COPD paper in JCI retracted following PubPeer critiques

jciA 2011 paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation whose PubPeer entry we highlighted in September has been retracted.

Here’s the notice for “Denitrosylation of HDAC2 by targeting Nrf2 restores glucocorticosteroid sensitivity in macrophages from COPD patients,” a 2011 paper by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Imperial College:

The JCI, with the agreement of the corresponding authors and coauthors, is retracting the article “Denitrosylation of HDAC2 by targeting Nrf2 restores glucocorticosteroid sensitivity in macrophages from COPD patients.” The IP: streptavidin/IB: anti-HDAC2 immunoblot panel in Figure 3B was recently identified as an inverted image of the right four lanes of the anti-H4 acetyl CHIP gel presented in Figure 2A. Additionally, the IP: anti-streptavidin/IB: anti-DDK immunoblot presented in Supplemental Figure 3A was identified as an inverted image of the left four lanes of the anti-H4 acetyl CHIP gel presented in Figure 2A. Further, in Figure 9B, the incorrect anti-HDAC2 immunoblot was presented. The authors sincerely apologize for any misinterpretation of the data as a result of these errors.

Among other issues, PubPeer commenters had pointed out, consistent with the notice, that:

Figure 2A (top panel, right part (CSC)) is the same figure as shown in Fig 3B top panel.

The paper has been cited 43 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

The second-to-last author of the paper, Peter Barnes, was at one point one of the 50 most highly-cited scientists in the world. He retracted four papers in 2011 because of data concerns. Those papers’ first author was Edward Erin, an allergy researcher who, in addition to scientific misconduct, was convicted in 2009 of trying to poison a mistress in order to induce an abortion. Other papers involving Erin and Barnes were later cleared.

10 thoughts on “COPD paper in JCI retracted following PubPeer critiques”

  1. That last sentence reads a bit awkward; in particular that last part appears a bit disconnected.

    Also, is there any investigation ongoing into those “errors”? I can imagine putting in the wrong picture, but inverted pictures?

    1. Separated into two sentences, thanks. We were just trying to explain that there was more context to the earlier retractions.

  2. That Edward Erin sounds like an ethically-challenged kind of guy. “Poisoned” his mistress trying to induce an abortion? And convicted of same. Not the kind of lab partner you’d like, least of all because of his abuse of a woman.
    Of course, there but for the grace of Heaven go I.

  3. “The authors sincerely apologize for any misinterpretation of the data as a result of these errors.” How do scientists accidentally invert four lanes in two separate figures? Were they drunk when they were assembling the figures?

  4. “PPPR for every single article” That is exactly what is going to start in 2015 or 2016 for the plant sciences and is in the preparative stage now, with blueprints being established and different models tested. One paper at a time, one journal at a time, one publisher at a time. All errors exposed, all misconduct exposed by authors, all crooked editors exposed and all crooked publishers exposed. It’s time for mass extermination of the fraud. Contact me, JL. SAJ – PPPR needs cross-disciplinary coordination.

    1. Do you think that we should also consider that in the future one should publish without refereeing, in open access, web-only Journals? This sounds to me like a step towards open society of scientists where all ideas and results are aired and one´s peers do the job of dissecting the interesting/good/honest work.

  5. It seems that high profile scientists are the only ones whose publications are being reviewed, while publications of authors with less impact do not attract any review!

  6. Aceil, take a look at an increasing number of examples here* that will disprove your second comment. What that will begin to show is that the line between upper strate and lower strata, which I can only assume you are drawing based on the impact factor, because no other quantifiable measure exists on this planet, is starting to disappear. Evidently, the low-end journals and the bottom-end feeders are going to have less quality control, but we have to be as strict with those as the top as we are with those at the bottom. In plant science, there is an increasingly underground collective effort to show that problems exist at all levels, and that none should be spared. That should be an answer to your first question. A resounding yes, and that is why, despite my criticisms of Beall and/or his blog**, I continue to support his blog because it is the only one that is drawing open, raw and critical analysis of the open access movement (unlike the more market-driven analysis by The Scholarly Kitchen, for example). But who does all the work and analysis? This is the problem and Achille’s heel at the moment.

    As for Toby’s question, my personal opinion is that having a web-only version is dangerous. Because in 10 or 20 years from now, with the internet power strggle now taking place, there is absolutely no guarantee that online will be a safe, or reliable, medium in the future. I have always advocated that a hard copy, in real paper, should exist for everything, and that there should be some global archival system for that. Thus, if such a system existed, to be truly “green”, literally considering the environmental impact of every page published, that would require quality control systems in place to screen what should be published from what should not. That then becomes a complex issue, because, as a wild example, a professor from Harvard Medical School or from a medical school in rural Indonesia would then hypotheically be in the same selection pool. So, we can see how inherent cultural bias would work there. So, this is not a practical solution. I have suggested some multiple solutions here ***. However, I should say that just putting work on the internet without having it first screened, checked, or vetted by at least some peers is dangerous, and that is why there has to be a three-tier process: pre-, traditional and post-publication peer review, to achieve near perfection. Anything less than this is imperfect and is going to be subject to a wave of corrections, errata, and retractions in the future. That awakening has only truly begun, I believe, in the past 2-3 years, and it’s going to get really ugly, partly because publishers were most likely never expecting this to take place. That is why Google Scholar is a mess****.

    And that is why this is truly a wonderfully revolutionary time in science. It is our time to revolutionaize the system that has been under the control of the powerful STM publishers for literally centuries.


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