On Dec. 2, 2013, Alison Lakin, the research integrity officer at the University of Colorado Denver, received a concerning email.
The emailer was alleging several problems in a 2012 paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, co-authored by one of its high-profile faculty members. Lakin discussed the allegations with some administrators and agreed they had merit; Lakin sequestered an author’s laptop and other materials. Over the next few months, the university learned of additional allegations affecting other papers — and discovered even more serious problems in the JCI paper. Namely, the first author had inserted changes to 21 figures in the paper after submitting it, without alerting the other authors, journal, or reviewers.
Recently, a biostatistician sent an open letter to editors of 10 major science journals, urging them to pay more attention to common statistical problems with papers. Specifically, Romain-Daniel Gosselin, Founder and CEO of Biotelligences, which trains researchers in biostatistics, counted how many of 10 recent papers in each of the 10 journals contained two common problems: omitting the sample size used in experiments, as well as the tests used as part of the statistical analyses. (Short answer: Too many.) Below, we have reproduced his letter.
The timing was tight, but Sergio Gonzalez had done it. Gonzalez, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Neurosciences of Montpellier (INSERM) in France, had a paper accepted in a top journal by the end of 2015, just in time to apply for a small number of highly sought-after permanent research positions that open up in France each year.
If Gonzalez had missed the January deadline for this system of advancement, known as concours, he would have had to wait until the following cycle to apply.
Once his paper was accepted by the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Gonzalez could breathe a sigh of relief. He began being invited to interviews. But then, a comment showed up at PubPeer.
A third retraction — and a notice of concern — have emerged from the investigation into a husband and wife research team at the University of Toronto that found evidence of faked images and duplicated data.
According to the retraction note, co-author Gillian E. Wu of York University signed off on the journal’s decision, but Asa, Ezzat and second author Lei Zheng dissented to the retraction. Third author Xian-Feng Zhu couldn’t be reached. Although corresponding author Asa noted that “the initial screen of these samples support the conclusions made in the paper,” the JCI made its position perfectly clear in the note:
Following an investigation into research misconduct, the Journal of Clinical Investigation has retracted a cancer genetics paper from a laboratory at the National Institutes of Health due to “data falsification and fabrication” of four figures and a table in the paper.
The journal retracted the paper following an investigation into author Stephanie K. Watkins, then a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute. According to a NIH press release released about the study in March 2011, the work “has led to the submission of a patent application by the NIH on behalf of Hurwitz and Watkins to target FOXO3 as a way to boost immune responses in cancer and to silence excessive immune responses in autoimmune diseases.” We found an NIH record of the patent application, but no record of an approved patent at the United States Patent and Trademark Office under either Hurwitz or Watkins’ names.
Questions about the work, and other articles on which Hanna was an author, were raised on PubPeer last November. This is his first retraction.
The retraction stems from “a number of figure irregularities;” the authors say they were “inadvertently introduced,” and subsequent work has supported their data and conclusions. However, due to the “number of serious mistakes,” the JCI editorial board chose to retract the article. Hanna and corresponding author Ofer Mandelboim at The Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology — part of Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, where Hanna used to work — say they have accepted the decision.
Hanna, currently at the Weizmann Institute of Science, studies ways to reprogram cells to become more versatile stem cells. He also spent time as a postdoc at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge and Mount Sinai, in New York City.
Six of Hanna’s papers have been cited more than 500 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The most-cited, with more than 1,000 citations, was a 2008 Nature paper.
The retracted article, “Novel APC-like properties of human NK cells directly regulate T cell activation,” has been cited 121 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.