The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has ruled in a case we’ve been following for nearly two years — and which seems to have been launched after Retraction Watch readers took a careful look at figures from what appeared to be an unrelated case.
Takao Takahashi and Makato Suzuki, both former postdocs at a cancer research center at UT-Southwestern, both “knowingly, intentionally, and recklessly falsified data” in a total of 10 papers, according to the ORI. Takahashi, now at Gifu University in Japan, was responsible for fakery in four papers, while Suzuki, now at Kumamoto University Hospital, also in Japan, falsified data in six.
…the papers came to the attention of UT officials when a figure turned up in the work of a Spanish investigator named José Román-Gómez, whom we covered back in April  (see this comment from “amw” putting some pieces together). According to Gazdar, investigators identified problems with the plagiarized image — problems which prompted him to conduct his own inquiry.
As we reported then:
Gazdar said he eventually reviewed nearly 20 papers, identifying five that had suspect images. Takao Takahashi — the first author on the two retracted articles listed above, who now works in Japan — accepted “sole responsibility” for four of the articles, Gazdar said, but refused to do so for a fifth. Another former post-doc “accepted responsibility” for the last paper, Gazdar said. Neither researcher has acknowledged wrongdoing.
We’ve now reported on a total of nine retractions and one expression of concern from Gazdar’s lab. The list of ten papers in the two ORI reports is not exactly the same as the ten papers we’re reported on, so we imagine there will be at least one more retraction.
Both Takahashi and Suzuki, the ORI reports:
falsified data representing glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) loading controls and methylated/unmethylated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) gel panels.
Both researchers agreed to have any federally funded research supervised for three years, and that they would not serve on any NIH peer review committees for the same period of time.
This is the second time in a month that we’ve been reminded of the critical role Retraction Watch commenters can play in uncovering research misconduct. As Margaret Munro of Canada’s PostMedia reported last week about what happened after we noted one retraction by Cory Toth, who now has nine:
Outside observers were, however, more thorough than the faculty in assessing the problems with Toth’s studies. Subsequently, Retraction Watch identified other questionable data’ and a complaint triggered a university ‘Committee of Investigation’ process…