Authors use same images in two studies — one is retracted, the other flagged by journal

After researchers in China included the same images in two papers published online one month apart, one paper has been retracted, and the other flagged with an expression of concern. 

According to the retraction notice in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine (IJMM), the authors intended that the two different papers offered “different research perspectives.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese Medical Journal — which published the same images one month later — has issued an expression of concern (EOC), noting it “should not be considered as a statement regarding the validity of the work.” Both papers describe how cells regulate blood flow to the retina.

Normally, journals choose to retract the most recent paper containing duplicated images, but in this case, the IJMM paper was published online in February 2016, and the Chinese Medical Journal in March.

Here’s the retraction notice:

Following the publication of this article, it was brought to our attention that five of the Figures contained in this study were published entirely, or in part, in the following publication, on which several of us were co-authors: Han S, Kong YC, Sun B, Han QH, Chen Y and Wang YC: microRNA-218 inhibits oxygen-induced retinal neovascularization via reducing the expression of roundabout 1. Chin Med J (Engl) 129: 709-715, 2016. While we had intended that these papers offered different research perspectives, we were reminded of the fact that, in submitting the article to International Journal of Molecular Medicine, the work described therein was required to be “original research that has not been published previously, and is not under consideration for publication elsewhere, in whole or in part”. Therefore, owing to the redundancy in the data between these publications, the above paper is to be retracted. All the authors have agreed to the retraction. We sincerely apologize for our misunderstanding, and deeply regret any inconvenience this mistake has caused.[the original article was published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine 37: 1139-1145, 2016; DOI: 10.3892/ijmm.2016.2511]

Here’s the expression of concern for the paper in the Chinese Medical Journal:

Concern has been raised with regard to some of the data of the Chinese Medical Journal article titled, “microRNA-218 Inhibits Oxygen-induced Retinal Neovascularization via Reducing the Expression of Roundabout 1,” published in pages 709-715, issue 6, vol. 129, 2016.[1] These data were redundant with another article published in Int J Mol Med 37: 1139-1145, 2016; doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2016.2511, which had been retracted.

This Expression of Concern should not be considered as a statement regarding the validity of the work, but rather as a notification to readers.

Both papers  — the IJMM paper “Slit-miR-218-Robo axis regulates retinal neovascularization” and the Chinese Medical Journal paper, “microRNA-218 Inhibits Oxygen-induced Retinal Neovascularization via Reducing the Expression of Roundabout 1″ — contain exactly the same authors (but in a different order), all based at Tianjin Eye Hospital (part of Tianjin Medical University) in Heping, China.

We’ve reached out to Yichun Kong, corresponding author of both papers, to ask why the authors decided to retract the IJMM paper rather than the later one in the Chinese Medical JournalWe’ve also contacted both journals for further clarifications, and will update the post with anything else we learn.

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