That’s the sound of learning that a third scientist you worked with committed misconduct.
In the last two years, we reported on two retractions for neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport, the result of misconduct by two different first authors. We’ve since discovered more retractions resulting from those cases — and a new retraction stemming from the actions of yet another co-author.
Although the latest retraction notice doesn’t reveal the reason for retraction, both the journal editor and Rapoport — based at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — confirmed to us that it is the result of misconduct by the last author, Jagadeesh Rao. According to Rapoport, a “number of retractions [for] Rao are still in the works.”
We asked Rapoport for his reaction to multiple cases of misconduct by his colleagues, including the two first authors we’ve already reported on, Fei Gao and Mireille Basselin:
The misconduct, as I now understand it, was very technical and outside of my areas of expertise. In retrospect, I don’t think I could have spotted the misconduct earlier. Data were presented at internal meetings, when the misconduct was not identified. Basselin and Gao and Rao had PhDs and strong letters of recommendation.
In these days of complex interdisciplinary research, one depends on the trustworthiness of colleagues who use methodologies with which one has no personal experience. I regret missing the falsifications by Dr. Rao…
George Perry, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (JAD), told us he received a request to retract from Rapoport, which noted that Rao had falsified data in the paper that affected some of the figures.
Perry, based at the University of Texas at San Antonio, noted that the request to retract he received from Rapoport said that Rao was solely responsible for the misconduct.
Rapoport explained further:
The misconduct was discovered finally when others in the lab tried to repeat some of the measurements.
Rao performed [molecular] biology measurements on brain extract, Basselin measured enzyme activities of brain extract, and Gao used GC/MS and other analytical techniques for measuring heavy isotope concentrations in rat plasma.
Gao and Basselin had left the NIH by the time the errors were discovered. I don’t know about actions taken. A number of retractions [for] Rao are still in the works. He appears to have made the same mistakes in many of his contributions.
A spokesperson for the NIA sent us this statement:
NIH takes allegations of research misconduct seriously. NIH does not discuss whether or not a research misconduct proceeding is taking place, and does not comment on ongoing or completed proceedings. The HHS Office of Research Integrity (ORI) oversees and directs Public Health Service (PHS) research integrity activities on behalf of HHS. After NIH makes a finding of research misconduct, it informs ORI of the finding. Once it has reported to ORI, NIH may, if necessary, make disclosures under certain conditions to professional journals, research collaborators, and others concerning the NIH finding and the need to correct or retract research results or reports that have been affected by research misconduct. All ORI findings of research misconduct are posted on the HHS Office of Research Integrity website: http://ori.hhs.gov/.
Here’s the JAD‘s brief retraction notice, issued earlier this month:
IOS Press has retracted the following publication from its online content:
[Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 26 (4) (2011), 755-766, DOI: 10.3233/JAD-2011-110002]
Disturbed Neurotransmitter Transporter Expression in Alzheimer’s Disease Brain
Kevin H. Chen, Edmund A. Reese, Hyung-Wook Kim, Stanley I. Rapoport and Jagadeesh S. Rao
Brain Physiology and Metabolism Section, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
The 2011 study, “Disturbed Neurotransmitter Transporter Expression in Alzheimer’s Disease Brain,” has been cited 46 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.
We contacted Rao via three email addresses; the NIA one bounced, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (which is also part of the NIH) email address returned an automated out of office message saying Rao is on “extended leave,” and his NIH email address did not return any message.
We’ve also found five retractions for papers co-authored by Rapoport that we previously missed, all due to the actions of Rapoport’s other co-authors, Fei Gao and Mireille Basselin. Four of the notices cite misconduct by Fei Gao.
In total, Gao’s misconduct has led to five retractions, while the current numbers for Basselin and Rao stand at two and one, respectively.
First, here’s the retraction notice for three papers pulled by Rapoport in the Journal of Lipid Research (JLR) in May, 2014:
The following three articles were withdrawn by Dr. Stanley Rapoport after an investigation by the National Institute of Health found that Dr. Fei Gao engaged in research misconduct by fabricating and/or falsifying data in this article. Please note that none of the other authors were implicated in any way.
Whole-body synthesis-secretion rates of long-chain n-3 PUFAs from circulating unesterified α-linolenic acid in unanesthetized rats. J. Lipid Res. 2009. 50: 749–758. Fei Gao, Dale Kiesewetter, Lisa Chang, Kaizong Ma, Jane M. Bell, Stanley I. Rapoport, and Miki Igarashi.
Quantifying conversion of linoleic to arachidonic and other n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in unanesthetized rats. J. Lipid Res. 2010. 51: 2940–2946. Fei Gao, Dale Kiesewetter, Lisa Chang, Stanley I. Rapoport, and Miki Igarashi.
Whole-body synthesis secretion of docosahexaenoic acid from circulating eicosapentaenoic acid in unanesthetized rats. J. Lipid Res. 2009. 50: 2463–2470. Fei Gao, Dale Kiesewetter, Lisa Chang, Kaizong Ma, Stanley I. Rapoport, and Miki Igarashi.
Here are more details of the three retracted JLR papers:
- “Whole-body synthesis-secretion rates of long-chain n-3 PUFAs from circulating unesterified alpha-linolenic acid in unanesthetized rats,” published in 2009, cited 31 times.
- “Quantifying conversion of linoleic to arachidonic and other n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in unanesthetized rats,” 2010 paper, cited eight times.
- “Whole-body synthesis secretion of docosahexaenoic acid from circulating eicosapentaenoic acid in unanesthetized rats,” 2009 paper, 15 citations.
Next is a retraction notice issued in February last year in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids — again, citing misconduct by Gao:
This article has been retracted at the request of the authors. An investigation conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that the author Dr. Fei Gao engaged in research misconduct by fabricating and/or falsifying data in Figs. 2–4 and Table 2. Therefore Dr Gao’s co-authors requested full retraction. Please note that none of the other authors were implicated in any way.
The 2011 study, “Liver conversion of docosahexaenoic and arachidonic acids from their 18-carbon precursors in rats on a DHA-free but α-LNA-containing n−3 PUFA adequate diet,” has accumulated 12 citations.
Finally, here’s a retraction notice published in August, 2015 in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism — this time mentioning misconduct by Basselin:
This article has been retracted by the Editors in Chief at the request of the author Stanley I Rapoport following the finding of the National Institutes of Health that Dr Mireille Basselin engaged in research misconduct by fabricating data in Figure 4A–C and Figure 5B. None of the other authors are implicated in any way.
The 2010 study, “Imaging upregulated brain arachidonic acid metabolism in HIV-1 transgenic rats,” has garnered 26 citations.
Regarding Rao, Rapoport added:
I do not have access to the NIH investigation report, the details of Dr. Rao’s falsifications, or to issues about any action taken against Dr. Rao by the NIH.
We weren’t able to find current contact details for Rao, Gao, or Basselin.
We asked Rapoport for Rao’s current contact details, more details on Rao’s upcoming retractions, and whether Gao or Basselin have any more retractions pending. He told us:
I don’t have them. I don’t have much more to say on this unfortunate situation.
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