The Office of Research Integrity has sanctioned a former researcher in the lab of Linda Buck, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for falsifying data in two papers written with the support of grants from the National Institutes of Health.
The researcher, Zou Zhihua, worked with Buck as a post-doc at Harvard and then at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, Buck’s current home. After leaving there in 2005, he spent three years at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and now appears to be a faculty member at Jilin University in China.
We reported on six retractions from Savio Woo’s Mount Sinai lab in 2010, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and two each from Human Gene Therapy and Molecular Therapy. The PNAS paper, as we noted then:
claimed to have discovered a possible cure for phenylketonuria, or PKU, in mice—a finding that was cited more than 30 times and trumpeted in the media.
A former postdoc at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) committed misconduct in a study of hepatitis by falsely claiming that data from a single trial subject were actually from more than a dozen different people, the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has found.
The investigation was prompted by allegations made by readers of the paper. Baoyan Xu made what the ORI called “a limited admission” that “some better looking strips were repeatedly used as representatives for several times [sic].”
By now, Retraction Watch readers may have heard about new Nobel laureate Randy Schekman’s pledge to boycott Cell, Nature, and Science — sometimes referred to the “glamour journals” — because they damage and distort science. Schekman has used the bully pulpit of the Nobels to spark a conversation that science dearly needs to have about the cult of the impact factor.
The argument isn’t airtight. Schekman — now editor of eLife, an open access journal — says that open access journals are a better way to go, although he doesn’t really connect mode of publishing with the quality of what’s published. Others have pointed out that the move will punish junior members of his lab while likely having no effect on the career of someone who has published dozens of studies in the three journals he’s criticizing, and has, well, won a Nobel.
In August, we reported on a case in which a researcher had been fired from Leiden University in the Netherlands for fraud. The university said there would be two retractions, but did not name the researcher in question. At the same time, however, there were clues in the university’s report that suggested it could only be one person, the lead author of a 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that was to be retracted.
PNAS has a curious correction in a recent issue. A group from Toronto and Mount Sinai in New York, it seems, had been rather too liberal in their use of text from a previously published paper by another researcher — what we might call plagiarism, in a less charitable mood.
To paraphrase Beyoncé: If you like it, better put some quotation marks around it. But we’re pretty sure she meant before, not after, the fact.
The article, “Structural basis for substrate specificity and catalysis of human histone acetyltransferase 1,” had appeared in May 2012, in other words, some 17 months ago. It has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.