A biology society is hiring three editors to screen images in submissions to its journal, Journal of Biological Chemistry — which we think is a great idea.
We don’t typically mention job ads on our site, except when they become relevant to cleaning up the literature — and with the latest job ad, the JBC joins the ranks of other journals that have taken a proactive stance against image problems, including manipulation. The publisher, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), plans to hire three “Technical Image Editors,” which will screen the images contained within the thousands of papers the journal publishes each year, many of which contain multiple panels and supplemental data.
Kaoru Sakabe,Data Integrity Manager at ASBMB, told us:
But the moment may have been short-lived. Today, Croce received two expressions of concern (EOCs) from PNAS for two well-cited papers published over a decade ago, on which Croce — chair of the Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU) — is last author. The two EOCs cite concerns over duplicated bands. What’s more, another journal recently decided to retract one of his papers, citing figures that didn’t represent the results of the experiments.
Kumar sued his employer, George Washington University, for $8 million, alleging emotional distress when they put him on leave from his position as department chair following a finding of misconduct. That suit was settled last year, for undisclosed terms.
A researcher who claimed image problems in a retracted paper were the result of a software glitch, and not intentional, has lost three more papers — all for image manipulation.
In two notices, the Journal of Biological Chemistry specifies that duplicated images were used to represent different experimental conditions; one notice simply says the paper was affected by image manipulation.
All of the notices specify the papers are being retracted by the publisher, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology — which this month published a set of recommendations for preparing a paper, including how to avoid excessive manipulation.
The papers were published between 2002 and 2010, and all share the same last author (Paul Kuo, currently chair of surgery at Loyola Medicine) and first author (Hongtao Guo, at Duke).
The former president of the Joslin Diabetes Center has withdrawn a second article within a month of his first, and issued extensive corrections to another paper in the same journal, all due to figure errors.
In November, we reported that Carl Ronald Kahn — also affiliated with Harvard Medical School — had pulled a highly cited 2005 paper from The Journal of Clinical Investigation because of image duplication issues, which Kahn told us were introduced during figure assembly. This December, Kahn retracted a 2003 paper published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC)—again due to duplication issues that the authors believe “were inadvertently introduced during figure assembly.”
A scientist in Ireland has corrected five of his papers in a single journal dating back more than a decade, after image-related problems were brought to his attention.
Four of the newly corrected papers have a common last and corresponding author: Luke O’Neill of Trinity College Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. O’Neill is also a co-author of the remaining paper that was fixed. O’Neill told us the mistakes were a “bit sloppy,” noting that he takes responsibility for the errors in the four papers on which he is last author.
Following a journal probe and questions on PubPeer about their work, authors in Spain have issued four corrections, citing missing raw data for experiments conducted more than 10 years ago.
All papers include the same last two authors, Mireia Duñach at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and Antonio García de Herreros at the Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques.
Three of the corrections were issued by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, from which the authors retracted three papers earlier this year after a journal investigation concluded they contain reused images, designed to represent different experiments.
Duñach told us the latest corrections are the result of her own initiation:
A researcher in Brazil is taking responsibility for accidentally mixing up images in three papers in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
The corresponding author on the three papers told us the mistake happened because the studies were conducted simultaneously, and relied on one computer.
There’s a side note to these retractions: The co-author list on two papers includes names that should be fairly well-known to our readers — Mario Saad, the researcher who unsuccessfully sued the American Diabetes Association to stop retractions of his papers, and Rui Curi, a researcher whose legal threats assisted in the shutdown of Science-Fraud.org. This makes Saad’s ninth retraction.
Last year, a cancer researcher wrote to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, asking to correct one of his papers. The journal responded by requesting the raw data used to prepare his figures. Then, in a follow-up request, it asked for raw data behind the figures in 20 additional published articles.
And when all was said and done six months later, Jin Cheng ended up with far more than just a single correction: Last month, the journal issued withdrawals for 19 of his papers — including the paper he originally asked to correct — along with one correction.
We’ve pieced together some clues about what happened after reviewing correspondence between representatives of JBC and Moffitt Cancer Center, where Cheng conducted his research. A spokesperson for Moffitt confirmed that the retractions did not initiate from an institutional investigation — but that the institution is now conducting one.
That’s not the way retractions typically happen: Often, journals don’t have the resources to conduct investigations themselves, so institutions mostly take the lead in double-checking papers and, if necessary, contacting the journal to initiate a retraction. Here, it seems the opposite took place.