List of retractions, corrections grows for Duke researchers

cov200hDuke researcher Michael Foster and his former co-author Erin Potts-Kant are adding to their notice count with a major correction from late last year to a paper on how certain cells in mice respond to a pneumonia infection, citing “potential discrepancies in the data.”

The correction is actually a partial retraction: The note explains that parts of three figures should be discounted.

We’ve also recently unearthed multiple corrections and two retractions from the pair that we missed from earlier in 2015.

After questions about the data in the corrected paper arose, the authors were able to replicate most of the experiments in the paper, according to the note. But since the paper was published, the senior author passed away, closing her lab, so they couldn’t repeat all of the work.

Here’s the correction notice for “Mast cell TNF receptors regulate responses to Mycoplasma pneumoniae in surfactant protein A (SP-A)−/− mice,” published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology:

To the Editor:

Regarding our article published in the Journal in 2012, we have recently become aware of potential discrepancies in the data obtained from the pulmonary function laboratory used to calculate the average resistance results on the flexiVent (SCIREQ, Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and the machine-generated raw data. Therefore we proceeded to investigate the work product we received from the laboratory over the last several years. When we compared the raw data produced by the apparatus (flexiVent) used to perform the pulmonary function tests in the collaborating laboratory with the data that were provided to our laboratory and ultimately published, we found that although the results led to the same conclusion, as previously published, the SE was greater than published, and we could not verify that the mice were alive during the duration of the methacholine challenge.

With the passing of the senior author, Dr Jo Rae Wright, the double-knockout mice used for these experiments were killed when her laboratory was closed. Therefore we are unable to repeat these experiments fully. However, we have recently repeated the original experiments in wild-type and surfactant protein A knockout mice that were used as control animals for the double-knockout mice. Unfortunately, we were unable to verify that surfactant protein A knockout mice have greater airway hyperresponsiveness compared with wild-type mice when infected with Mycoplasma pneumoniae. On the basis of the results of this re-experimentation and our inability to repeat the experiments with the double-knockout mice, we would like to correct our article by excluding the findings presented in Figs 3, A and B; 4, C; and 6, A, because we believe the flexiVent data are unreliable. We are confident that the other data we reported are valid because they were collected and analyzed independently of the pulmonary mechanics data. We apologize to our colleagues and the scientific community for any inconvenience this might have caused.

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

We’ve also unearthed a few older corrections, expressions of concerns, and retractions for the pair that we’d previously missed.

First, the retractions: “Mast cells mediate hyperoxia-induced airway hyperreactivity in newborn rats published” in Pediatric Research was retracted in July; it’s been cited seven times. Here’s the note, which wasn’t signed off by Potts-Kant (she couldn’t be reached):

The authors wish to retract this article after discovering that the main finding, the effects of cromolyn on hyperoxia-induced airway hyperreactivity, reported in Figure 2 of the article, is not reliable. The authors have repeated the exposure of newborn rats to hyperoxia and found that hyperoxia did not increase methacholine-provoked airway resistance.

E.D.S., S.N.M., W.M.F., and R.L.A. agree to this Retraction. E.N.P. could not be reached to comment on the Retraction.

The authors regret any inconvenience caused to the journal and the research community.

And here’s a retraction for “S-nitrosoglutathione supplementation to ovalbumin-sensitized and -challenged mice ameliorates methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction,” pulled from American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology in May; the paper has been cited 11 times:

After publication the authors became aware that the primary data used to calculate the in vivo pulmonary mechanics results were inconsistent with the flexiVent machine-generated raw data, making the data presented in Figs. 1B, 1C, 2B, and 2C unreliable. Moreover, multiplex data presented in Fig. 4 did not match machine-generated raw data, making this data also unreliable.

One of the main experiments, presented in Fig. 2B, was repeated; while the authors found that aerosolized GSNO (10 mM) reduces total airway resistance, it was not significant to the degree demonstrated in the article.

The authors are confident that the other data (Figs. 1A, 2D, 2A, 2D, 3) remain valid. However, since the main finding has not been reproduced by Drs. Que, M. W. Foster, Yang, and W. M. Foster’s additional work, the authors have requested retraction of the publication. The authors apologize to the scientific community for any loss of time and resources caused by this publication.

Here are the other notices we’ve found for the pair from last year:

And here are three even older corrections that we missed for just Foster:

By our count, Potts-Kant has issued 10 retractions, four corrections and four expressions of concern — one of which became a retraction — and now, a partial correction retraction. Foster’s total is nine retractions, two partial retractions, six corrections, and three expressions of concern.

Doug Stokke, Vice President of Duke Medicine Marketing & Communications, told us:

We are taking this situation very seriously and have been actively evaluating a very large volume of data for some time now.  Our evaluation is focused largely on the work product of a technician formerly employed in the animal pulmonary physiology laboratory at Duke.

We asked Stokke if the technician he mentioned was Potts-Kant:

What I sent along is the extent of our response.

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One thought on “List of retractions, corrections grows for Duke researchers”

  1. I work for an organisation that uses animals in research and I am involved in many discussions about the importance of animal research, however stories like this really disgust me. Academic misconduct that results in wasted animals should be considered far more severely than misconduct that simply wastes money or other resources. Grave as those instances are, the use of animals in research is a privilege and should not be undertaken lightly or frivolously. In the UK the law provides for criminal proesecution of researchers who grossly deviate from the terms of their license for animal research, I would hope that such instances of academic misconduct might be considered serious enough for such prosecution.

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