Archive for Biomedical Research Ethics

Findings of Research Misconduct

Another dual billing … Read the rest of this entry »

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Findings of Research Misconduct

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Findings of Research Misconduct

Notice is hereby given that ORI has taken final action in the following case: Read the rest of this entry »

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Findings of Research Misconduct

Notice that ORI has taken final action in the following case:

Based on the report of an investigation conducted by the University of Kentucky and ORI, ORI found that Eric J. Smart, PhD, former Professor of Pediatrics and Physiology, Department of Pediatrics and Physiology, University of Kentucky, engaged in research misconduct in research supported by grants R01HL062844, R01HL058475, R01HL064056, R01HL068059, R0 HL073693, R56DK063025, and P20RR105592.

ORI found that the Respondent engaged in research misconduct by falsifying and/or fabricating data that were included in 10 published papers, 1 submitted manuscript, 7 grant applications, and 3 progress reports over a period of 10 years. Respondent reported experimental data for knockout mice that did not exist in 5 grant applications and 3 progress reports and also falsified and/or fabricated images in 45 figures.

Specifically, ORI finds that Respondent:

  • Falsely reported in Figure 14 and associated text in NIH grant applications R01HL07897601 and -01A1 that experiments were performed to determine if endothelial-specific caveolin-1 null mice were protected from saturated fatty acid-induced atherosclerosis, when these mutant mice did not exist in the laboratory at the time; Dr. Smart also falsely reported the use of these mice in related progress reports R01HL078976-02, -03, and -04 and in 3 additional NIH grant applications: Figure 11 in R01HL088150-01, Figure 11 in U54CA116853, and Figure 9 in R56DK063025-01A2
  • Falsified and/or fabricated images in NIH grant application R01HL078976-01A1 by duplicating and altering bands in 14 Western blot images and 1 RT-PCR image included in Figures 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15; false Western blots were also included in the earlier version of the grant application R01HL078976-01, Figures 3, 6, 11, 13, and 14
  • Falsified and/or fabricated Western blots and 1 RNase protection assay by duplicating and altering bands in 33 figures included in 10 published papers, 1 submitted manuscript, and 2 NIH grant applications. Specifically, false or fabricated images were included in:
    • Figures 5 and 7, J. Biol. Chem. 277(7):4925-31, 2002
    • Figure 4B, Am J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 291(6):C1271-8, 2006
    • Figures 2A, 3A, 6A, and 7A, Am J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 294(1):C295-305, 2008
    • Figures 3, 5, and 6, J. Lipid Res. 45:1444-1449, 2001
    • Figure 2A, J. Biol. Chem. 275(33):25595-99, 2000
    • Figures 2A/B/C and 4A/B, J. Biol. Chem. 277(26):23525-33, 2002
    • Figures 2B/D and 4, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101(10):3450-5, 2004
    • Figures 1A and 5B, J. Biol. Chem. 280(33):29543-50, 2005
    • Figures 1A, 2A/B, and 4A, J. Biol. Chem. 273:6525-6532, 1998
    • Figure 1B, Am J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 282:C935-46, 2002
    • Figures 2A, 4, 6B, 7, and 8 in a submitted manuscript
    • Figures 7A, 8A, 9A, and 10B in grant application HL093155-01
    • Figures 4, 7, and 13 in grant application HL068509-01A1.

Dr. Smart has entered into a Voluntary Exclusion Agreement and has voluntarily agreed for a period of 7 years, beginning on October 23, 2012:

(1) To exclude himself from any contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the United States Government and from eligibility or involvement in nonprocurement programs of the United States Government referred to as “covered transactions” pursuant to HHS’ Implementation (2 CFR part 376 et seq.) of OMB Guidelines to Agencies on Goverment-wide Debarment and Suspension, 2 CFR part 180 (collectively the “Debarment Regulations”);
(2) To exclude himself voluntarily from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS including, but not limited to, service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant; and
(3) To request that the following publications be retracted or corrected: J. Biol. Chem. 277(7):4925-31, 2002; Am J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 291(6):C1271-8, 2006; Am J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 294(1):C295-305, 2008; J. Lipid Res. 42:1444-1449, 2001; J. Biol. Chem. 275:25595, 2000; J. Biol. Chem. 277(26):23525-33, 2002; Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101(10):3450-5, 2004; J. Biol. Chem. 280(33):29543-50, 2005; J. Biol. Chem. 273:6525-6532, 1998; Am J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 282:C935-46, 2002.

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Opaque Retraction Notices Hiding Growing Culture of Misconduct Incentivized by Academic Career Pressures? (kudos to PNAS paper & Retraction Watch)

Given recent discussions with authors being asked to sign opaque retraction notices (and no explanation even to them as to why the paper must be retracted – and no negotiation on rewording the notice to clear uninvolved/uninformed authors of guilt by association), this PNAS paper by Fang, Steen and Casadevall could not be more timely … and this research could not be more important to the scientific community as a whole:

A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3%of retractionswere attributable to error. In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientic articles retracted because of fraud has increased since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic patterns that may reveal underlying causes.

Not surprisingly, Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky – on whom the PNAS authors rely heavily – run with this theme at Retraction Watch:

It’s now clear that the reason misconduct seemed to play a smaller role in retractions, according to previous studies, is that so many notices said nothing about why a paper was retracted. If scientific journals are as interested in correcting the literature as they’d like us to think they are, and want us to believe they’re transparent, the ones that fail to include that information need to take a lesson from those that do.

… The question, of course, is, how common is scientific misconduct? The simple but unsatisfying answer is that we don’t know, certainly not based on this study, because it’s only of retractions. Some of the best data we have comes from a 2009 paper in PLoS ONE by Daniele Fanelli. In it, Fanelli does his own survey, and combines findings from other surveys.

In other words, 2% of scientists admit to having committed misconduct, but almost three-quarters say their colleagues have been involved in “questionable research practices.” But those may be low figures.

As the authors of the new PNAS study point out, all we can say for sure, based on their findings, is that misconduct plays more of a role in retractions than we thought it did. But we think they make a good argument for why retractions may be the canary in a coal mine when it comes to fraud …

Nature concludes with a discussion of another Retraction Watch theme, a transparency index for journals:

Ivan Oransky, a New York-based journalist and co-founder of Retraction Watch, suggests setting up a ‘transparency index’ for journals, to rank them on criteria such as the clarity of their retraction notices. The idea, which he says he would be keen to work on, could provide a much-needed incentive for journals to improve their performance in this area. Data from the current study could also serve as a basis for a retractions database to help scientists avoid wasting time trying to replicate or build on retracted work, he adds.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea, but I have concerns about how such a database could be properly maintained and updated,” says Fang. “Our study is merely a snapshot. Creating an accurate, centralized database that could be used as an ongoing resource would be a considerable undertaking.”

Science starts off featuring the number of months between publication and retraction by cause but does not duck its role in the top ten retractors list:

Science has the dubious distinction of being ranked first for the number of articles retracted, 70, just edging out PNAS, which comes second with 69. Thirty-two of Science‘s retractions were due to fraud or suspected fraud, and 37 to error. These days, “the value of the work is determined by where it is published,” Casadevall says. Last year, he and Fang devised a “retraction index” to show that journals with relatively high impact factors, such as Science, Nature, and Cell, had a higher rate of retractions.

Apart from the question of how pervasive is misconduct in science today, The Chronicle of Higher Education highlights the implications in terms of pressures to publish for academic promotion and grant funding:

“Right now we’re incentivizing a lot of behavior that’s not actually constructive to science,” Dr. Fang said.

… For Dr. Fang, the amount of misconduct in high-profile journals is a clear sign that researchers are facing far too much pressure from statistical measures such as publication rates and impact factors when seeking job promotions and grant money.

Hopefully coverage in the New York Times and other media outlets will not disillusion the public nor lessen the enthusiasm of Congress to support scientific research …

Dr. Casadevall disagreed. “It convinces me more that we have a problem in science,” he said.

While the fraudulent papers may be relatively few, he went on, their rapid increase is a sign of a winner-take-all culture in which getting a paper published in a major journal can be the difference between heading a lab and facing unemployment. “Some fraction of people are starting to cheat,” he said.

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Findings of Research Misconduct

The other shoe drops for Marc Hauser, as noted at Retraction Watch and in many media outlets … Hauser responds via the Boston Globe blog.

Notice is hereby given that ORI has taken final action in the following case:

Based on the report of an investigation conducted by Harvard University and additional analysis conducted by ORI in its oversight review, ORI found that Marc Hauser, PhD, former Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard, engaged in research misconduct in research supported by grants P51RR00168-37, CM-5-P40RR003640-13, R01DC005863, and F31MH075298.
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Findings of Research Misconduct

Notice is hereby given that based on the report of an investigation conducted by the Joslin Diabetes Center and additional analysis conducted by ORI in its oversight review, ORI found that Shane Mayack, PhD, former postdoctoral fellow, Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Joslin, engaged in research misconduct in research supported by T32DK07260, P30DK036836, and DP2OD004345. ORI found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct involving 2 published papers:

  • Mayack SR, Shadrach JL, Kim FS, Wagers AJ Systemic signals regulate ageing and rejuventation of blood stem cell niches. Nature 2010; 463:495–500.
  • Mayack SR, Wagers AJ. Osteolineage niche cells initiate hemotopoietic stem cell mobilization. Blood 2008;112:519–531.

As a result of Joslin’s investigation, both the Nature and Blood papers have been retracted by the corresponding author. Specifically, ORI found that:

  • Respondent falsely represented von Kossa-stained bone nodule images in 2 published papers:
    • a. Figure 2B in the Blood paper was copied from an unrelated published experiment in Figure 3, J Orth Surg Res 1:7, 2006, and was used to falsely represent Respondent’s own experiment for bone nodules formed in cultured osteoblastic niche cells.
      b. Figure S2c in the Nature paper was copied from an online image for an unrelated experiment and was used to falsely represent Respondent’s own experiment for bone nodules formed in osteoblastic niche cells from young and aged mice.
  • Respondent falsely represented 8 flow cytometry contour plots as different experimental results by using identical plots but with different labels and different numerical percentages. Specifically, the following contour plots in the Blood paper, the Nature paper, an earlier version of the Nature paper submitted to Science, and a July 2008 PowerPoint presentation were identical but were labeled differently:
    • a. Panels 4 and 2 in Figure 6C, Blood paper, and panels 1 and 2, respectively, in supplementary Figure 3b, Nature paper
      b. Panel 3 in Figure 6C, Blood paper, and panel 1 in Figure 2, July 2008 PowerPoint presentation
      c. Panels 1 and 2, Figure 2b, Science manuscript, and panels 2 and 3, respectively, in Figure 2, July 2008 PowerPoint presentation
      d. Panels 2, 3, and 4, supplemental Figure 4A, Blood paper, and panels 3, 1, and 2, respectively, in Figure 4B, Science manuscript

    Both the Respondent and HHS want to conclude this matter without further expenditure of time or other resources and have entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement to resolve this matter. Respondent neither admits nor denies ORI’s finding of research misconduct. This settlement does not constitute an admission of liability on the part of the Respondent. Dr. Mayack has voluntarily agreed:

    (1) If within 3 years from the effective date of the Agreement, Respondent does receive or apply for U.S. PHS support, Respondent agrees to have her research supervised for a period of 3 years beginning on the date of her employment in a research position in which she receives or applies for PHS support and to notify her employer(s)/ institution(s) of the terms of this supervision; Respondent agrees that prior to the submission of an application for PHS support for a research project on which the Respondent’s participation is proposed and prior to Respondent’s participation in any capacity on PHS-supported research, Respondent shall ensure that a plan for supervision of Respondent’s duties is submitted to ORI for approval; the supervision plan must be designed to ensure the scientific integrity of Respondent’s research contribution; Respondent agrees that she shall not participate in any PHS-supported research until such a supervision plan is submitted to and approved by ORI; Respondent agrees to maintain responsibility for compliance with the agreed upon supervision plan;

    (2) If within 3 years from the effective date of the Agreement, Respondent does receive or apply for PHS support, Respondent agrees that any institution employing her shall submit, in conjunction with each application for PHS funds, or report, manuscript, or abstract involving PHS supported research in which Respondent is involved, a certification to ORI that the data provided by Respondent are based on actual experiments or are otherwise legitimately derived and that the data, procedures, and methodology are accurately reported in the application, report, manuscript, or abstract; and

    (3) To exclude herself voluntarily from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS including, but not limited to, service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant for a period of 3 years, beginning on July 27, 2012.

    Retraction Watch has a bit more on this case.

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