A paper by a crystallographer fired from his university for misconduct has been partially retracted.
Last year, we covered the case of Robert Schwarzenbacher, formerly of Salzburg University. Schwarzenbacher had provided the crystallographic data for a paper in the Journal of Immunology, but those results raised questions with another crystallographer and prompted an investigation by the university. Schwarzenbacher admitted he’d committed misconduct, although he recanted at one point, and was eventually fired.
Michael Hertl, a leading dermatology researcher at Philipps-University Marburg, has been cleared of any wrongdoing in a case that spawned a retraction last year and two just-published retractions.
Felicitas Riedel, a legal officer for the university, tells Retraction Watch that the
…Committee for Scientific Misconduct of the Philipps-University Marburg closed the matter and submitted its results to the President of the University who in the meantime after examination consented with it.
As two retraction notices in the September 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology note:
On October 19, 1995, the Office of Research Integrity at the National Institutes of Health found that Weishu Y. Weiser, Ph.D., formerly of the Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, committed scientific misconduct by falsifying data in biomedical research supported by two Public Health Service grants. As a result, she agreed to submit a letter to The Journal of Immunology to retract this article. The offices of The Journal of Immunology have no record of receiving such a letter and hence the article is now being retracted.
A new retraction — his fifth — in the Journal of Immunology for Alirio Melendez, formerly of the National University of Singapore, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Liverpool, sheds some light on the results of an investigation by one of the universities.
Last month, a Glasgow spokesperson told Nature that the university’s investigation had been completed in October 2011, but that it did not comment on individual cases. A spokesperson, according to the Times Higher Education:
…would say only that there was “no evidence that our current staff contributed, falsified or duplicated data to any publications co-authored with (Professor) Melendez”. He also confirmed that relevant journals would be contacted where retractions or corrections were deemed necessary.
For some journals, thorough retraction notices are the rule — and, when misconduct is involved, the price authors pay for abusing the trust of the editors and the readers. Others seem to take a more casual approach. Guess which we think is best.
Consider the case of a group of researchers in China led by Tan Jinquan, an immune system expert at Wuhan University. Over the past two years or so, Jinquan and colleagues have lost no fewer than a half-dozen papers containing evidence of image manipulation. But, depending on the journal pulling the articles, you might not know it.
In 2010, a group of crystallographers immunologists and allergy researchers at the University of Salzburg published a paper in the Journal of Immunology claiming to have derived the structure of a birch pollen allergen.