KCL investigation finds misconduct in Lancet Neurology paper

Marios Politis

A Lancet journal has issued an expression of concern for a 2019 paper by a group in the United Kingdom whose work was found to have included fabricated data and other misconduct.  

The article, “Serotonergic pathology and disease burden in the premotor and motor phase of A53T α-synuclein parkinsonism: a cross-sectional study,” came from a team at King’s College London led by researchers at the school’s Neurodegeneration Imaging Group. The senior author on the paper, which appeared in Lancet Neurology, was Marios Politis, who has since left KCL for the University of Exeter. 

The study earned press coverage in The Guardian – “Parkinson’s disease ‘could be detected early on by brain changes‘” – and the BBC: “Early brain ‘signs of Parkinson’s’ found.” 

Here’s the expression of concern

On Dec 15, 2021, we received notification from the Research Integrity Office, Department of Research Governance, Ethics & Integrity, at King’s College London (London, UK) that an investigation into research misconduct upheld five allegations concerning an Article in The Lancet Neurology.1 These allegations are falsification, misrepresentation of data, fabrication of results, misrepresentation of involvement, and failure to follow accepted procedures.

On Dec 22, 2021, the authors of the Article notified us of their intention to appeal the decisions and recommendations of the Inquiry Panel that carried out the investigation. We are therefore issuing an expression of concern to alert readers to the fact that serious scientific and ethical concerns have been brought to our attention. We will update this notice as soon as we have information on the outcome of the appeal and the conclusions of the Research Integrity Office on this procedure.

Marcie Lunny, in the research integrity office at KCL, told us, well, not much:

In line with our standard policies and procedures, further details of this case are treated confidentially and we do not comment on individuals.

Politis — who co-authored a piece in The Conversation about the paper with Heather Wilson, the first author — did not respond to requests for comment.

A 2016 paper from Politis’ group was the subject of this post on PubPeer, which noted, in part: 

The result hinges completely on there not being an age effect sufficiently large as to explain the results. However, as we have all been taught in our first statistics class, a significant result allows us to reject the null hypothesis given the data, but an insignificant result does NOT imply that the null hypothesis should be accepted. We have only failed to reject it.

The authors have not responded to that comment.

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