Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Is the peer review scheme coming apart?

Columbia biologists “deeply regret” Nature retraction, after postdoc faked 74 panels in 3 papers

A team of Columbia University biologists has retracted a 2013 Nature paper on the molecular pathways underlying Alzheimer’s disease, the second retraction from the group after a postdoc faked data.
An April report from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) found the a first author, former Columbia postdoc Ryousuke Fujita, responsible for “knowingly and intentionally fabricating and falsifying research in seventy-four (74) panels” in three papers: a 2011 Cell paper retracted in 2014, an unpublished manuscript, and this now-retracted Nature paper, “Integrative genomics identifies APOE e4 effectors in Alzheimer’s disease.”
The paper was touted in a Columbia University Medical Center press release as identifying “key molecular pathways” leading to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The paper fingered two potential molecular drug targets, as well.
Here is the full retraction notice:
In this Article, we described integrative genomics analyses of Alzheimer’s disease and associated risk factors. However, reanalysis of the data has showed that sample numbers, image panels and data points were inappropriately manipulated and inaccurate in the ELISA and subcellular localization studies presented in Figs 2d, e, 3b, g, h and 4c, as well as in corresponding Supplementary Figs 10–16. We are in the process of repeating these cell-based studies. We remain confident in the transcriptomics and human genetics analyses reported in the Article. However, given these issues, we wish to retract the Article in its entirety. We deeply regret this circumstance and apologize to the community.
All six authors agreed to the retraction, according to Nature spokesperson Rebecca Walton. But, similar to another recent Nature retraction, the journal declined to comment further:
For confidentiality reasons, we cannot discuss the detailed editorial process or history of any Nature paper with anyone other than the authors. In general, if any authors disagree with a retraction, we note the dissenting authors in the retraction notice. In this case, all the authors signed the retraction.
When we reached out to senior author Asa Abeliovich to comment on the retraction, the Medical Center’s director of media relations, Karin Eskenazi, responded with a near identical statement to what they said when the ORI report came out:
Again, we deeply regret that one of our former employees engaged in research misconduct and that his misconduct affected two published scientific articles.
We recognize that the proper conduct of research is one of the most important responsibilities of a university.
In response to our queries about the repetition of the “cell-based studies” mentioned in the retraction notice, Eskenazi added:
Columbia investigators are now repeating the cell-based studies and this is ongoing.
The Cell paper had been cited 150 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. This Naturepaper has been cited 48 times, and has been designated as “highly cited.”

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