1st retraction for ex-Pitt postdoc who admitted to doctoring data

American Journal of Physiology Renal Phsyiology

A former postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh has issued his first retraction after an investigation by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) concluded he had falsified and/or fabricated data in two published papers.

The ORI investigation into the work of Kenneth Walker, determined that he had

falsified and/or fabricated quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) data to demonstrate a statistically significant or “trend” of statistical difference in the expression of renal or bladder urothelium and muscle developmental markers between control and experimental (mutant) mice, when there was none.

The ORI report said that Walker has agreed to retract or correct a 2013 PLOS ONE paper and a 2015 study published in American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology (AJPRP).

Here’s the first retraction notice, issued by AJPRP:

Fgfr2 is integral for bladder mesenchyme patterning and function. Walker, KA, Ikeda Y, Zabbarova I, Schaefer CM, Bushnell D, De Groat WC, Kanai A, and Bates CM. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 308: F888–F898, 2014. doi:10/1152/ajprenal.00624. 2014.

The Office of Research Integrity, Office of the Secretary, HHS, has reported that the quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) data in Figs. 1E, 4C, 7G, 7J, 8F, and 12A have been falsified and/or fabricated (http://ori.hhs.gov/content/case-summary-walker-kenneth).

Therefore, this article is being retracted by the American Physiological Society in agreement with the authors.

The 2015 paper has been cited once, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

We’ve yet to see a notice for the 2013 PLOS ONE paper, “Deletion of Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 2 from the Peri-Wolffian Duct Stroma Leads to Ureteric Induction Abnormalities and Vesicoureteral Reflux,” which has been cited eight times.

A PLOS ONE spokesperson pointed us to a comment posted under the paper by the journal, which reads:

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the US has “found that Dr. Kenneth Walker, former postdoctoral fellow, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh (UP), engaged in research misconduct … by falsifying and/or fabricating data” in this article. The ORI notes that false qPCR data were reported in Figure 2E. The report is available at http://ori.hhs.gov/conten….

The PLOS ONE editors are following up on the findings by the ORI, in discussion with the Academic Editor and corresponding author.

The ORI investigation also found Walker to have doctored data in another paper submitted to PLOS ONE, which hadn’t been published.

Chris Wilcox, research integrity officer at Pitt, told us earlier this year that he couldn’t comment on the case:

Our policy, which complies with federal laws and regulations, mandates that the University protect the confidentiality of all involved in investigations of alleged misconduct. Proceedings of our investigations are disclosed only as required by regulation, contractual obligation, or law.  For this reason, the University is unable to comment on research integrity cases, and I must abide by that policy.

Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our new daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.

One thought on “1st retraction for ex-Pitt postdoc who admitted to doctoring data”

  1. Unless things have changed, I don’t understand the artful position of the Pitt spokesperson, which seems to conflate witness confidentiality with proceedings of the investigation. At one time In ORI’s findings the institution’s Investigation report was releaseable under FOIA (since the report was referenced in in the PHS finding or in the settlement agreement). “Confidentiality” of complainants and witnesses was protected by redaction. It did take a while for the FOIA office to release the report (most of the delay originated their review and not at ORI), but none the less the institution would know the “proceedings” were potentially discoverable. Maybe there is a difference between public and private institutions, but I hope that opportunity for transparency has not changed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *