“Conscious fabrication” leads to retraction of diabetes study

diabetcoverDiabetologia has retracted a 2011 meeting abstract from a group in Sweden, indicating that the second author has been found guilty of research misconduct — a charge the scientist denies.

The abstract, “Reduced syntaxin-5 in skeletal muscle of patients with type 2 diabetes is linked to increased diacylglycerol, activation of PKCtheta and impaired insulin signalling,” was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association of the Study of Diabetes. The first author was Kurt Højlund, who now is at the University of Southern Denmark. The second author was Pontus Boström, of the Karolinska Institutet.

According to the notice:

Abstract 59, presented at the 47th Annual Meeting of the EASD in 2011, has been retracted at the request of the Dean of Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Professor Larkö. The University has investigated this case and The Committee on Academic Misconduct finds that Pontus Boström is guilty of misdemeanour with reference to thepoints (1) conscious fabrication, corruption or suppression of basic material, and (2) conscious preparation and presentation of falsified results, and therefore finds reason to believe that scientific misconduct has occurred. The primary finding reported in the abstract—reduced protein levels of syntaxin-5 in diabetic muscle—could not be reproduced.

The paper has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Boström dismissed the investigation:

We have refuted all aspects of this decision which has grounds in an old conflict. The decision is based on two 6 year old, unpublished Excel sheets, and the conclusions after a very biased investigation. Retraction of a old abstract submitted by another group should indicate that this involves science politics more than anything else.

Boström was first author of a controversial 2012 paper in Nature on fat, titled “A PGC1-α-dependent myokine that drives brown-fat-like development of white fat and thermogenesis.”

That article sparked significant discussion on PubPeer, which you can read here, along with an exchange of letters in the journal. Bruce Spiegelman, a Harvard researcher and senior author of the Nature paper, told us:

Boström’s work when he was here was reproduced by people within my lab, both before and after it was published. So we are confident in it.

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