The Journal of Biological Chemistry has a fairly gory correction — we’d call it a mega-correction — for a 2010 paper by Levon Khachigian, an Australian researcher whose studies of a new drug for skin cancer recently were halted over concerns about possible misconduct, including image manipulation. As we reported earlier this year, Khachigian has already lost four papers, including one in the JBC — which the journal simply noted had “been withdrawn by the authors.”
The new correction involves the article “c-Jun regulates shear- and injury-inducible Egr-1 expression, vein graft stenosis after autologous end-to-side transplantation in rabbits, and intimal hyperplasia in human saphenous veins,” which Khachigian wrote with Jun Ni and Alla Waldman. The paper has been cited nine times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the notice:
The original versions of Figs. 1, 5, and 6 contained incorrect micrographs.
In Fig. 1C, the “Dz13scr/Elastin” panel contained the same micrograph as the “Dz13/Elastin” experimental condition. A replacement micrograph for the “Dz13scr/Elastin” panel from a replicate experiment performed at the time of the original experiment is provided.
The “fresh isolate/PCNA” and “fresh isolate/MMP-2” micrographs in Fig. 5D, also used in Fig. 5F to represent the base-line condition, contained the same image. Replacement micrographs from a replicate experiment performed at the time of the original experiment are provided for the two panels in Fig. 5, D and F. The panels labeled “Adeno-LacZ/c-Jun” and “Adeno-LacZ/PCNA” in Fig. 5F were reversed.
The same micrograph used to represent the “vehicle” condition in Fig. 6C was also used in Fig. 6B as the “no shear” condition. A replacement micrograph from a replicate experiment performed at the time of the original experiment is provided for the “no shear” panel in Fig. 6B.
The corrections do not affect the interpretation of the results or the conclusions of the original paper.
We wonder whether readers will agree with that last bit.
As a larger point, however, we wonder whether journals need be so passive when it comes to cases like this. In a one-off situation, it makes sense to give the benefit of the doubt. But from an author with multiple retractions and an ongoing misconduct investigation, such an involved correction really ought to prompt a little concern that ought to be expressed, no?
Australia’s ABC News reported last month that concerns had been raised about another of Khachigian’s papers, in PLOS ONE. Khachigian denied misconduct, calling the problem “a simple formatting error.”