When the journal issued expressions of concern for four papers co-authored by José Ignacio Rodriguez-Crespo about the allegations (which had also been raised on PubPeer), it notified his institution, the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM). The newly issued correction notices explain that UCM investigated the four papers, and the data support the results and conclusions. In two cases, the authors supplied the original data, and in the others, they replicated the experiments.
Rodriguez-Crespo declined to comment, saying only that the journal
In a new preprint posted to bioRxiv, image sleuths scanned hundreds of papers published over a seven-year period in Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), published by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The researchers — Arturo Casadevall of Johns Hopkins University, Elisabeth Bik of uBiome, Ferric Fang of the University of Washington (also on the board of directors of our parent non-profit organization), Roger Davis of the University of Massachusetts (and former MCB editor), and Amy Kullas, ASM’s publication ethics manager — found 59 potentially problematic papers, of which five were retracted. Extrapolating from these findings and those of another paper that scanned duplication rates, the researchers propose that tens of thousands of papers might need to be purged from the literature. That 35,000 figure is double the amount of retractions we’ve tallied so far in our database, which goes back to the 1970s. We spoke with the authors about their findings — and how to prevent bad images from getting published in the first place.
Retraction Watch: You found 59 potential instances of inappropriate duplication — how did you define this, and validate that the images were problematic?
A leading orthodontics journal has retracted 12 papers after determining that they contained either reused images, questionable data or both. Several of the articles involved experiments conducted in dogs — and one person familiar with the case told us that the duplication was an attempt to avoid sacrificing more animals than necessary for the research.
Although the list of authors on the articles varies, the common denominator is Jose Luis Calvo-Guirado, of the UCAM Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia, in Spain. Calvo-Guirado’s title at the institution is director de la Cátedra Internacional de Investigación en Odontología, which Google translates as director of the International Research Chair in Dentistry. Calvo-Guirado also holds (or has held) a research professorship at SUNY Stony Brook in the Department of Prosthodontics and Digital Medicine, according to his CV.
Calvo-Guirado’s name is on at least 187 entries in PubMed. Of those, 40 appeared in Clinical Oral Implants Research, a Wiley title on whose editorial board the researcher served, according to his CV.
A university and medical center have requested a batch of retractions following an investigation that found 20 papers by a cancer researcher contained manipulated images.
The request, from University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) and Birmingham VA Medical Center, focuses on papers by Santosh Katiyar, who explored alternative approaches to treating skin cancer in animal models.
A researcher who has received millions in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and who runs a lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York has confessed to falsifying data in a 2014 paper.
A prominent (yet controversial) journalist in Australia has admitted to duplicating three images that were part of her PhD thesis — a practice outside experts agreed was acceptable, if not ideal, at the time, according to a report released today.
As part of an inquiry, the University of Adelaide convened an expert panel to investigate 17 allegations of duplication and/or manipulation in Maryanne Demasi’s 2004 thesis. Duplication is a common reason for retractions, such as when researchers use the same image to depict the results of different experiments.
Regarding the allegations of misconduct in Demasi’s thesis, the originals of the images in question were long gone, so in 14 instances, an expert concluded it was not possible to conclude whether or not duplication had occurred. But in the remaining three instances, Demasi admitted she had “duplicated or probably duplicated” the images:
For months, a researcher has wrestled with a journal over the wording of an upcoming retraction notice. It appears that she has lost.
Earlier this week, Cell retracted the paper, despite the protests of first author Shalon Babbitt Ledbetter. When Ledbetter learned the journal was planning to retract the biochemistry paper over image manipulations, but wouldn’t name the culprit in the notice, she shared her concerns on PubPeer. Although a 2015 letter sent to Cell from Saint Louis University identified last author Dorota Skowyra as responsible for multiple manipulations, the journal wasn’t planning to say Skowyra was responsible in the retraction notice. Which would leave all other authors — particularly Ledbetter — under a cloud of suspicion.
Now, Cell Press has finally retracted the paper, along with another paper in Molecular Cell that lists Skowyra as corresponding author. Both notices describe image manipulations that were investigated by Saint Louis University (SLU). Neither identifies who is responsible.
Here’s something we haven’t seen before: The U.S. Office of Research Integrity has issued a second notice for a former researcher at the National Institutes of Health, after determining she withheld information during the first investigation.
Paul Brookes is a biologist with a passion for sleuthing out fraud. Although he studies mitochondria at the University of Rochester, he also secretly ran a science-fraud.org, a site for people to post their concerns about papers. Following legal threats, he revealed he was the author and shut the site in 2013 — but didn’t stop the fight. Recently, he’s co-authored a paper that’s slightly outside his day job: Partnering with computer scientist Daniel Acuna at Syracuse University and computational biologist Konrad Kording at the University of Pennsylvania, they developed a software to help detect duplicated images. If it works, it would provide a much needed service to the research community, which has been clamoring for some version of this for years. So how did this paper — also described by Nature News — come about?
Retraction Watch: Dr. Brookes, you study mitochondria. What brought you to co-author a paper about software to detect duplications?