The steady drip-drip-dripping sound you hear from the cancer literature these days comes from the stream of retractions involving studies by Naoki Mori, the now jobless scientist whose work on cancer viruses appears to be evaporating before our eyes.
Cancer Science, which used to be called the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, has retracted three more of Mori’s papers, each of which, according to the journal, contained multiple unreliable images. That brings the tally of retractions involving Mori’s articles to 14 by our count, an impressive number by any measure. Mori has more than 50 papers to his name, however, so it’s possible that the number of retractions will grow.
Soon after Retraction Watch launched, one of our readers posed an important question: How should researchers note that their papers have been retracted?
The question is important mostly for transparency reasons. (We’ve also wondered, however, whether authors whose papers have been retracted because of journal office errors should be forced to list those.) Should they remove any reference to retracted papers? Leave them, but mark them as retracted?
We are watching an intriguing case out of the Netherlands, involving a young researcher whose dubious results have led to the retraction of a pair of papers.
The retracted articles, which appeared in 2008 in Cancer Research and the British Journal of Cancer, come from the lab of the prominent Dutch scientist Ed Roos, of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. Both papers addressed the actions of certain chemokine receptors — molecules on cell surfaces that interact with blood proteins involved in the immune response — on the behavior of tumor cells.
The first author on each paper was Joost Meijer, at the time a graduate student in Roos’ shop.
A journal has accepted the sixth retraction of a paper co-authored by Silvia Bulfone-Paus, the Research Centre Borstel announced late last week. Borstel has been investigating allegations that two of Bulfone-Paus’s former postdocs manipulated images.
We’ve had two questions since learning of the fraud case involving Naoki Mori: Who discovered the manipulations? And how?
We now have answers. We recently received an e-mail from a researcher who specializes in Mori’s field — cancer viruses — and who claims to have been a reviewer of a paper he submitted early last year to a journal in his field. (We’re obscuring some details to maintain our source’s anonymity.)
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.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) may not be on most scientists’ list of Facebook friends, but we’re grateful to them for a hat tip. Several days ago, we were approached by Justin Goodman, associate director of PETA’s laboratory investigations department, with a new twist on an old story.