Unveiled: Anonymous researcher found guilty of fraud in Canadian funding agency documents

Margaret Munro, a Postmedia News reporter whose work we’ve had the chance to admire before, has a few great stories running in Canadian papers today about what happened in some recent scientific fraud investigations.

She bases the stories on  Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) documents obtained under a freedom of information request. NSERC — which provides $1 billion per year for research — seems to have gone far out of its way to keep the names of the researchers a secret.

In one set of heavily redacted documents, however, they did mention a December 2008 retraction. As Retraction Watch readers know, we investigate retractions…well, not exactly for a living, but we sure spend a lot of time doing it. So we threw ourselves at our favorite database and made some connections.

Long story short: We’re quite sure we’ve found the unnamed researcher. Continue reading Unveiled: Anonymous researcher found guilty of fraud in Canadian funding agency documents

In a retraction’s wake: Postdoc Shane Mayack, dismissed from Amy Wagers’ stem cell lab, speaks out

 

Last October, Retraction Watch readers will recall, up-and-coming stem cell researcher Amy Wagers retracted a study in Nature describing how her team rejuvenated blood-forming stem cells in older mice. Shane Mayack, a postdoc in Wagers’ lab who had been dismissed after an inquiry into what happened, did not sign that retraction. Since then, Mayack has not spoken to the press, except for a brief comment to Nature through her attorney.

Here, we present, unedited, Mayack’s side of the story. While accepting responsibility, she also has a number of suggestions for how universities and journals can handle these situations better. Shane can be reached at smayck[at]yahoo.com.

Since it was well covered by this blog, the readers of Retraction Watch are no doubt aware that in October 2010, a paper that I co-authored was retracted from Nature and a notice of concern was posted regarding a second paper published in Blood.

So, what went wrong? Continue reading In a retraction’s wake: Postdoc Shane Mayack, dismissed from Amy Wagers’ stem cell lab, speaks out

A Nature chain retraction for Arabidopsis paper, and some unanswered questions

courtesy Nature

If a paper is retracted, should papers that cite it get retracted, too? We’ve been on the lookout for this kind of move, which we figure is consistent with cleaning up the scientific record. Today, one appears in Nature.

The original paper, “Mediation of pathogen resistance by exudation of antimicrobials from roots,” purported to show how a particular bug evades the immune system of Arabidopsis, a plant commonly used in the lab. It has been cited 51 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

The retraction notice says that the paper’s conclusions could no longer be supported because one of the key references — a paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry by many of the same authors — had been retracted: Continue reading A Nature chain retraction for Arabidopsis paper, and some unanswered questions

University of East London “looking into” Jatinder Ahluwalia’s career

We’re continuing to follow the case of Jatinder Ahluwalia. As we reported on Tuesday, Ahluwalia was dismissed from graduate school at the University of Cambridge years before a University College London (UCL) investigation found had renumbered files to deceive a co-author, and had likely sabotaged his colleagues’ work while manipulating his solutions to improve how his results looked. The results of that investigation came to light as part of a Nature retraction.

Ahluwalia now works — and studies plagiarism, in fact — at the school of health and bioscience at the University of East London. We asked Neville Punchard, the school’s dean, whether the university was aware of Ahluwalia’s past. Punchard replied by email: Continue reading University of East London “looking into” Jatinder Ahluwalia’s career

Exclusive: Researcher found guilty of misconduct at UCL had been dismissed from Cambridge for data fabrication

Here at Retraction Watch, we’ve been following the case of Jatinder Ahluwalia with interest. You may recall that an investigation by University College London (UCL) found “beyond reasonable doubt” that Ahluwalia had renumbered files to deceive a co-author. UCL was also “highly confident” that Ahluwalia had messed with his solutions to make his results look better, and sabotaged his colleagues’ work. The report of that investigation was part of a Nature retraction notice.

We’ve now learned that UCL was not the first scene of misconduct by Ahluwalia. Yesterday, we obtained letters by University of Cambridge faculty and administrators describing repeated — and in the words of of one professor, amateurish — data fabrication by Ahluwalia that led to his dismissal from the university’s graduate program.

In a letter dated November 10, 1997, Martin Brand, then Ahluwalia’s PhD advisor, wrote: Continue reading Exclusive: Researcher found guilty of misconduct at UCL had been dismissed from Cambridge for data fabrication

Researcher found to have deceived colleague — and perhaps sabotaged others — decides to study plagiarism

Jatinder Ahluwalia apparently did some pretty bad things as a researcher at University College London. As we reported in November, in an investigation related to a Nature retraction, a research misconduct panel at UCL found that:

Ahluwalia “renumbered the files to deceive [another coauthor,] Professor [Lucie] Clapp as to the results of his patch clamping experiments,” adulterated his reagents so his results would look better, and sabotaged his colleagues’ work.

The panel said that the file renumbering charge was proven “beyond reasonable doubt,” and “that on the balance of probabilities it was highly confident”  that the other two charges had been proven. It also concluded unanimously that Ahluwalia had acted alone.

So he knows from research misconduct, in several of its forms. There’s one that he doesn’t seem to have engaged in, however, and that’s the one he’s decided to study in his new position at the University of East London: Continue reading Researcher found to have deceived colleague — and perhaps sabotaged others — decides to study plagiarism

More on Ahluwalia et al Nature retraction, from Tom DeCoursey

Yesterday,we posted on the retraction of a 2004 Nature paper on innate immunity whose findings had been questioned by two groups. A few hours after we posted that item, we heard back from the senior author of one of the papers doubting that data, Tom DeCoursey. DeCoursey makes a number of important points, so we thought it would be a good idea to share them as a post: Continue reading More on Ahluwalia et al Nature retraction, from Tom DeCoursey

Previously questioned Nature paper on innate immunity retracted

courtesy Nature

Last week, we noted a Nature editorial in which the journal came clean about its higher-than-average number of retractions this year — four. What we missed was the fact that the fourth retraction of the year also appeared in last week’s issue.

The retraction, of a paper called “The large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel is essential for innate immunity,” reads (link to the author’s homepage added): Continue reading Previously questioned Nature paper on innate immunity retracted

Nature comes clean about retractions and why they’re on the rise

courtesy Nature

This week’s Nature includes a refreshing and soul-searching editorial about retractions. Excerpt (we added links and corrected a misspelling and wrong country in the editorial after a reader noted the errors below):

This year, Nature has published four retractions, an unusually large number. In 2009 we published one. Throughout the past decade, we have averaged about two per year, compared with about one per year in the 1990s, excluding the pulse of retractions of papers co-authored by [Austrian German physicist Jan Hendrick Hendrik Schön].

Given that Nature publishes about 800 papers a year, the total is not particularly alarming, especially because only some of the retractions are due to proven misconduct. A few of the Nature research journals have also had to retract papers in recent years, but the combined data do no more than hint at a trend. A broader survey revealed even smaller proportions: in 2009, Times Higher Education commissioned a survey by Thomson Reuters that counted 95 retractions among 1.4 million papers published in 2008. But the same survey showed that, since 1990 — during which time the number of published papers doubled — the proportion of retractions increased tenfold (see http://go.nature.com/vphd17).

The editorial highlights Continue reading Nature comes clean about retractions and why they’re on the rise

Highly cited Harvard stem cell scientist retracts Nature paper

courtesy Nature

Amy Wagers, an up and coming stem cell researcher at Harvard who made a name for herself as a postdoc early by questioning the work of others, has retracted a January 2010 paper she co-authored in Nature. According to the retraction:

Three of the authors (J.L.S., F.S.K. and A.J.W.) wish to retract this Article after a re-examination of the publication raised serious concerns with some of the reported data. These concerns have undermined the authors’ confidence in the support for the scientific conclusions reported, specifically the role of osteopontin-positive niche cells in the rejuvenation of haematopoietic stem cells in aged mice. Although this matter is under further review, these authors wish to retract the paper in its entirety, and regret any adverse consequences that may have resulted from the paper’s publication. The retraction has not been signed by Shane R. Mayack, who maintains that the results are still valid.