The article in PNAS by UF researchers was retracted after UF investigators found it contained falsified figures.
A scholarly article by a former University of Florida researcher was retracted after investigators found it contained falsified figures.
The article, “Activation of the NF-kB pathway by adeno-associated virus vectors and its implications in immune response and gene therapy,” was retracted in January from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Examining the relationship between a protein and a mild virus, the article was published in March 2011.
An October 2016 investigative report examined whether the article’s lead author, Georgiy Aslanidi, created false data and edited figures in the article. The process was conducted by Brandi Ormerod, from the biomedical engineering department, and Irene Cooke and Michael Scian, from the Office of Research.
The report, presented to UF Vice President of Research David Norton, found that “Dr. Aslanidi’s actions were sloppy and constituted errors in accepted scientific practice rather than research misconduct.”
While the investigation found that the data “represented a clear incident of research misconduct,” it was unclear whether Aslanidi or a then-post-doctorate researcher, Giridhara Rao Jayandharan, had falsified the information.
Aslanidi, now an associate professor of molecular bioengineering and cancer vaccine at the University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute, did not return a voicemail Wednesday. Jayandharan, an associate professor of biological sciences and bioengineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, did not respond to an email Wednesday.
The article’s senior authors, professor Arun Srivastava and associate professor Roland Herzog, both in UF’s division of cellular and molecular therapy, complained about the article to the university’s office of research.
Srivastava referred questions to the UF’s general counsel. Herzog did not return a voicemail and email Wednesday.
Another study published in PNAS found that of 2,047 retracted articles in the PubMed database, part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, 21 percent of retractions were because of error and 67 percent were because of misconduct, including fraud, duplicate publication and plagiarism. Tracking retractions, the authors wrote, indicate the health of the science enterprise.
Retraction Watch, a blog under the Center for Scientific Integrity, reports that there are between 500 and 600 retractions per year.
The UF investigative report says that flow cytometry plots, which detail cell characteristic measurements, were duplicated, altered and mislabeled. And manipulations in the article could have been performed with an image processing program like Adobe Photoshop.
When investigators interviewed Aslanidi, he said that the errors had been corrected before the article’s publication and that he had mixed up panels.
“This once again illustrates a general lack of rigor in the handling of scientific data for publication by Dr. Aslanidi,” the report said.
In the article’s retraction, the authors write that they couldn’t produce primary data files, experimental details or records for the flow cytometry experiments.
The authors write that the article’s conclusions are unaffected by the data, but they retracted their article “based on the concerns regarding falsification of the data.”
The report said that “no honest mistake could account for the errors.”