Doctored photos prompt journal to retract research study

COLUMBIA Mo.
The journal Science retracted a paper Friday that included
doctored photos from a former researcher at the University of
Missouri-Columbia.

The retraction in the journal’s print edition was made one
day after the school announced it had completed an investigation that
determined postdoctoral researcher Kaushik Deb had altered pictures of mouse
embryos.

Questions had arisen after the photos appeared in a February
2006 issue of the journal. Complaints to both Science and the university had
prompted the magazine to issue an “editorial expression of concern”
in October warning readers the results of the earlier study might not be
reliable.

The research indicated that cell division of a mouse embryo
differentiated sooner than previously shown, with one cell eventually forming a
placenta while the other formed a fetus. It had major implications in
determining which early stage cells could be used to create embryonic stem cell
lines, said R. Michael Roberts, who led the research group.

“Retraction is a relief in a way,” Roberts said.
“I’ve wanted to retract for over a year.”

The university requested the retraction after the conclusion
of the investigation, which cleared Roberts and two other researchers, Mayandi
Sivaguru and H.Y. Yong, of any wrongdoing in the case.

The three researchers signed the retraction, noting their
paper was “founded at least in part on falsified or fabricated
images.” The retraction said Deb had resigned from the school shortly
after allegations of research misconduct were received and could not be found
to sign the retraction.

“We deeply regret any scientific misconceptions that
have resulted from the publication of this article,” the retraction read.Roberts said the retraction does not mean that everything in
the paper was wrong.

“But,” he said, “the paper was written on the
basis of those images. Everything has to be repeated.”

In a written statement, the journal said a handful of the
950 papers it publishes each year do lead to some type of clarification or
retraction.

“Unfortunately, scientific misconduct does occur,
though other retractions are due to honest error,” according to the
statement.

Because the research involved grants from the National
Institutes of Health, the university’s findings will be shared with the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity. The
agency could bar Deb from getting federal research money for several years,
Hall said.

“I would say that all things being equal, Dr. Deb
has forfeited his career in science,” Hall said.


– Associated Press



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