University of Glasgow ‘in discussions to retract’ seven papers, confirming Retraction Watch reporting

Miles Houslay

The University of Glasgow is “in discussions to retract” seven papers by a pharmacology researcher who worked there for more than 25 years, after it learned of allegations on PubPeer by pseudonymous whistleblower Clare Francis.

The development confirms reporting by Retraction Watch earlier this month. In that post, we wrote: 

The story begins in December 2016, when biostatistician Steven McKinney posted on PubPeer about a paper by the researcher, Miles Houslay, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. That paper was eventually retracted in August 2020, but not before McKinney posted a comment on Retraction Watch that caught the eye of the pseudonymous Clare Francis.

Francis pointed us to comments about a total of eight of Houslay’s papers at that time. And in August 2020, when the JBC retraction appeared, Francis forwarded those to the King’s College, London, where Houslay is listed as having a faculty position, and the University of Glasgow, which he left in 2011.

Yesterday, Amanda McKenna, the University of Glasgow’s research policy and integrity officer, thanked Francis for bringing the issues to the university’s attention…

The investigation is still ongoing, the university told us in a statement last week, but it has so far “upheld the allegations related to a number of papers. Consequently, the University is in discussions to retract these papers.”

Here are the seven papers, which have been cited more than 700 times in total, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science:

Houslay has not responded to requests for comment from Retraction Watch.

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9 thoughts on “University of Glasgow ‘in discussions to retract’ seven papers, confirming Retraction Watch reporting”

  1. The University of Glasgow is a breath of fresh air.
    It seems to take problematic data seriously.

    Previous examples.

    If I were a person starting out on “higher education” I would seriously consider applying to the University of Glasgow for its ethical stand against problematic data alone.

  2. Nucleic Acids Res . 2004 Oct 14;32(18):5553-69. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkh876. Print 2004.

    Protein kinase CK2 phosphorylation regulates the interaction of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus regulatory protein ORF57 with its multifunctional partner hnRNP K

    Poonam Malik 1, J Barklie Clements

    1Division of Virology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Church Street, Glasgow, G11 5JR, Scotland, UK.
    PMID: 15486205 PMCID: PMC524287 DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkh876

    Many images seem more similar than expected.

  3. J Virol. 2001 Mar;75(6):2710-28. doi: 10.1128/JVI.75.6.2710-2728.2001.

    Herpes simplex virus type 1 blocks the apoptotic host cell defense mechanisms that target Bcl-2 and manipulates activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase to improve viral replication

    G Zachos 1, M Koffa, C M Preston, J B Clements, J Conner

    1Institute of Virology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G11 5JR, United Kingdom.

    Many images more similar than expected.

  4. In their retraction notice for their MDM2 paper,

    the authors of course focus their defense on the weakest link in the chain of evidence, the spotting images which are indeed tougher to use in illustrations of image manipulation, though Peer1 finds one example that is blatantly obvious.

    This degree of similarity is not an inevitable occurrence of robotic spotting.

    “The authors also state that they cannot observe any evidence of ‘cutting and pasting,’ which they state would be easily observed had it occurred.”

    Just because the authors can not spot evidence of cutting and pasting doesn’t make it go away. After some of the authors flipped and stretched the images duplicated in figures 2(g) and 5(d) they clearly felt that since they and their co-authors couldn’t see how similar those flipped and stretched images were that no one else would either.

    Those of us who do see these image manipulations will continue to advocate for cleaning up the scientific literature. Presenting as primary evidence in a purported scientific article images that are flipped and stretched and otherwise copied does not constitute science.

    The authors can continue to stand by the central tenets of their article, but when the underlying evidence bolstering these tenets is fashioned from whole cloth, the rest of us should indeed be skeptical of said tenets. If these purported phenomena were so striking, why did some of the authors need to copy and paste false evidence? Capturing compelling numerical evidence of strong natural phenomena is not so difficult.

  5. Concerning a paper mentioned about where I am the senior and corresponding author: “Crosstalk between PI3-Kinase and cAMP-Protein Kinase A signaling pathways at the level of a Protein Kinase B/β-arrestin/cAMP phosphodiesterase-4 complex,” Molecular Cell and Biology, 2010 this is research done in my lab at University of Oslo and not at University of Glasgow.

    I was contacted by the MCB after University of Glasgow contacted the journal (of note University of Glasgow has not contacted me as the senior and corresponding author of the paper). I contacted the Medical Faculty at the University of Oslo about the allegations made and their Research Integrity Commission at the request of the Dean conducted an investigation and found the figure in question to be authentic.

    We have published a correction in MCB showing where splicing occurred in all panels and also a statement about author contributions. See:

    See also my comment on PubPeer:

  6. 26 April 2022 retraction.

    Biochemistry Retraction for “β-Arrestin-mediated PDE4 cAMP phosphodiesterase recruitment regulates β-adrenoceptor switching from Gs to Gi,” by George S. Baillie, Arvind Sood, Ian McPhee, Irene Gall, Stephen J. Perry, Robert J. Lefkowitz, and Miles D. Houslay, which was first published January 27, 2003; 10.1073/pnas.262787199 (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100, 940–945).

    The undersigned authors note the following, “We were informed by the University of Glasgow Research Integrity Council that, as part of a larger investigation of anomalies in a series of papers from one of their laboratories, it was found that lanes 2 and 3 of Fig. 4C are identical. While the data in this figure panel were obtained in myocardial cells, which are the sole focus of Fig. 4, the University of Glasgow did not identify irregularities in any other data presented in the paper, including the data obtained with HEK cells, which constitute the remainder of the data in the paper (Figs. 1–3). Nonetheless at the request of the University of Glasgow the paper is being retracted. We offer our apologies to the scientific community for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
    George S. Baillie, Arvind Sood, Ian McPhee, Stephen J. Perry, and
    Robert J. Lefkowitz

    Pubpeer comments.

  7. 14 October 2022 retraction.

    J. Biochem. 2021. doi:10.1093/jb/mvz016

    This is a retraction to: K F Houslay, B A Fertig, F Christian, A J Tibbo, J Ling, J E Findlay, M D Houslay, G S Baillie. Phosphorylation of PDE4A5 by MAPKAPK2 attenuates fibrin degradation via p75 signalling, The Journal of Biochemistry, Volume 166, Issue 1, July 2019, Pages 97–106,

    The corresponding author is retracting this article following an institutional investigation into the authenticity of the figures in the paper. The institution ultimately determined Figure 3 was not authentic and the scientific integrity of the article had been compromised.

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