Second retraction for bone researcher with lifetime funding ban

via WCH
via WCH

A researcher banned from funding by a Canadian agency for misconduct has earned her second retraction, after a reanalysis uncovered problems with the paper’s conclusions.

The retraction follows an investigation by Sophie Jamal‘s former workplace, the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, which has led to a recent retraction of a JAMA paper due to data manipulation, and a lifetime funding ban from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The latest retraction stemmed from a re-analysis of the paper by the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study Group, of which the paper was a part; all authors but Jamal have requested the retraction. In the notice, the authors say that they believe no patients were harmed as a result of the “possibly invalid conclusions” in the paper, which showed patients with kidney problems were at higher risk of bone loss. A researcher told us a third paper by Jamal is also due to be retracted soon.

Here’s the retraction notice, issued by the American Journal of Kidney Diseases (AJKD):

This article has been retracted at the request of coauthors Victoria J.D. Swan, Jacques P. Brown, David A. Hanley, Jerilynn C. Prior, Alexandra Papaioannou, Lisa Langsetmo, and Robert G. Josse, on behalf of the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study Research Group.

Following the finding of “data falsification and/or fabrication” by the first author, Dr Sophie A. Jamal, in an article published in JAMA, 1 thereafter retracted,2 the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study Group (CaMos) conducted an investigation of the CaMos manuscripts for which Dr Jamal was the first or responsible author. Dr Jamal, formerly the Co-Director of the Toronto CaMos Centre, was responsible for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis in this article. Dr David Goltzman, Principal Investigator of CaMos, informed AJKD that the CaMos investigation found inconsistencies in this article that are difficult to reconcile with the CaMos source data; moreover, the investigation determined that the results of the reanalysis do not support the conclusions as originally published. Dr Jamal, who was both first and corresponding author, has declined to provide any comments or further information. Based on the CaMos investigation, Dr Goltzman, on behalf of co-authors Swan, Brown, Hanley, Prior, Papaioannou, Langsetmo, and Josse, contacted AJKD to ask that this article be retracted. Drs Goltzman, Swan, Brown, Hanley, Prior, Papaioannou, Langsetmo, and Josse recognize the seriousness of this issue; apologize unreservedly to the editors, reviewers, and readers of AJKD; and are committed to the integrity of the biomedical literature and believe there is no risk that these possibly invalid conclusions harmed CaMos participants or patients with osteoporosis.

The 2010 study, “Kidney Function and Rate of Bone Loss at the Hip and Spine: The Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study,” has been cited 25 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

Goltzman, Principal Investigator of the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study Research Group, told us another paper by Jamal should also be retracted soon: 

Of the 6 CaMos articles in which Dr. Jamal was first and/or corresponding author, two publications were found to contain serious inconsistencies that are difficult to reconcile with the original data…

Letters of retraction were, therefore, submitted to both journals, Goltzman said. AJKD has printed the retraction notice, but the other journal is yet to do so. When asked which paper is due to be retracted, Goltzman said:

We are awaiting a response from the editorial office of the second journal and will be at liberty to disclose additional information once we have received a response.

As we previously reported, Jamal resigned from her posts at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto and the University of Toronto at the time of the investigation.

Jamal was the first sanctioned researcher to be publicly named by the CIHR in a report released by the agency last month; the agency previously withheld the identity of these researchers, citing confidentiality.

Starting May 4, Jamal is ineligible for federal funding, including from Canada’s two other science funding agencies. She will also have to pay back the cost of her CIHR grants.

Specifically, the CIHR concluded that Jamal

  • manipulated study data with the intention of supporting the underlying hypothesis of research studies;
  • intentionally manipulated electronic datasets and presented them as raw data to investigators;
  • falsely accused a research assistant of having carried out the manipulations;
  • failed to correct the errors once the problems were discovered;
  • shared manipulated rather than primary data with colleagues;
  • deleted records that were to form part of WCH’s forensic investigation;
  • failed to retain research data to a standard appropriate to the discipline; and
  • impeded an institutional investigation.

Jamal’s JAMA paper suggested that an already available nitroglycerin ointment, which is currently used to treat prevent chest pain and treat anal fissure, could also assist postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

In 2012, Jamal received the Dr. Jody Ginsberg Young Investigator Award from The Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

We’d like to give the co-authors of the now-retracted AJKD paper a “doing the right thing” nod for taking a second look at Jamal’s work, and retracting the papers they felt were problematic.

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