Authors retract heart disease paper for “nonscientific reason”

Researchers have retracted a 2018 paper about the genetic underpinnings of heart disease from the FASEB Journal — and it’s not entirely clear why. The paywalled retraction notice simply cites a “nonscientific reason.” Cody Mooneyhan, the director of publications at the journal, declined to provide further details, and the authors have provided different accounts of … Continue reading Authors retract heart disease paper for “nonscientific reason”

“Barriers to retraction may impede correction of the literature:” New study

One of the complaints we often hear about the self-correcting nature of science is that authors and editors seem very reluctant to retract papers with obvious fatal flaws. Indeed, it seems fairly clear that the number of papers retracted is smaller than the number of those that should be. To try to get a sense […]

Penkowa-Pedersen paper retracted nearly three years after being subjected to Notice of Concern

We have an update on the complicated story of Milena Penkowa and Bente Klarlund Pedersen. Two papers coauthored by the pair — who have both been found guilty of scientific dishonesty by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty — have been retracted by the FASEB Journal. Here’s one notice (both are unfortunately behind a paywall): […]

Bitter legal fight leads to a retracted retraction

faseb june 2013Two years ago, the FASEB Journal retracted a paper that it had initially agreed to correct, after a dean at one of the author’s institutions said that a “well-recognized and top-class fact finding commission concluded that the publication contains gross flaws.” The retraction of the 2003 paper, as we noted at the time, punctuated a complicated case involving several investigations as well as legal maneuvering.

Now, the journal has retracted the retraction. Here’s the beginning of the notice:

Regarding the article titled, “Molecular analysis of Nogo expression in the hippocampus during development and following lesion and seizure,” by Susan Meier, Anja U. Bräuer, Bernd Heimrich, Martin E. Schwab, Robert Nitsch, and Nicolai E. Savaskan, published in the June 2003 issue of The FASEB Journal (FASEB J., 2003 Jun;17(9):1153—1155; doi:10.1096/fj.02-0453fje). The editors of The FASEB Journal received a letter date June 1, 2011, from Dr. Annette Grüters-Kieslich at Charite—Universitätsmedizin Berlin stating:

“In the year 2009 a series of reproaches in regard to scientific misconduct against Dr. Nicolai Savaskan reached the faculty of the Charite—Universitätsmedizin Berlin.”

“One of the manuscripts affected was published in the FASEB J in the year 2003: Meier S, Bräuer AU, Heimrich B, Schwab ME, Nitsch R, Savaskan NE. FASEB J. 2003 Jun;17(9):1153–5. A well-recognized and top-class fact finding commission concluded that the publication contains gross flaws. A key figure (Figure 14) and the conclusions drawn from it could not be underlined with the corresponding primary data. Therefore, the faculty has requested the senior author Dr. Nicolai Savaskan to retract the publication.”

In light of the “well-recognized and top-class fact finding” commission’s conclusions and the faculty’s recommendation to retract the article, the article was retracted and all versions were removed from the Web site.

Since receiving this communication, Annette Grüters-Kieslich at Charite—Universitätsmedizin Berlin has contacted the journal with an additional letter stating the following:

“We consulted you in writing 1 June 2011 concerning the publication of Meier S. et al, FASEB J 2003 17(9) 1153-5.”

“In a final evaluation of the investigations carried about by reason of the letter stating the underlying facts, we find that these investigations do not proof of intentional falsifications, manipulation of plagiarism in this work.” (sic)

“As a result of our investigations, we correspondingly suggest the recommendation of the Johann Gutenberg University of Mainz to publish a written erratum from the scientist, Dr. Savaskan and Prof. Nitsch, for the correction of the mistakes contained in this publication.” (sic)

In light of the new recommendation by Charite—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the journal has reinstated the original article with the addition of the following erratum and addendum provided by the authors:

The notice then goes on, in some detail. Excerpts:

We have been informed about a data presentation error in one quantitative data set shown in Figure 14 B in our paper published in FASEB J (2003 Jun;17(9):1153–5. Epub 2003 Apr 8) [1]. There, the actin column for group 3 (lesion group 5DAL) is given larger, i.e. 887.7 a.u. than the original data file with 224.3 a.u. which contains the primary data actin quantification set. Nevertheless, the main conclusion of our paper given in Figure 14 A and C, i.e. the fact that an entorhinal cortex lesion induces upregulation of Nogo-A protein in the hippocampus, is not affected by this display error.

We decided to repeat the experiments given in the original Figure 14 which have been performed in the years 2001–2003.

After describing the methodology and new results, the authors conclude, somewhat emphatically:

From these reproduced and updated experimental results it can be concluded that the findings as reported in the paper in 2003 are valid and still stand. We apologize for any confusion the erroneous display may have caused. However, there is no doubt that the finding of a Nogo-A upregulation following entorhinal cortex lesion as reported in our FASEB J paper from 2003 is based on reproducible mRNA and protein data, and thus is a biological fact.

This has been a complicated case. Among the other developments in the case since mid-2011:

The publications

1.    U. Bräuer, N. E. Savaskan, M. Plaschke, S. Prehn, O. Ninnemann, and R. Nitsch. IG-molecule Kilon shows differential expression pattern from LAMP in the developing and adult rat hippocampus. Hippocampus 10 (6):632-644, 2000.

2.    U. Bräuer, N. E. Savaskan, M. Plaschke, O. Ninnemann, and R. Nitsch. Perforant path lesion induces up-regulation of stathmin messenger RNA, but not SCG10 messenger RNA, in the adult rat hippocampus. Anonymous. Anonymous.  Neuroscience 102(3):515-526, 2001.

3.    U. Bräuer, N. E. Savaskan, M. H. Kole, M. Plaschke, L. M. Monteggia, E. J. Nestler, E. Simburger, R. A. Deisz, O. Ninnemann, and R. Nitsch. Molecular and functional analysis of hyperpolarization-activated pacemaker channels in the hippocampus after entorhinal cortex lesion. FASEB J. 15 (14):2689-2701, 2001.

4.    U. Bräuer, N. E. Savaskan, H. Kühn, S. Prehn, O. Ninnemann, and R. Nitsch. A new phospholipid phosphatase, PRG-1, is involved in axon growth and regenerative sprouting. Nat.Neurosci. 6 (6):572-578, 2003.

5.    U. Bräuer, N. E. Savaskan, M. Plaschke, O. Ninnemann, and R. Nitsch. Cholecystokinin expression after hippocampal deafferentiation: molecular evidence revealed by differential display-reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Neuroscience 121 (1):111-121, 2003.

6.    U. Bräuer, R. Nitsch, and N. E. Savaskan. Identification of macrophage/microglia activation factor (MAF) associated with late endosomes/lysosomes in microglial cells. FEBS Lett. 563 (1-3):41-48, 2004.

were incriminated by Dr. Markus Kühbacher for scientific misconduct. Concerning publications 1, 2, 5 and 6 I have looked into the matter and there is no evidence for fabrication, falsification or plagiarism of the underlying data presented in the paper.

Professor J. Knop, Ombudsman of the Gutenberg University Mainz, looked into incriminations concerning publications 3 and 4. He declared that there is no evidence for fabrication, falsification or plagiarism of the underlying data presented in these papers.

have not provided evidence of deliberate falsification, manipulation or plagiarism in the investigated work of Dr. Savaskan.

We’ve asked for the complete reports from Charite, and have uploaded a number of files we’ve obtained that might shed light on the case for our German readers.

We’ve seen two retracted retractions before. One was due to a publisher error, but the other was a wrenching situation for the lead author.

Update, 10 a.m. Eastern, 6/5/13: Clarified “On February 20″ sentence; this was a settlement agreement, not a court decision. Also added bullet point “In June 2012″ with link to a court decision.

Author retracts FASEB Journal paper for data reuse

fasebThe FASEB Journal has retracted a 2012 paper by a group from the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), looking at the role of a tumor-suppressing micro-RNA in pulmonary fibrosis. The retraction suggests the provenance of the data are in question, and we learned details of what went wrong.

Here’s the notice, which, sadly, is behind a $12-per-day paywall:

The article, “miR-31 is a negative regulator of pulmonary fibrosis,” by Shanzhong Yang, Na Xie, Huachun Cui, Sami Banerjee, Edward Abraham, Victor J. Thannickal, and Gang Liu (FASEB J. 2012 Sep;26(9):3790–9. doi: 10.1096/fj.11-202366), has been retracted at the corresponding author’s request because it contained previously published data. All versions of the article have been removed from the journal’s web site and the authors regret any inconvenience caused by the retraction.

The paper’s fifth author, Edward Abraham, is a big name, having served as the chair of the UAB department of medicine. In May 2011, Abraham became the dean of the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Although the retraction notice is vague, the issue involved the reuse of a control figure, according to senior author Gang Liu:

The experiments represented in Figure 9 in this retracted paper were designed to share the control groups with an earlier study from us (Figure 9, American Journal of Pathology, 2012, 180(2):484-93), because of similar nature of the two studies. Representative micrographs for each group were taken and saved in a common folder. When the manuscript was initially prepared, representative micrographs for the shared control groups that had been utilized by the AJP paper (Figure 9B-D, Con miR+saline and Con miR+BLM) were inadvertently selected again for this subsequent paper. Another set of representative images for the shared control groups should have been chosen for the paper. I found out this mistake when preparing for a presentation, reviewed this with all authors and informed the editor.

Liu said he intended to resubmit the retracted paper using an appropriate image.