Cancer researcher earns 5th retraction after misconduct finding

oncoimmunologyA cancer researcher has logged her fifth retraction following an investigation that concluded she had committed scientific misconduct.

We’ve previously reported on four retractions of papers by Stephanie Watkins, a researcher at Loyola Medicine. The previously issued notices — in The Journal of Clinical Investigation and Cancer Research — note that an investigation committee appointed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found Watkins to be solely responsible for the misconduct, with none of the co-authors aware of it.

The editor of OncoImmunology previously informed us that the journal was investigating another one of Watkins’ papers; the journal has now pulled that paper, citing “fabrication and falsification of data” in the original studies referenced in the paper.

Here’s the retraction notice, published online earlier this year:

We, the Editors and Publisher of OncoImmunology, have removed the following manuscript that was posted online 1 March 2012:

Stephanie K. Watkins & Arthur A. Hurwitz, “FOXO3 A master switch for regulating tolerance and immunity in dendritic cells” DOI: 10.4161/onci.1.2.18241. OncoImmunology.

We are now cognizant of fabrication and falsification of data related to the original studies referenced in the article, as confirmed by a full investigation by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Agency Intramural Research Integrity Officer (AIRIO).

These actions constitute a breach of warranties made by the authors with respect to data accuracy. We note we received, peer-reviewed, accepted, and published the article in good faith based on these warranties, and censure this action.

The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as RETRACTED.

The 2012 study, “FOXO3 A master switch for regulating tolerance and immunity in dendritic cells,” has so far been cited 12 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

Arthur Hurwitz, based at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, is listed as the last author of all four of Watkins’s now-retracted papers.

A spokesperson from Loyola Medicine told us:

Stephanie Watkins, PhD, is a researcher employed by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. She does not provide clinical care to patients.

A commenter on PubPeer has pointed out that another of Watkins’s papers in Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy also cites the now-retracted work. Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg, editor-in-chief of the journal, previously told us:

Our understanding of the situation is that Dr. [Watkins’s] case has gone through the NCI intramural review process, but has not as yet been reviewed by the NIH Office of Research Integrity. Since Dr. [Watkins] refutes the charges, we feel it is only appropriate/fair for her case to receive a full review before we make a decision.

We contacted Ostrand-Rosenberg again after the new retraction, and she told us the journal is still waiting to make a decision on the case.

Two more of Watkins’s papers are also being questioned on PubPeer.

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 emailevery time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.

4 thoughts on “Cancer researcher earns 5th retraction after misconduct finding”

  1. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out if these scientists that have had so many papers retracted still have a job? I’m guessing they still hold high positions in respected universities.

  2. I though it would be interesting to follow up on the above comments because we’re always told that the mild punishment for faking research is justified as the misconduct will be taken very seriously by the community. In this case, the public notices about “Dr” Watkins couldn’t be more frank, they apportion the blame solely to one person, and are the findings of “a full investigation by” the NIH. It’s been a couple of years so I did a quick Google, to find that Watkins has been awarded (very recently) the “Robert S. Birch Award” for her ongoing scientific research.

    So it appears there are no consequences. Who would think that five retractions due to fabrication and falsification, after an investigation that the NIH is willing to put their name to, would have absolutely no impact?? Even awards bodies don’t care.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.