‘Caught in the act’: Veterinary researcher caught fabricating gene data, resigns from university job

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A research technician at Washington State University resigned after his colleagues caught him fabricating data earlier this year, Retraction Watch has learned. 

Ryan Evanoff was working in veterinary microbiology at the Pullman campus when members of the department discovered that he had been falsifying sequencing data in gene studies. According to Robert Mealey, the chair of the  Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State: 

We caught him in the act while troubleshooting some experiments that were not working. He provided sequencing results that he clearly fabricated because they were completely different from what the outside sequencing lab reported on the same samples.

We immediately reported it to our WSU Office of Research, which conducted a full research misconduct investigation, concluded on July 28, 2020. No other individuals were implicated, and he is no longer an employee of WSU.  

Evanoff left his position before he could be fired, Mealey said. 

Meanwhile, his misconduct tainted least two papers, one of which has now been retracted. The 2019 article, “Hepacivirus A infection in horses defines distinct envelope hypervariable regions and elucidates potential roles of viral strain and adaptive immune status in determining envelope diversity and infection outcome,” appeared in the Journal of Virology. The retraction notice states: 

Washington State University, Joshua D. Ramsay, and Robert H. Mealey retract this article as an outcome of an internal review in which it was determined that one of the authors manipulated PacBio single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing data used in analyses presented throughout the paper. The author involved is no longer employed at Washington State University.

We and Washington State University deeply regret this circumstance and extend our sincere apologies to the scientific community.

A second 2019 article from the group, “The prevalence of elevated gamma‐glutamyltransferase and sorbitol dehydrogenase activity in racing Thoroughbreds and their associations with viral infection,” published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, is in the process of being retracted, Mealey said. 

Evanhoff committed the fabrication while working on two grants, one from the National Institutes of Health — which funded the paper in the Journal of Virology — worth about $418,000, and the other from Southern California Equine Foundation, Mealey said: 

The granting agencies have been notified. We are not aware of other impacted publications or grant applications.

Mealey added that the U.S. Office of Research Integrity was aware of the investigation. 

We couldn’t find current contact information for Evanoff.

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2 thoughts on “‘Caught in the act’: Veterinary researcher caught fabricating gene data, resigns from university job”

  1. Does retraction of a publication automatically place a “hold” on release of any associated sequence data that might be in an online data base? This seems to be rarely discussed.

  2. “A second 2019 article from the group, “The prevalence of elevated gamma‐glutamyltransferase and sorbitol dehydrogenase activity in racing Thoroughbreds and their associations with viral infection,” published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, is in the process of being retracted, Mealey said.”

    Equine Vet J . 2019 Nov;51(6):738-742. doi: 10.1111/evj.13092. Epub 2019 Apr 10.
    The prevalence of elevated gamma-glutamyltransferase and sorbitol dehydrogenase activity in racing Thoroughbreds and their associations with viral infection
    J D Ramsay 1 2, R Evanoff 1, R H Mealey 1, E L Simpson 3
    Affiliations collapse
    Affiliations
    1Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA.
    2Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA.
    3Equine Medical & Surgical Group, Arcadia, California, USA.

    2021 retraction. https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/evj.13376

    The retraction has been agreed upon following an investigation at the institute the research was conducted in. The conclusions of this article are considered to be compromised due to inaccurate PCR data. R. Evanoff performed the corresponding PCR‐experiments but is no longer employed at the Washington State University and was not available for comment.

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