Former UAB natural products researcher up to a dozen retractions

Santosh Katiyar

A researcher who studied natural products for cancer at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), had six papers retracted last month, bringing him to a total of 12.

Four of the recently retracted papers by Santosh Katiyar had appeared in PLOS ONE, and two had been published in Cancer Research. They have together been cited more than 250 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and are on subjects including compounds found in grape seeds and green tea.

Here’s an example, from PLOS ONE, for “Green Tea Catechins Reduce Invasive Potential of Human Melanoma Cells by Targeting COX-2, PGE2 Receptors and Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition:”

Following publication of this article [1], concerns were raised about similarities involving two figure panels.

The second and third panels in Fig 5D (Cay10580, 0.1 μM and 1.0 μM panels) are similar. The University of Alabama at Birmingham confirmed that the original data and records needed to clarify the conditions represented in these two panels are not available. Thus, the quantification data shown in the accompanying bar graph, and the conclusion regarding a concentration-dependent effects of Cay10580 on cell migration, are not supported.

Fig 2A (Hs294t, 10 μg/ml EGCG) in [1] is similar to Fig 1B (Hs294, 0 μM Berberine) in [2], even though the panel in question is used to represent different experimental conditions in the two articles. The University of Alabama at Birmingham confirmed that original data and records are not available to clarify the identity of the cells and treatment conditions in the reported experiments. The Carcinogenesis article [2] was retracted in 2018 [3].

Following a joint investigation by the Birmingham VA Medical Center and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the institutions requested retraction of this article, as the conclusions could not be supported by available data. In line with the institutions’ recommendation, PLOS ONE Editors retract this article based upon the unavailability of original data and records and the ambiguous identification of samples and treatments.

The authors did not comment on the retraction decision.

And here’s one from Cancer Research, for “Interleukin-12 Deficiency Is Permissive for Angiogenesis in UV Radiation-Induced Skin Tumors:”

This article (1) has been retracted at the request of the editors. Following a joint institutional investigation by the Birmingham VA Medical Center and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the primary affiliations for several of the authors, it was determined that the images for both the wild-type and IL-12 knockout controls originated from the same source and are not from mice with different genotypes in Fig. 4. In addition, the same β-actin Western blot image was used to represent results from different experiments in Figs. 3D and 5B. The original research records related to the figures were not available during the review. Therefore, the institutions were not able to determine which of the published images are correct and recommended retraction; upon internal review, the editors agreed with this recommendation.

A copy of this Retraction Notice was sent to the last known e-mail addresses for all four authors. One author (S. Katiyar) agreed to the retraction; two authors (S.M. Meeran and S.K. Katiyar) did not agree to the retraction; the remaining author (C.A. Elmets) did not respond.

As we reported in May, Katiyar left UAB last year after an investigation that resulted in the university and the Birmingham VA Medical Center requesting 20 retractions. According to the investigation report, which we obtained through a public records request, some of the evidence of image manipulation came from comments on a 2012 Retraction Watch post about an earlier Katiyar retraction.

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2 thoughts on “Former UAB natural products researcher up to a dozen retractions”

  1. “There’s a consistent pattern of image falsification and reuse from my lab for over a decade, on papers with no author in common but me. But it’s totally the fault of my co-authors! Really!” — my summary of the PI’s statement in his defense.

    There’s a profile that a lot of the fraudsters fit. Blame everything on other people. Deflect blame from oneself. Never reflect on mistakes, never admit mistakes, never correct mistakes unless forced.

    Why do we allow so many people with that personality pattern to advance in science in the first place? Why don’t we notice when they are graduate students? I fear it’s because such people are often superficially productive and successful, and we trade integrity for success. Yeah, my student’s a bit dishonest, but s/he has two first-author papers in big journals! Surely the little personality flaws will smooth out with experience…. And then decades later, this is what you get.

    1. Dr. Kuhner:
      These are important insights you’ve shared, and I believe you have identified key issues in many cases of research misconduct.

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