A cancer researcher who tried to sue PubPeer commenters for criticizing his work has earned five more retractions, bringing his total to 18.
All of the new retractions for Fazlul Sarkar, formerly based at Wayne State University in Michigan, appear in the International Journal of Cancer. Allcite an institutional investigation, and relate to issues with images.
We first encountered Sarkar when he subpoenaed PubPeer to reveal the names of anonymous commenters that potentially cost him a job at the University of Mississippi. Earlier this month, a Wayne State spokesperson confirmed to us that Sarkar has now retired from the university. (To get up to speed, check out our timeline on the major events in this case.)
Fazlul Sarkar has not had a good month: In the last few weeks, he has earned 13 retractions across four journals, the latest in the fallout from a string of legal cases that have pitted him against one of science publishing’s major players.
Sarkar gained attention in 2014 when he sued anonymous commenters of PubPeer for defamation, and for potentially costing him a new gig at the University of Mississippi. But before all that, he was a respected researcher with hundreds of published papers, 38 of which were cited at least 100 times each. He’d also received $12.8 million in NIH funding for his research. So how did it all fall apart?
A cancer researcher who sued PubPeer commenters for criticizing his work has lost six more papers, bringing his total to 13 retractions.
Four of the new retraction notices issued by the journal Cancer cite an investigation at Wayne State University in Michigan into the work of Fazlul Sarkar and some of his colleagues. All the new notices, including the other two in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, are for image-related issues.
An investigation at Wayne State University has prompted five retractions for a scientist who is suing PubPeer commenters after they criticized his work on the site.
The investigation into Fazlul Sarkar and his co-authors found that the papers contain images that were “inappropriately manipulated” or “inappropriately re-used and re-labeled.” All five retraction notices are from the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry.
Sarkar’s connection to PubPeer will be familiar to many readers — he has also taken the site to court to force them to reveal the identity of the anonymous commenters who have questioned his findings. He has accused the commenters of defamation, arguing they cost him the job offer. Today, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief on behalf of PubPeer’s appeal of the court’s most recent ruling, that the site must disclose the identity of an anonymous commenter. At the same time, some heavy hitters in science – Bruce Alberts and Harold Varmus — and technology — Google and Twitter — filed briefs in support of the appeal.
The lawsuit against Ole Miss has brought to light the reasoning behind the school’s decision to rescind their offer to Sarkar — and the key role played by the concerns raised on PubPeer.
In a letter dated June 19, 2014 to Sarkar from Larry Walker, the director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, Walker chides Sarkar for not revealing the extent of the ongoing questions over his research during the interview process:
An attorney for Fazlul Sarkar, the Wayne State University researcher who claims he lost a job offer because of comments about his research on PubPeer, has asked a judge to reconsider last month’s decision not to release information about the site’s anonymous commenters. As a consequence, the brief in support of that motion identifies a key commenter as the pseudonymous Clare Francis.
A Michigan judge has ruled against a motion by PubPeer to protect the identity of an anonymous commenter, and asked the post-publication peer review site to give her any information they have about the commenter.
According to one of the lawyers present, the site said in court the only identifying information it has is an I.P. address. The judge will decide March 24 (Tuesday) whether or not to share the I.P. address with the lawyer representing a cancer researcher who has demanded PubPeer release information about those who have written anonymously about his work.
For one of the comments on the site, the judge has asked to hold another hearing on March 19.
After the work of Fazlul Sarkar of Wayne State University appeared on the post-publication peer review site, he wasn’t happy about it. In October, he sued the site’s commenters, demanding that PubPeer release the names of his accusers. Sarkar, who has not been found to have committed research misconduct, claims he lost a lucrative job offer at the University of Mississippi as a result of the posts.
In December, PubPeer’s attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the motion; today, Hon. Sheila Ann Gibson of the Wayne County Circuit Court agreed to do so for all but one comment.
Attorneys representing PubPeer in its defense against a subpoena by cancer researcher Fazlul Sarkar, of Wayne State University in Michigan, have submitted a motion to the Wayne County Circuit Court to quash the matter.
Sarkar’s work has appeared on the anonymized post-publication peer review site, and he isn’t happy about it. In October, he sued the site’s commenters, demanding that PubPeer release the names of his accusers. Sarkar, who has not been found to have committed research misconduct, claims he lost a lucrative job offer at the University of Mississippi as a result of the posts.