Cell retraction for bogus images in genetics paper reveals another, in Journal of Molecular Biology

Call it bad luck, but the journal Cell has been victimized again by image manipulation. For the second time this month, the publication has retracted a paper whose authors acknowledged that one of them had played around with the figures.

Published in August 2009, the paper, “Population-Level Transcription Cycles Derive from Stochastic Timing of Single-Cell Transcription,” has been cited 16 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. It purported to show using computer modeling that

transcriptional cycling, i.e., periodic assembly of transcription factors and their cofactors and the resulting cyclical accumulation of mRNA, may stem from stochastic timing and sequential activation of transcription in individual cells.

The authors, from several European institutions, presented experimental data to back up their computer model, including multiple figures. Some of those, they now admit, were fabricated — to the point where the whole paper collapsed: Continue reading Cell retraction for bogus images in genetics paper reveals another, in Journal of Molecular Biology

Science plays two — a retraction, and concern issued about genetics papers

It’s a busy week at Science. The journal is retracting a controversial paper about which it had previously expressed doubts, and has published an “Expression of Concern” about another article that looks like it might be headed for the same fate.

First, the retraction.

The move involves an October 2009 paper, on which we’ve previously posted, by European researchers who claimed to have made a major advance in the ability to watch how enzymes behave in cells — thereby giving scientists a new tool for monitoring the function of genes.

But back in December, Science editor Bruce Alberts issued this “Expression of Concern” about the research: Continue reading Science plays two — a retraction, and concern issued about genetics papers

It’s poll time: Should a retraction during graduate school mean losing your PhD?

photo by secretlondon123 via flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/secretlondon/

A few weeks ago, we reported on the case of Emily Horvath, a promising scientist at Indiana University who admitted to falsifying data to make her results look better. Some of that data went into her PhD thesis. That prompted a Retraction Watch reader to ask whether scientists who commit such fraud should be stripped of their PhDs. We figured that was a good poll question, so let us know what you think.

[polldaddy poll=”4062997″]

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

Cell pulls fruit fly article, citing image manipulation

The journal Cell has retracted a paper on fruit fly genetics over concerns that the first author, a postdoc in a German laboratory, might have manipulated dozens of electron micrographs in the manuscript.

The article, published in November 2009, was titled “Assembly of Endogenous oskar mRNA Particles for Motor-Dependent Transport in the Drosophila Oocyte.” It has been cited six times since then, according to the Thomson Scientific Web of Knowledge.

Not having the foggiest notion of what those words might mean, other than that the paper was about fruit flies, we called in a ringer, Jeff Perkel, who explained as patiently as he could that the gist of the research involved Continue reading Cell pulls fruit fly article, citing image manipulation

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

A retraction in the Potti case?

In our very first post, we noted the case of Anil Potti,

a Duke researcher who posed as a Rhodes Scholar and appears to have invented key statistical analyses in a study of how breast cancer responds to chemotherapy[.The case] has sent ripples of angst through the cancer community. Potti’s antics prompted editors of The Lancet Oncology to issue an “expression of concern” — a Britishism that might be better expressed as “Holy Shit!” — about the validity of a 2007 paper in their journal by Potti and others.

There hasn’t been any further movement on The Lancet Oncology study, as far as we know, but on Friday the Raleigh News & Observer reported that one of Potti’s co-authors on a 2007 Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) paper had requested a retraction: Continue reading A retraction in the Potti case?

Top German anesthesiologist’s cardiac surgery paper retracted over “very serious misrepresentations”

Self-plagiarism alert: A very similar version of this post is being published online in Anesthesiology News, where one of us (AM) is managing editor.

A leading German anesthesiologist with more than 200 papers to his name has been accused of misrepresenting critical aspects of a paper  — possibly including the data itself — published late last year in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.

In a retraction notice published online today, Steven L. Shafer, editor-in-chief of the journal, writes that Joachim Boldt and his coauthors failed to obtain approval from an institutional review board, did not get patient consent and did not follow up as promised with volunteers in their study, reported in the December 2009 article, “Cardiopulmonary Bypass Priming Using a High Dose of a Balanced Hydroxyethyl Starch Versus an Albumin-Based Priming System.”

In addition, the journal said, it has reason to suspect that data in the paper were fabricated, a possibility that is being investigated by German authorities. As the notice states: Continue reading Top German anesthesiologist’s cardiac surgery paper retracted over “very serious misrepresentations”

UK government research watchdog publishes new retraction guidelines

The UK’s Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) has just published “Guidance for researchers on retractions in academic journals.” The document is an adaptation of existing guidelines by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a UK charity.

Nothing has changed, COPE chair Liz Wager told Retraction Watch. UKRIO just decided to convert COPE’s existing guidelines, targeted to journal editors, so that they were useful to researchers.