Posts Tagged ‘Retracted papers’

Sylvia Bulfone-Paus misconduct story stretches back to at least 1999

February 3, 2011

I have posted earlier about 12 retractions of papers concerning research done under the supervision of Sylvia Bulfone-Paus, a Director at the Research Center Borstel in Germany. Six of the retracted papers had been identified earlier and the next six are reported in Retraction Watch.

The retractions came after an investigation which confirmed the misconduct but put the blame squarely on two Russian researchers Dr. E. Bulanova and Dr. V. Budagian with comments that Bulfone-Paus bore responsibility as their supervisor but that she herself  had not committed any misconduct. The blogger / whistle blower represented by the Marco Berns / Martin Frost persona had commented that the singling out of Bulanova and Budagian was suspicious and hinted darkly at much earlier wrong-doings (and in fact had specifically mentioned the year 1999).

The latest 6 retracted papers  listed include one from 1999 giving some credence to the Martin Frost allegations:

Bulfone-Paus, S., Bulanova, E., Pohl, T, Budagian, V., Dürkop, H., Rückert, R., Kunzendorf, U., Paus, R., and Krause, H. Death deflected: IL-15 inhibits TNF-α-mediated apoptosis in fibroblasts  by TRAF2 recruitment to the IL-15Rα chain. FASEB J. 13:1575-1585 (1999, cited 118 times)

For this paper Bulfone-Paus was both first author and corresponding author. It would seem that any misconduct here cannot be passed off onto authors nos. 2 and 4.

After the investigation Martin Frost  wrote:

It was confirmed that the Institute Directors have been “snooping” on their workforce.  They have indeed viewed the log files of e-mails of the workers.  This deeply distressing news was compounded when it was revealed that the only person who the management arraigned after the Stasi-like “snooping” exercise was a member of der Betriebsrat (workers council) showing that the confidence essential for the worker – Betriebsrat relationship is now severely compromised.

The two other Directors are now discussing what to do next with Bulfone-Paus.

But as Retraction Watch describes, some damage control is being done by the institute with some assistance from the Editor of the EMBO Journal who includes the following sentence in his retraction notice:

The authors declare that key experiments presented in the majority of these figures were recently reproduced and that the results confirmed the experimental data and the conclusions drawn from them.

Why would the Journal publish a line so blatantly intended to white-wash some of the authors? Or does the editor mean that the retraction of the paper is somehow negated!

On this theme of the behaviour of Journals Martin Frost also wrote:

We have been sent the exchange of e-mails below from Dr. Karin Wiebauer.  They describe Dr. Wiebauer’s efforts to rid the scientific literature of the contamination of the mainpulated Bulfone-Paus papers. ….. One interpretation of the exchange is that the Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Immunology is stonewalling and attempting to bury the scientific miscconduct.

The sad saga goes on….

US scientists more likely to publish fake research

November 16, 2010

A new on-line paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics has studied the PubMed database for all scientific research papers that had been retracted between 2000 and 2010.

Retractions in the scientific literature: do authors deliberately commit research fraud? by R Grant Steen J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/jme.2010.038125


Background Papers retracted for fraud (data fabrication or data falsification) may represent a deliberate effort to deceive, a motivation fundamentally different from papers retracted for error. It is hypothesised that fraudulent authors target journals with a high impact factor (IF), have other fraudulent publications, diffuse responsibility across many co-authors, delay retracting fraudulent papers and publish from countries with a weak research infrastructure.

Methods All 788 English language research papers retracted from the PubMed database between 2000 and 2010 were evaluated. Data pertinent to each retracted paper were abstracted from the paper and the reasons for retraction were derived from the retraction notice and dichotomised as fraud or error. Data for each retracted article were entered in an Excel spreadsheet for analysis.

Results Journal IF was higher for fraudulent papers (p<0.001). Roughly 53% of fraudulent papers were written by a first author who had written other retracted papers (‘repeat offender’), whereas only 18% of erroneous papers were written by a repeat offender (χ=88.40; p<0.0001). Fraudulent papers had more authors (p<0.001) and were retracted more slowly than erroneous papers (p<0.005). Surprisingly, there was significantly more fraud than error among retracted papers from the USA (χ2=8.71; p<0.05) compared with the rest of the world.

Conclusions This study reports evidence consistent with the ‘deliberate fraud’ hypothesis. The results suggest that papers retracted because of data fabrication or falsification represent a calculated effort to deceive. It is inferred that such behaviour is neither naïve, feckless nor inadvertent.

PhysOrg summarises the paper:

The study author searched the PubMed database for every scientific research paper that had been withdrawn—and therefore officially expunged from the public record—between 2000 and 2010. A total of 788 papers had been retracted during this period. Around three quarters of these papers had been withdrawn because of a serious error (545); the rest of the retractions were attributed to fraud (data fabrication or falsification).

The highest number of retracted papers were written by US first authors (260), accounting for a third of the total. One in three of these was attributed to fraud.

The UK, India, Japan, and China each had more than 40 papers withdrawn during the decade. Asian nations, including South Korea, accounted for 30% of retractions. Of these, one in four was attributed to fraud.

The fakes were more likely to appear in leading publications with a high “impact factor.” This is a measure of how often research is cited in other peer reviewed journals. More than half (53%) of the faked research papers had been written by a first author who was a “repeat offender.” This was the case in only one in five (18%) of the erroneous papers.

The average number of authors on all retracted papers was three, but some had 10 or more. Faked research papers were significantly more likely to have multiple authors. Each first author who was a repeat fraudster had an average of six co-authors, each of whom had had another three retractions.

“The duplicity of some authors is cause for concern,” comments the author. Retraction is the strongest sanction that can be applied to published research, but currently, “[it] is a very blunt instrument used for offences both gravely serious and trivial.”

Another Harvard paper retracted – post-doc’s research suspect

October 14, 2010

The paper in NatureSystemic signals regulate ageing and rejuvenation of blood stem cell niches” by Shane R. Mayack, Jennifer L. Shadrach, Francis S. Kim & Amy J. Wagers has been retracted at the request of 3 of the authors.

According to the Boston Globe story the retraction was not signed by Shane R Mayack, the lead author of the article, who was a postdoctoral researcher in Wagers’s laboratory.

The paper, published in January in Nature, examined aging of blood stem cells. The retraction, published yesterday, was signed by Amy Wagers, a stem cell biologist at Joslin Diabetes Center and two of her coauthors.

Joslin spokesman Eric Bender said he could not comment on whether Mayack was still working in the laboratory. The retraction did not explain whether it was an innocent mistake, possible research misconduct, or some other issue — nor did it make clear who, if anyone, was at fault.

Two months ago, Harvard confirmed that a high-profile psychology professor, Marc Hauser, had engaged in eight instances of scientific misconduct, leading to the retraction of one paper he coauthored and raising concerns about two others.

Biotechnology Advances retracts 3 papers from India for plagiarism

October 5, 2010

Biotechnology Advances



Update 3: 7th August 2011 Kalasalingam University sacks Sangiliyandi Gurunathan

Update 2: 27th June 2011: Yet another

Sangiliyandi retraction  h/t JV Prasath


Links to the retraction notices have been added – 31st January 2011 and the links have been updated 22nd February 2011.

Biotechnology Advances has retracted 3 papers from India (2 from IIT Kanpur and1 from Kalasalingam University), all at the request of the editors and all for plagiarism.

A matter of some shame for Indian science and especially for the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. It remains to be seen if the Institutions take any action. The plagiarism seems to have been particularly inept since it included blatant copying even from Wikipedia and Encyclopedias.

The 3 retraction notices are given below:

1. Retraction notice to “Microbial production of dihydroxyacetone” [Biotech Adv. 26 (2008) 293–303] by Ruchi Mishra, Seema Rani Jain and Ashok Kumar

Department of Biological Sciences and Bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, 208016-Kanpur, India

Available online 22 August 2010.

Retraction Notice

Reason: This article has been retracted at the request of the editor as the authors have plagiarised part of several papers that had already appeared in several journals. One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and we apologise to the readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

From a limited, non-exhaustive check of the text, several elements of the text had been plagiarised from the following list of sources:


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