Sun sets on Sun Yat-sen University cell bio paper

j cell scienceResearchers at Sun Yat-sen University in China have lost a paper in the Journal of Cell Science for “inappropriate figure manipulations,” which they blame entirely on the first author.

According to the notice, three figures were “inappropriately modified” — cells or nuclei were moved, and the edges of cell images were trimmed. The researchers place the responsibility on first author Liping Chen, claiming that “her co-authors were completely unaware.”

The modifications didn’t affect the conclusions, the note says, but after an investigation by Sun Yat-sen University, the journal decided to retract the paper. Liping Chen says she “regrets the inappropriate figure manipulations,” according to the note.

Here’s the notice for “The role of specific PP2A complexes in the dephosphorylation of γH2AX”, published online September 18, 2014:

The authors wish to retract the above online paper. After it was brought to our attention by Journal of Cell Science, we identified that the data presented in Fig. 1C, Fig. 2D and Fig. 4A in the manuscript were inappropriately modified with cells and/or nuclei primarily moved within the presented fields, accompanied by trimming of the edges of cells. These manipulations are in breach of the image manipulation policy of Journal of Cell Science. Although these modifications were not found to affect the conclusions drawn from the original data, after re-examination of the raw data and recalculation of the values by an internal panel appointed by the institutional Office of Research Integrity, we decided to retract this article. L.C. regrets the inappropriate figure manipulations, of which her co-authors were completely unaware.

We sincerely apologise to the scientific community for adverse consequences resulting from the publication of these data.

Executive Editor Sharon Ahmad gave us more details:

Our routine in-house checks of the images (which we do [to] all accepted papers) alerted us to potential problems. We first contacted the authors, and then referred the matter to the institutional Office of Research Integrity. We retracted the article on their recommendation following their investigation.

The text of the article is available under the Supplementary Material link. It was a bit awkward as the article was on our Advance Online Articles page but not published in an issue, so we thought this was the best solution.

We were unable to find contact information for Liping Chen, but we reached out to last author Wen Chen, as well as a spokesperson for the university, and will update if we hear back.

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One thought on “Sun sets on Sun Yat-sen University cell bio paper”

  1. “Our routine in-house checks of the images (which we do [to] all accepted papers) alerted us to potential problems.”
    Is this true, such technology is not science fiction anymore?? Please, please somebody urgently inform Nature Publishing Group and Cell Press, they were probably waiting for this technological leap for ages!

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