Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Dana-Farber corrections/retractions

Dana-Farber expands studies to be retracted to 6, plus 31 to be corrected over mishandled data

A review of alleged data manipulation in studies involving four top scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has led to plans to retract six papers and correct 31 manuscripts, the institute confirmed on Monday.

The news comes as the famed cancer research and treatment center is now reviewing scores of studies co-authored by some of its leading researchers, including CEO Laurie Glimcher, COO William Hahn, and prominent scientists Irene Ghobrial and Kenneth Anderson.

Dana-Farber confirmed the retractions and corrections in progress in an email to STAT, which reported on Friday that researchers were preparing to retract one paper and correct others. The higher numbers were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which also reported that Dana-Farber concluded three papers needed no corrective action. But the institute did not say precisely which studies would be retracted or corrected.

“Correcting the scientific record is a common practice of institutions with strong research integrity processes at which basic research is conducted. Some of the potential errors that blogger Sholto David flagged had come up in our ongoing reviews,” Dana-Farber told STAT.

During a conversation with STAT last week, the institute’s research integrity officer, Barrett Rollins, said that all of the cases that have been assessed thus far appear “credible,” a term meaning the allegation carried enough scientific merit to warrant more investigation. STAT did not receive immediate clarification regarding whether Dana-Farber had recently decided to retract or correct additional papers.

The institute’s review of past research involving these four scientists grew after David, a molecular biologist who blogs about research integrity, wrote a Jan. 2 post flagging issues with dozens of studies and the Harvard Crimson covered it. The cancer institute, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, noted in a statement that Dana-Farber had taken “prompt and decisive action” in many of the cases flagged by David for which data now under scrutiny were generated in a Dana-Farber lab.

The corrections in progress include correction submissions that are currently being prepared for submission, awaiting acceptance from journals, and corrections that journals have already accepted. An additional manuscript with a potential error is still under examination, according to Dana-Farber.

Moving to correct errors and retract papers with falsified or incorrect data is the first step to restoring trust in a researcher and their reputation in the face of misconduct allegations, said Steven Salzberg, a computational biologist at Johns Hopkins University who spoke on scientific misconduct more generally but not these specific cases.

“I know professors who found out [scientific misconduct] was happening in their labs and retracted the papers,” he said. “It’s a black mark on your record, but if you’re a scientist with integrity then that’s what you do and you recover from it.”


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