Brain tumor researchers lose second paper as UCSF investigates

Russell Pieper

A research group at the University of California, San Francisco, under investigation for potential misconduct has had a second paper retracted.

The group, led by Russell O. Pieper, director of basic science at the UCSF Brain Tumor Center and vice-chairman of the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery, previously lost a 2021 paper in Science Translational Medicine after Elisabeth Bik and other commenters on PubPeer posted concerns about some of the images in the article. 

The newly retracted paper, “Phosphoglycerate Mutase 1 Activates DNA Damage Repair via Regulation of WIP1 Activity,” appeared in Cell Reports in 2020. It has been cited 25 times, according to Clarivate’s Web of Science. 

According to the retraction notice, Pieper and his colleagues duplicated an image from two of the group’s previous studies but labeled it as a different cell type and from different experimental conditions than in the other publications. An anonymous commenter on PubPeer had flagged the duplicated image in August 2022

Pieper reported the matter to the Office of Ethics and Compliance at UCSF, where an investigation is still ongoing, the notice stated. Because Joydeep Mukherjee, the paper’s corresponding author, did not provide the figure’s raw data to the editors of Cell Reports, the editors concluded that the outcome of the investigation, while clarifying how the duplication came to be, will not affect the decision to retract and thus felt that the most responsible course of action was to retract the paper even though the investigation is ongoing. 

We reached Pieper by phone but he hung up without commenting. 

Mukherjee’s research profile at UCSF appears to have been removed. He did not respond to an email seeking comment. The office conducting the investigation did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Most of the co-authors of the paper approved of the retraction, except for those the journal could not reach by email, the retraction notice stated. 

The notice also stated Pieper requested a correction to the author’s contributions to the paper, but because all the authors didn’t agree the journal didn’t change it. The original article stated Pieper designed the experiments with his co-authors. In his correction, Pieper wrote he only obtained funding for the study. Mukherjee “disputed entirely” the revised statement, according to the retraction notice. 

A spokesperson for Cell Reports said the journal does not comment on individual cases beyond what is included in the retraction notice. 

Multiple posts on PubPeer have expressed concerns about image duplication in other papers by Pieper and Mukherjee that have not been retracted.

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3 thoughts on “Brain tumor researchers lose second paper as UCSF investigates”

  1. These frauds take funding away from honest investigators to line their own pockets. Accountability is key, punish them severely so they can no longer continue this wild wild west academic bs.

  2. Good to see that the decision to retract was based on the evidence that publication integrity was compromised, and not contingent upon why that had happened, which is a secondary matter of little interest to journal readers.
    Even so , it took nearly 2 years from concerns being raised on Pubpeer until retraction….

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