Here’s the notice, signed by Science editor-in-chief Marcia McNutt:
Science has received the results of the University of California, Riverside Committee on Privilege and Tenure’s investigation of the papers published in Science by Professor Frank Sauer and colleagues, “TAF1 activates transcription by phosphorylation of serine 33 in histone H2B” (1) and “Noncoding RNAs of trithorax response elements recruit Drosophila Ash1 to Ultrabithorax” (2).
For the 2004 Report (1), the Committee’s findings can be summarized as follows: Lanes 3 and 4 in Fig. 1B were replicated from a figure in another paper (3). There was manipulation of gel images that constituted data falsification and fabrication in Fig. 2C; Fig. 3, B and C; Fig. 4, B and D; and panel A in fig. S5C. For the 2006 Research Article (2), the Committee’s findings can be summarized as follows: In Fig 6C, there was replication of the same image in two panels that constitutes data falsification. There was manipulation of gel images that constituted data falsification and fabrication in Fig. 4D; Fig. 6, A and B; and fig. S5A.
The Committee concluded that the image manipulations described above constituted a significant departure from the accepted practices of Dr. Sauer’s research community. Therefore, the data, results, and conclusions in the papers are clearly not reliable. Science is hereby retracting the papers, at the request of University of California, Riverside and Dr. Sauer. The Committee determined that Dr. Sauer was the sole individual responsible for producing the figures.
The 2004 paper has been cited 36 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the 2006 paper has been cited 161 times.
Sauer is still listed as an assistant professor at UC-Riverside, but his email bounced when we contacted him for comment.
According to a Riverside press release about the 2004 paper, he has been at the university since early 2003. He and his colleagues have had funding from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the NIH, and the VolkswagenStiftung. While image manipulation of this sort would certainly trigger an Office of Research Integrity investigation, that agency has a six-year statute of limitations, so the investigation would have had to have been going on for more than two years.