Retraction Watch readers may recall the case of Silvia Bulfone-Paus, a researcher at Germany’s Research Center Borstel who was a frequent subject of posts in the early days of this blog. Bulfone-Paus has had to retract 13 papers amid investigations into allegations of image manipulation.
To briefly recap: In May 2010, several months after concerns had first been raised, Borstel let the DFG (German Research Foundation) know about the allegations, because they had funded the work. A November 2010 report from Borstel said that the allegations had merit, blaming two of Bulfone-Paus’s postdocs but criticizing how she supervised them. As the DFG notes in a summary of its findings on the case, posted late last week: Continue reading Funding agency sanctions Bulfone-Paus and former postdoc
The study, “Human monocytes constitutively express membrane-bound, biologically active, and interferon-gamma-upregulated interleukin-15,” has been cited 124 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Its corresponding author is Tiziana Musso, of the University of Turin.
Retraction Watch readers may have been following the case of Silvia Bulfone-Paus, whose lab has been forced to retract 12 papers amid allegations of scientific misconduct. As is often true in such cases, the story doesn’t end with those retractions. We’ve just become aware of a fascinating exchange in March and April between Bulfone-Paus’s supporters and her home institution, Germany’s Research Center Borstel.
First, some background: Karin Wiebauer, a former post-doc in Bulfone-Paus’s lab, flagged the potential misconduct, in great detail, for Bulfone-Paus in a November 2009 email. (In fact, she had brought it to her attention years earlier.) But Bulfone-Paus did not tell Borstel officials about the allegations until late February 2010. Borstel’s investigation into Bulfone-Paus’s lab began in July 2010.
Once that began, a person referring to himself as “Marco Berns” began emailing officials, journalists, and others about the situation. Nature called that move a “smear campaign,” and the emails “libellous,” but in retrospect they — and Wiebauer’s analysis — appear to have been spot-on, based on the eventual report of the Borstel committee. That report — which found data manipulation by two of Bulfone-Paus’s post-docs — led the institute’s Scientific Advisory Board to ask for Bulfone-Paus’s resignation. She only tendered that a month later, after more pressure.
We find that near-complete lack of information frustrating, not to mention useless to the scientific community. Unfortunately, it’s par for the course when it comes to the JBC and Bulfone-Paus retractions. The other three said exactly the same thing.
With that in mind, we thought it would be worth looking at all 12 retraction notices, as a sort of case series in journals’ transparency. We often look at particular retractions in a vacuum, but here was a chance to look at 12 papers, all retracted for the same reason, to see how each journal reported the withdrawal.