Good people can make bad researchers, but can bad people make good science?
We’re agnostic on the question, but anyone who thinks the answer is no need look only as far as Edward Erin for validation of that view. An allergy expert in the U.K., Erin was convicted in 2009 of attempting to poison a mistress in an effort to induce an abortion.
The steady drip-drip-dripping sound you hear from the cancer literature these days comes from the stream of retractions involving studies by Naoki Mori, the now jobless scientist whose work on cancer viruses appears to be evaporating before our eyes.
Cancer Science, which used to be called the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, has retracted three more of Mori’s papers, each of which, according to the journal, contained multiple unreliable images. That brings the tally of retractions involving Mori’s articles to 14 by our count, an impressive number by any measure. Mori has more than 50 papers to his name, however, so it’s possible that the number of retractions will grow.
We are watching an intriguing case out of the Netherlands, involving a young researcher whose dubious results have led to the retraction of a pair of papers.
The retracted articles, which appeared in 2008 in Cancer Research and the British Journal of Cancer, come from the lab of the prominent Dutch scientist Ed Roos, of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. Both papers addressed the actions of certain chemokine receptors — molecules on cell surfaces that interact with blood proteins involved in the immune response — on the behavior of tumor cells.
The first author on each paper was Joost Meijer, at the time a graduate student in Roos’ shop.
We’ve had two questions since learning of the fraud case involving Naoki Mori: Who discovered the manipulations? And how?
We now have answers. We recently received an e-mail from a researcher who specializes in Mori’s field — cancer viruses — and who claims to have been a reviewer of a paper he submitted early last year to a journal in his field. (We’re obscuring some details to maintain our source’s anonymity.)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) may not be on most scientists’ list of Facebook friends, but we’re grateful to them for a hat tip. Several days ago, we were approached by Justin Goodman, associate director of PETA’s laboratory investigations department, with a new twist on an old story.
We’ve been honored by all the attention Retraction Watch has been getting for breaking the story of Naoki Mori—the Japanese virologist who recently received a 10-year publishing ban from the American Society of Microbiology over concerns that he manipulated his images. Mori’s retraction count is now up to 11, we’ve been able to report with help from loyal Retraction Watch tipsters.
Late last month we wrote about a handful of retractions involving Naoki Mori, a promising Japanese cancer researcher who appears to have built a CV with the help of fabricated evidence.
The fraud earned Mori a 10-year publishing ban from the American Society of Microbiology, which publishes Infection and Immunity. There were two other retractions in Blood, from the American Society of Hematology.