Four retractions follow misconduct inquiry at U Maryland

via Wikimedia

The Journal of Virology has retracted three papers, and corrected two others, by a group led by a researcher at the University of Maryland, for problematic images. 

The articles, published in 2008 and 2014, describe experiments to assess the immune response to Newcastle disease virus in various animal species.  The studies were led by Siba K. Samal, a molecular biologist at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland, in College Park.

The retractions make four for Samal, who also lost a 2015 paper in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, “Glycoprotein-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for serodiagnosis of infectious laryngotracheitis,” and whose work has been scrutinized on PubPeer for more than four years. The notice for that paper reads: 

Page 1729, Fig. 2A: It has been called to our attention that lanes 1 and 2 are duplicated. Unfortunately, the laboratory no longer has the samples to validate the published figure. Since we cannot perform the experiment, we retract this paper.

The trio of retractions from the Journal of Virology includes the 2011 article, “Evaluation of the Newcastle disease virus F and HN proteins in protective immunity by using a recombinant avian paramyxovirus type 3 vector in chickens.” According to the retraction notice

It has been called to our attention that in Fig. 6C, lanes 4 and 10 (top blot) and lanes 9 and 10 (bottom blot) are duplicates. Since the samples used for this figure are no longer available, we are taking responsibility for the mistakes and retracting the paper.

Here’s the notice for “Newcastle disease virus vector producing human norovirus-like particles induces serum, cellular, and mucosal immune responses in mice,” which appeared in 2014: 

It has been called to our attention that some lanes of Fig. 1B and 3 have used the wrong samples. Due to the time that has elapsed, the monoclonal antibody that was used for our experiment is no longer available. We are taking responsibility for the mistakes and retracting the paper.

The last retraction involves the 2011 paper “Newcastle disease virus expressing human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope glycoprotein induces strong mucosal and serum antibody responses in guinea pigs.” However, in this case, one of the authors, Sunil K. Khattar, also of U. Maryland, dissented: 

It has been called to our attention that some lanes of Fig. 3, 5, and 10 have used the wrong samples. These mistakes happened during the assembly of the figures. We are taking responsibility for the mistakes and retracting the paper. S.K.K. did not agree to the retraction.

The three Journal of Virology papers have been cited more than 90 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

We emailed Khattar, also a researcher at the University of Maryland, for comment but did not receive a reply. We emailed Samal for comment but did not hear back, nor did we hear back from the university’s research integrity office. 

At least some of the work was supported by federal funding, including from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Peter Collins, one of the co-authors on two of the retracted papers — and several other articles with Samal — works at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Collins did not respond to our request for comment.

Corrections for ‘honest error’

One of the two corrections (both author-initiated, according to the journal) involves a 2008 article by Samal and Yongqi Yan, also of U. Maryland, titled “Role of intergenic sequences in Newcastle disease virus RNA transcription and pathogenesis.” The notice states: 

Volume 82, no. 3, p. 1323–1331, 2008, https://doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01989-07. Figure 4: Due to an error in figure assembly, plaque morphology of rBC-FHNΔ30 (top row, 3rd column) and rBC-HNLΔ30 (2nd row from the top, 3rd column) are inadvertent duplicate images.

The Fig. 4 panels showing plaque morphology of rBC-FHNΔ30 and rBC-HNLΔ30 should appear as shown below.

Figure1

Correction of this image does not change the interpretation of results or the conclusions of the paper.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE The University of Maryland’s investigation determined these to be “honest error.”

The second correction is for “Mutations in the cytoplasmic domain of the Newcastle disease virus fusion protein confer hyperfusogenic phenotypes modulating viral replication and pathogenicity,” published in 2013 by Samal, Collins, Khattar and several others. It reads

Volume 87, no. 18, p. 10083–10093, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01446-13. Figure 6A: Due to errors in figure assembly, the rWt and rY527A panels in the E-cadherin column (column 2, rows 2 and 4 from the top) are identical images, and the rWT panel in the DAPI column (column 1, row 2) and the Mock panel in the Merge column (column 4, row 1) are identical images.

The Mock/Merge, rWT/E-cadherin, and rY527A/E-cadherin panels from Fig. 6A should appear as shown below.

Figure1

Correction of this figure does not change the interpretation of results or the conclusions of the paper.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE The University of Maryland’s investigation determined these to be “honest error.”

Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at team@retractionwatch.com.

One thought on “Four retractions follow misconduct inquiry at U Maryland”

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.