Urology researcher under investigation for double-dipping has another paper retracted

Hari Koul

A urology researcher who stepped down from his post as department chair after an institutional investigation prompted by Retraction Watch reporting has lost another paper. 

The article apparently was not flagged during a misconduct investigation, but a PubPeer commenter noted overlapping images in August 2021. 

Hari Koul had been interim chair of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at LSU Health New Orleans until last December. He stepped down from the post (but remains a professor) amid the university’s investigation of allegations that he secured grants from two federal agencies for the same research project, following reporting by Retraction Watch in October

An LSU Health New Orleans spokesperson told Retraction Watch the “process has not been completed.” 

Koul has now had seven papers retracted, according to our database. Four of those retractions and an expression of concern came after we reported that the University of Colorado Denver, where Koul used to work, had recommended nine different papers be corrected or retracted after concluding a misconduct investigation in 2016. At the time of our initial report in June 2021, only two papers had been retracted and one corrected. One paper, in Cancer Research, remains unflagged. 

The latest retraction is for a paper published in Oncogene in 2009, titled “Hypoxia-associated p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase-mediated androgen receptor activation and increased HIF-1α levels contribute to emergence of an aggressive phenotype in prostate cancer.” It has been cited 68 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, including a dozen times since the beginning of 2021.

The notice states: 

The Editor-in-Chief has retracted this article. After publication, concerns have been raised regarding the images in this article. Specifically, it is impossible to verify the integrity of figures 1a, 2a, 3b, and 6b. The authors have been unable to supply the original data. The Editor-in-Chief therefore no longer has confidence in the integrity of the data in this article.

Hari Koul has not explicitly stated whether they agree to this retraction notice. None of the other authors have responded to any correspondence from the editor or publisher about this retraction.

The paper was not one of the nine CU Denver recommended action on. Last August,, anonymous PubPeer commenter Actinopolyspora biskrensis pointed out repeats in the same figures noted in the retraction. 

Asked what prompted the retraction now, Justin Stebbing, Oncogene’s editor-in-chief,  told Retraction Watch: 

Oncogene is dedicated to high editorial standards and we examine with great care any cases where someone has contacted us regarding one of the papers in our journal, which can take some time. In this case concerns were highlighted last year and we have since been investigating them with the support of the Springer Nature Research Integrity Group. Unfortunately our hands are somewhat tied when it comes to investigating by the information that is provided to us and the retraction note reflects that. We are streamlining our approach to dealing with these cases going forwards, whilst ensuring we continue to adhere to COPE Guidelines.

Stebbing is a visiting professor at Imperial College London who was suspended from practicing medicine for nine months last December after he admitted over-treating dying cancer patients, according to Medscape. Last year, Stebbing – who in 2017 published a list of excuses he heard from authors whose data was questioned – had a paper retracted from Nucleic Acids Research following questions about the data.

Koul did not respond to our request for comment.

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