Nearly two years after a university asked for retractions, two journals have done nothing

How long should a retraction take?

That’s a complex question, of course, depending on how long the alleged issues with a paper take to be investigated, whether authors — and their lawyers — fight tooth-and-nail against a retraction, and other factors. But once a university officially requests a retraction, how long should one take?

The answer, for two journals who published work by cancer researcher Anil Jaiswal, is 22 months — and counting.

More than a year ago, we reported that from August 2016 until February 2017, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, requested 22 retractions of work by Jaiswal, in which they found evidence of inappropriate image manipulation. The university had also recommended that journals retract or correct four additional articles. (Jaiswal transitioned out of research last year; he retired from the university on November 1, 2017, according to a spokesperson.)

By April 2017, Jaiswal had 15 retractions. As of today, he has 16. That’s still shy of the 22 the University of Maryland requested, and it turns out that three journals — Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, and Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, all published by the American Association for Cancer Research — have yet to do anything about seven articles the university requested be retracted. (Readers may recall a recent case in which a journal declined to retract a paper — this one by Paolo Macchiarini and colleagues — despite an institution’s request.)

The University of Maryland, Baltimore’s letter to Cancer Research was dated August 24, 2016, and requested five retractions:

It’s worth noting that all of these papers continued to be cited after August 24, 2016, anywhere from once to seven times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

We asked Chi Dang, the editor of Cancer Research, why the journal still hadn’t taken any action. Dang noted that he did not become editor until January of this year, so “the detailed history of this is beyond me at this time.”

However, I have been informed that several of Dr. Jaiswal’s papers will be retracted while several others are under the jurisdiction of Baylor College, which has been contacted by Cancer Research prior to our making a decision.  Be assured, I treat these issues with great intensity and will dig deep into the issues and mitigate whatever that is needed. Since I have not had a chance to review the issues fully, I cannot tell you why there is a delay in retracting the papers in question other than the communication with Baylor.  We believe that inclusion of the academic institutions in the dialogue is extremely important.

Baylor, however, tells Retraction Watch that the buck stops at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and that Cancer Research did not contact them until June of this year — some 21 months after the date of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, letter. According to a spokesperson:

When Dr. Anil Jaiswal left the employment of Baylor College of Medicine in July 2007, his grants transferred with him to the University of Maryland, along with all data associated with them.

We received an inquiry from Cancer Research on June 12, 2018, outlining concerns about the research associated with these grants. On June 27, 2018, our dean of research, Dr. Adam Kuspa, replied to Cancer Research that the grants had been transferred to the University of Maryland as well as all research materials supported by the two awards. As a result, we are not able to assess whether or not the allegations have substance or to open an inquiry, and he noted that any assessment, inquiry or investigation be conducted through his current awardee institution where these materials would be found.

The University of Maryland also recommended in an August 24, 2016 letter that “Aromatase Inhibitor-Mediated Downregulation of INrf2 (Keap1) Leads to Increased Nrf2 and Resistance in Breast Cancer,” published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, be retracted. It hasn’t been, and has been cited three times since the date of the letter.

And in a February 21, 2017 letter, the university requested that Clinical Cancer Research retract “NRH:quinone oxidoreductase 2-deficient mice are highly susceptible to radiation-induced B-cell lymphomas,” The paper has yet to be retracted, but it has not been cited since February 2017.

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4 thoughts on “Nearly two years after a university asked for retractions, two journals have done nothing”

  1. I am encouraged so far by the responsiveness of Dr. Dang in his editorial role at AACR for the journal Cancer Research. Prior editors did not respond at all to inquiries. Thank you Dr. Dang.

  2. Now, what was this again: ‘…concerns about the research associated with these grants.’ ?
    No longer decisions on the scientific validity of a paper but of who takes the overhead on the grant?

  3. I always use to say that a lot of journals are the first responsible for all the falsifications present in the papers. I have a really solid example for that. More than a year ago, I spotted on a journal a clear duplication in the manuscript. My expression of concern to the editorial board of the journal was ignored many times. I got a reply only from the handling editor which promised that an expression of concern will appear on the journal. Nothing happened and after other emails, editor replied that the paper will not be retracted as well not expression of concern because Karolinska investigation cleared off all the authors (all affiliated to KI). Skipping the fact that any investigation SHOULD BE PERFORMED by an external source and not the one to which the authors belong to, skipping that the try to defend the authors was pathetic and not prooved, I don`t see the reason why the journal can`t retract a paper independently from the investigation as long as they think data were manipulated (and manipulation was evident and also recognized by the handling editor). Truth is that the retraction of a paper is a damage not only for the authors but also for the journal so a lot of expression of concern brings to nothings and a lot of papers with evident data manipulation are out there untouched and uncorrected. Sad but true.

  4. It’s all about money. The scientific value is of lower importance among publishers. This is hard to understand for journals under patient organizations like AACR. One may think that keeping the scholarly record correct would be their first priority due to advantages for scientific progress and benefit for the patients.

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