded to the Office of Research Integrity, Upstate tells us.
The case is the third we’ve written about at the university in the past few years. In 2012, the ORI found that Michael Miller, a former neuroscience researcher, had manipulated data in grant applications. And separately, a graduate student, Jennifer Jamieson, was found to have falsified data.
But as we’ve often said, it’s not the institutions that report misconduct that we’re worried about. Dave Amberg, Upstate’s research integrity officer, tells us:
For the amount of research expenditures at Upstate per year, based on national averages, we’d expect about one case a year, and we certainly haven’t had that. To try and increase awareness and consciousness around this issue, we dedicated last year’s Dean’s Grand Rounds seminar series to research misconduct. Truth is we accumulated a couple of bad characters, and it took some pretty brave people to come forward and do the right thing.
Please see an update on this post, with a response from Gerold Feuer.