Texas bone researcher faked data in Nature paper, says federal watchdog, as university rescinds professorships

Yihong Wan

A pharmacologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who lost a highly cited 2014 paper in Nature for questions about the integrity of her data has been sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) — and UT Southwestern has rescinded two professorships she previously held.

According to ORI, Yihong Wan, an associate professor of pharmacology at UT Southwestern: 

engaged in research misconduct by intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly falsifying and/or fabricating bone histomorphometry data by altering or creating Excel data table values for additional bone samples that did not exist or were not analyzed and by falsely stating means and standard deviations calculated from experiments with N values (i.e., number of mouse samples) that were larger than the actual N values [in the now-retracted Nature paper].

Wan, ORI added: 

Falsified and/or fabricated bone histomorphometry data in eight (8) extended figures of one (1) published paper by manually falsifying and/or fabricating data values within multiple Excel spreadsheets and by creating increased N values without testing additional samples. Specifically:

in Extended Figure 1i of Nature 2014, Respondent fabricated female vertebrae histomorphometry data by multiplying fourteen (14) different numerical values representing male mouse vertebrae data by a factor of 0.95 to create female vertebrae values in one (1) Excel spreadsheet

in Extended Figures 1i, 2d, 3d, 3h, 4h, 6a, 6e, and 9g of Nature 2014, Respondent falsified histomorphometry data for ninety-nine (99) data table values from two (2) Excel spreadsheets representing bone parameters for male distal femur, male vertebrae, female distal femur, and female vertebrae samples

in Extended Figure 4h of Nature 2014, respondent fabricated bone histomorphometry data by reporting that the means and standard deviations were calculated from experiments with a value of six (6) to eight (8) mice per experimental condition, when respondent calculated the means and standard deviations from only three (3) mice (N = 3)

Per the terms of the settlement, Wan has agreed to a three-year period during which her research must be supervised.

Reached by phone, Wan declined to comment on the ORI findings or whether she had received any additional penalties from her institution.

A UT Southwestern spokesperson told Retraction Watch that Wan no longer holds the titles of Lawrence Raisz Professor in Bone Cell Metabolism and the Virginia Murchison Linthicum Scholar in Medical Research. The spokesperson said:

Yihong Wan, Ph.D., is currently employed as an associate professor of pharmacology at UT Southwestern. After careful review, UT Southwestern, in conjunction with the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) of the U.S. Public Health Service, has developed robust oversight protections to address lapses related to a finding of research misconduct. The Voluntary Settlement Agreement executed on December 8, 2020, includes supervision by a committee of two to three senior faculty members who are not supervisors or collaborators and are familiar with the field to supervise data collection, data interpretation, publication and grant submissions for the three year period.

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3 thoughts on “Texas bone researcher faked data in Nature paper, says federal watchdog, as university rescinds professorships”

  1. That’s what I have noticed…if the faculty is tenured they can take their chair away for fraud, but often not their tenure. But hey, despitev the fact that she was caught, she’s still making 6 figs a year in a job that apparently cannot be taken away (the school probably would have if it could). She will be an inspiration for other cheaters out there.

    1. Totally agree: if a university professor can’t be fired for cause after faking data, then tenure really is broken at that university.

      Speaking of faking data in Excel spreadsheets, I hope RW will follow up on the Jonathan Pruitt story. It’s been a long time since Pruitt lawyered up and bullied his coauthors and journal editors into silence while everyone waits for the institutional investigation at McMaster University. Seems like time should be just about up on that investigation.

      It might be worth contacting the Academic Integrity Officer at McMaster.


  2. Since this fraudster apparently cannot be fired, this would be all of the more reason for the NIH to set up an office of corporeal punishment in the ORI, which cases like this can be referred to. I am about to lose my job as a permadoc and hence will be looking for some gig employment. Chief caner in this office would be perfect; I would be delighted to be paid for each job, but, quite frankly, there probably needs to be a permanent position for a pro-caner with benefits, which should include health insurance. Also, it is not too much to expect the ORI to pay for my training from professional caners. The best, I have heard, are in Indonesia where they are often utilized for on citizens who do not follow the laws. I hear Jakarta is nice in the spring, and you cannot beat Sumatran coffee! Yesss…

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