PNAS retraction notice reveals name of Leiden University researcher fired for data manipulation

pnas 1113In August, we reported on a case in which a researcher had been fired from Leiden University in the Netherlands for fraud. The university said there would be two retractions, but did not name the researcher in question. At the same time, however, there were clues in the university’s report that suggested it could only be one person, the lead author of a 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that was to be retracted.

That notice has now appeared, and confirms that the fired employee was Annemie Schuerwegh, as a number of our comments surmised. Here’s the notice:

Retraction for “Evidence for a functional role of IgE anti-citrullinated protein antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis,” by A. J. M. Schuerwegh, A. Ioan-Facsinay, A. L. Dorjée, J. Roos, I.M.Bajema, E.I.H.vanderVoort, T.W.J.Huizinga, and R. E. M. Toes, which appeared in issue 6, February 9, 2010, of Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (107:2586–2591; first published January 25, 2010; 10.1073/pnas.0913054107).

“Recently, the Department of Rheumatology from the Leiden University Medical Centre discovered that this publication is based upon fraudulent data, as the first author manipulated several assays used in the studies presented in this publication. By adding anti-IgE antibodies into the tubes containing citrullinated fibrinogen, it seemed that the activation of basophils resulted from exposure to citrullinated fibrinogen. Likewise, controls and samples were manipulated through transfer of cells from positive controls to other tubes that now also appeared to contain a positive reaction. This behavior was done in the absence of all other investigators who did not have knowledge of these irregularities. After discovery of these events, several experiments were performed with the goal to reproduce the data indicating the presence of IgE anticitrullinated protein antibody (ACPA). The validity of these data as presented in the manuscript could not be confirmed. For these reasons, the authors wish to retract the paper from the scientific record.

The Leiden University Medical Centre has completed an investigation by an independent investigation committee into the violation of scientific integrity and irregularities in this paper and has concluded that sole responsibility for the irregularities rests with the first author. She has admitted manipulating the data presented in the paper.”

All of the authors — including Schuerwegh — signed the notice. The paper has been cited 40 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

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