1st retraction for researcher who lost whistleblower lawsuit


A researcher who was dismissed from Wayne State University — then lost a whistleblower lawsuit against it — has logged his first retraction.

In 2012, after Christian Kreipke was dismissed from Wayne State, he filed a lawsuit, alleging that the institution had defrauded the U.S. government of $169 million in research funding. A judge dismissed the case in 2014, noting Kreipke cited “no specific facts,” and as a public university, Wayne State had immunity as an “arm of the state.”

The university’s president has said Kreipke was fired due to misconduct — not his whistleblowing, according to Courthouse News Service

Now, a retraction has appeared for Kreipke in Microvascular Research, citing discrepancies between the original data and what was reported in the paper. 

Here’s the retraction notice:

This article was retracted following an investigation by Wayne State University into the research activities of the first author. The investigation identified a discrepancy between the data reported in the article and the original collected data. The investigation committee concluded that this undermined the scientific basis of the publication, that no credible replacement data were available, and advised that the publication should be retracted.

The 2006 paper, “Calponin and caldesmon cellular domains in reacting microvessels following traumatic brain injury,” has so far been cited 15 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

In his lawsuit, Kreipke alleged Wayne State had boosted its grant funding by declaring higher salaries for employees, exaggerating time spent on grant applications, and spending non-permissible federal funds on equipment, amongst other claims.

In 2014, a judge dismissed the case:

Throughout the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges very generally that the “Defendants” engaged in fraudulent activity. Such blanket references are insufficient…

Kreipke’s attorney, Shereef Akeel, told us the retraction is a “small snapshot” of retaliation from Wayne State to Kreipke’s whistleblowing activity:

My client is disappointed that neither the Managing Editor of the Journal nor anyone at Elsevier ever bothered to investigate the highly unusual circumstances surrounding the request by the Associate VP of Research at Wayne State to retract this paper. Had they reached out to our client, this retraction likely would not have happened.

An Elsevier spokesperson confirmed the journal didn’t investigate, and admitted that the journal did not reach out to Kreipke: 

While informing the authors of an upcoming retraction is a standard procedure, unfortunately the step seems to have been overlooked in this case.

Kreipke told us Wayne State asked to retract two more of his papers in Neurological Research, detailed below:

According to Kreipke, the journal decided against the retractions; an email to Kreipke on August 19, 2014, from an official at the journal’s publisher, Maney Publishing — which has since been acquired by Taylor and Francis — that Kreipke forwarded to Retraction Watch, says:

Without any available evidence against your articles, we have notified the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center that we cannot take any further action at this time.

An official from Taylor and Francis was unable to confirm the authenticity of the emails forwarded by Kreipke, but said the journal will look into the matter.

In 2013, Neurological Research issued corrigenda for both of Kreipke’s papers, which read:

In the course of reviewing two manuscripts that were published in 2010 and 2011 two errors have been uncovered (one in each publication) involving FluoroJade data which were made inadvertently by the laboratory staff. However, while these errors pertain to two figures, the correct figures in no way alter the validity or interpretation of the results. See below for the correct figures. In all cases the figures are FJ stained cells in layers II–III of the cerebral cortex.

Wayne State declined to comment, citing “active litigation” with Kreipke. When questioned about the situation with Kreipke’s papers, a spokesperson said:

…we do not control what an editor may or may not do…

According to Akeel:

The main alleged finding was that Dr, Krieipke inserted false figures and images.  This finding was significantly flawed as 1)  he was not even responsible for making the figures and graphs,  2) the person that was responsible actually admitted as to the authorship of this figures and he was never pursued, and 3) the issues regarding images and graphs did not even affect the actual scientific findings.

Akeel added:

…unfortunately WSU has escaped accountability regarding our client’s allegations of research fraud. WSU is attempting to hide behind the eleventh amendment protections by claiming immunity from suit.

Akeel noted that he has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court:

This concept is currently pending cert in front of the Supreme Court of the United States who will, ultimately, be tasked to determine whether or not Universities can escape any accountability by hiding behind 11th amendment of the U.S. Constitution to avoid scrutiny.

Wayne State has been in the news for other reasons lately: It’s the institution of Fazlul Sarkar, the researcher who sued PubPeer commenters for criticizing his work, but now has 18 retractions, 10 corrections, and a spot on our leaderboard.

We’ll update the post with anything else we learn.

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5 thoughts on “1st retraction for researcher who lost whistleblower lawsuit”

  1. Another example of a qui tam law suit being a waste of time. There has got to be a better way. Read my book: Hidden Data:The Blind Eye of Science. It is for sale on Amazon and can be down-loaded from Kindle for a nominal fee.

  2. What doesn’t seem to be covered in the journal’s rationale for not retracting the papers is that Figure 2 in the 2011 paper (systolic blood pressure) is identical to Figure 4B in the 2010 paper, despite the caption that different drugs were used.

  3. The Kreipke story came to mind tonight. Has anyone heard whether the ORI has released a decision yet? Seems like nearly a year has passed since his case against them went to trial.

    On another note: in the story above, Kreipke reportedly indicated that Wayne State asked for retraction of two papers but the journal declined to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. There seems to be a disconnect there; or am I missing something?

    Lastly, I believe those two papers referenced in the story have indeed been retracted. So, if anyone was using the journal’s refusal to retract as evidence of innocence, that inference will have to be re-thought.

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