Wayne State neuroscientist fudged images in five papers

Teresita L. Briones
Teresita L. Briones

Teresita Briones, a former nursing professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who studied neuroscience, manipulated images in five papers, according to the Office of Research Integrity.

Briones, who focused on neuroplasticity:

…intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly engaged in research misconduct by falsifying and/or fabricating data that were included in five (5) publications and three (3) grant applications submitted to [the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health].

The scientist, who earned nearly $123,000 from Wayne State in 2014, reused images several times and claimed they represented different experiments, according to the ORI. She’s agreed to be banned from receiving grants from the NIH or other federal agencies, or serving on peer review committees, for three years. She also says she will retract the five publications that contained duplicated images.

Here’s the list of grants and publications affected, including one that was published this February:

None of her papers have been cited more than 50 times. At least one of Briones’ publications has popped up on PubPeer.

We’ve reached out to Briones and Wayne State, and will update if we find out more.

Wayne State is also home to Fazlul Sarkar, who sued PubPeer after anonymous comments alleging his misconduct lost him a job offer at the University of Mississippi.

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7 thoughts on “Wayne State neuroscientist fudged images in five papers”

  1. Just one point of clarification.

    One should not assume that Wayne State is a hotbed of research misconduct based on these two cases.

    Indeed, I think this is pretty good evidence that someone at Wayne State is doing right by misconduct investigations – a better job than many research intensive institutions I suspect.

    I for one will be adding a “chit” for grants and papers reviewed or coming from Wayne State – seems they take research misconduct very seriously.

  2. I hope the person who anonymously reported this to journals is reading this with a smile today.

    FYI, in addition to the 5 papers listed above, there are 2 more originally questioned. It’s not clear why they were not on ORI’s list…
    Acta Neuropathologica Communications 2013, 1: 57. Figure 3, band duplications
    Brain Behav Immun 2014, 35: 23–32. Figure 2, undisclosed splicing

    Echoing the comment above from rfg, the speed at which things appear to have moved here is indeed faster than we have become accustomed to in such matters. Perhaps that’s a good sign that systems are changing (or it may just be due to the simplicity of this case).

  3. The big question is then why no information has been published from Wayne State regarding the many troubled articles by Fazlul Sarkar. Do you call that to be responsible?

  4. The ORI report states: “Specifically, Respondent duplicated, reused, and falsely relabeled Western blot gel images and claimed they represented different experiments in:

    BBR 2015, Figures 2E and 5D
    • JNI 2014, Figures 2A and 2C
    • JNT 2009, Figures 2B and 5
    • JNT 2011, Figure 2
    • NS 2014, Figure 4”

    Please forgive my ignorance, but unless I am looking at the wrong images, each set of Western Blots in these articles looks to me to be different from each other. Would someone who is familiar with this case be kind enough to point to out which specific elements of these figures indicate that they have been reused from one paper to another?

  5. Aha!!!! Indeed, some bands were clearly reused, while others were flipped, rotated or tampered with in some other way.

    Thanks for the heads-up, PPV! And thank YOU, Paul Brooks!

  6. A new paper from Dr. Briones and colleagues was published after this retraction story broke (Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2015 Jun;41(4):544-56. doi: 10.1111/nan.12146.). Figure 1 (Isch Con) in this new paper in Neuropath Appl Neurobiol contains a panel that appears similar to an image used in the retracted paper (Fig. 5 siRNA panel, J Neuroinflammation. 2014 Jan 22;11:13. doi: 10.1186/1742-2094-11-13). The images is cropped and the color is different, but it appears similar. If your paper is retracted, are you then free to spin those images into another story?

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