Authors who lost paper linking fecal transplants to obesity have another retracted

International Journal of ObesityAn obesity journal has retracted a study by authors who previously lost another paper that suggested a link between the fecal microbiome and obesity.

We first came across on the now-retracted paper in the International Journal of Obesity (IJO) in April when we reported on the authors’ other retraction in Diabetes. The 2014 paper had a corrigendum, published the same year, and also for image-related issues. Since then, however, the journal has pulled the IJO paper and its associated corrigendum at the request of the French National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA) in Paris.

The Diabetes and IJO papers have five authors in common: Frank Duca, Yassine Sakar, Fabienne Devime, Bénédicte Langelier and Mihai Covasa. An investigation at INRA led to the retraction of the Diabetes paper after the institution discovered that Sakar had falsified data used to produce some of its figures. At the time, an INRA official told us that he thought that some responsibility for the Diabetes retraction must be shared by Covasa, the corresponding author.

The IJO retraction notice also cites an investigation at INRA, but does not make it clear who was responsible for manipulating the figures:

At the request of the INRA, and following an external investigation, the Editors and Publisher have agreed to retract this paper owing to image manipulation.

FA Duca, B Langelier, F Devime, H Blottiere, C Delorme, P Renault and M Covasa agree to the retraction of this paper; M Covasa, however, does not agree to the language of this retraction notice. Y Sakar could not be reached to comment on the retraction.

The corrigendum associated with this article, doi:10.1038/ijo.2014.54 has also been retracted.

And here’s the now-retracted corrigendum to the paper:

The original version of this article contained some errors in the figures. In Figure 1b, the x-axis labels ‘Visceral’ and ‘Epididymal’ were transposed. In Figure 2c, the second western blot image on the right was inverted and the images for Pax6, FOXA1 and CRIF1 were incorrectly represented. In Figure 2d, the blot image for FOXA2 was incorrectly represented. In Figure 3 a typographical error was introduced to the scale on the y-axis. In Figure 5b the blot images for PYY in the small intestine and colon and for secretin in the small intestine were incorrectly represented.

The corrected article appears in this issue and the html and online pdf versions have also been amended.

The paper, “Impact of high-fat feeding on basic helix–loop–helix transcription factors controlling enteroendocrine cell differentiation,” has so far been cited eight times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science. Its corrigendum has been cited once. 

Olivier Le Gall, deputy director general for scientific affairs at INRA, told us:

INRA’s policy is not to enter the authors-editor-publisher ecosystem and/or comment [on] it. However this time INRA had to facilitate discussion between the editor and non-corresponding authors, because most authors felt that the corresponding author was not acting promptly towards retraction.

He added:

Retraction was recommended when the investigation evidenced further improper figure preparation in the corrigendum. After its facilitating role was accomplished, INRA left it to the publisher, the editor, the authors and the corresponding author to come to a decision on retraction and finally write the terms of the retraction notice.

In February 2014, Sakar left INRA. Covasa resigned his post there in August 2015, and moved to the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. We weren’t able to trace Sakar, but have reached out to Covasa for a comment.

Regarding the IJO paper, Le Gall previously said:

…the current status of this article is that it was the subject of a corrigendum in November 2014 and, before this, an erratum in April 2014 (with the same DOI as the corrigendum) so the current online version is actually the 3rd one.

We’ve reached to the publisher of IJO, Springer Nature, for details of the external investigation, and will update this post with anything else we learn.

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