Plant scientists have issued two retractions after noticing several images had been duplicated within and across the papers.
The papers both appeared in March 2002 in The Plant Cell and The Plant Journal.
The last author on both papers — Jonathan Jones, a professor and group leader at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK — took responsibility for the duplications. He told us:
As last author I was responsible for checking the papers but did not notice the similarities between figures in the different papers. I regret this and took action as soon as I realized there was an issue. Both papers went through peer review and the issue was not picked up at that point either.
Susana Rivas, the first author on both papers, has collaborated with beleaguered plant scientist Oliver Voinnet — and was a second author on one of his eight retractions (which we covered here).
A high-profile plant scientist who has been racking up corrections and retractions at a steady clip has had another paper — this one from Science — retracted.
The retraction, of a paper that had been previously corrected, is the eighth for Olivier Voinnet. According to the notice, the correction did not address all the figure problems with the paper, which “cannot be considered the result of mistakes.”
Institutions in France and Switzerland are investigating figures in several molecular biology papers, according to a joint press release published today.
Unfortunately, there’s not much more we can tell you about the investigation — the press release doesn’t specify the names of researchers, journals, or even the area within molecular biology that’s under scrutiny.
The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France will lead the inquiry, with contribution from ETH Zürich in Switzerland. Molecular biology researchers from both institutions were involved in the flagged publications, an ETH Zürich spokesperson told us.
On July 28, Cell published editorial notes for all three papers, which have been collectively cited more than 1000 times (also reported by Leonid Schneider). The notes say that the journal will take “no further action,” noting that the authors of the papers informed Cell of the problems with figures, which do not appear to compromise the papers’ overall validity.
EMBO has taken back an award given to beleaguered plant biologist Olivier Voinnet in 2009, and is investigating a recent grantee who had a paper retracted from Nature Genetics yesterday.
The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) “promotes excellence in the life sciences” in Europe, in part by awarding prizes to promising young scientists. Voinnet and Sonia Melo earned their awards by exhibiting potential as young scientists studying genetics — of plants and cancer, respectively — but now EMBO is skeptical of the papers that formed the basis of their applications.
Melo’s Installation Grant from EMBO was announced just last month, and consists of 50,000 Euros annually for three to five years. She is currently based at the University of Porto, in Portugal.
One correction goes against the recommendation of the ETH Commission to retract the paper for “well documented intentional manipulations.” According to the correction note, the incorrect figures did not “alter the data in any material way that could be construed to benefit the results and their conclusions.” That correction is the only one of the three for which Voinnet takes full responsibility.