Thursday, July 30, 2009

British science paper on "sperm from stem cells" retracted!

On July 24, IPBiz posted on a paper from the group of Karim Nayernia, on the creation of human sperm from stem cells. Although IPBiz noted scientific peers had questioned some of the results, a commenter going under the name "Medical Information" asserted that this had been "proved."

Alison McCook at The Scientist noted on July 29 that the paper had been retracted. The manifest problem was plagiarism from a 2007 review article in Biology of Reproduction. When confronted by the journal editor, Graham Parker, Nayernia blamed a post-doc. The editor didn't bite on the excuse. Congrats to the editor for taking a firm stand against plagiarism.

Mary Spiro, Baltimore news examiner at, has posted on July 30 that the paper has been retracted, for among other things, plagiarism. Apparently, there is a separate issue that the paper had talked about the organisms being "sperm-like" rather than sperm, although the various news agencies overlooked this distinction. Spiro talked about news media outlets who are too easy to hype claims of research findings to make the story more sexy to readers.

Joff Wild at the IAM Blog: where are you? Plagiarism and hype at your own back door?
This is a recent example of why your world view on "patent law reform" news coverage fails. Hype rules; just don't plagiarize, too!

As to "Medical Information," whoever you are, you're a fool.

**Bloomberg reported

“It obviously put a question mark on the actions of at least one of the authors” of the Stem Cells and Development paper, said Parker, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. “There’s no reason at the moment to question the actual data in the paper.”

The stem cell study was led by Karim Nayernia of Newcastle University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. A phone call and e- mail to Nayernia weren’t immediately returned.

AP noted:

Experts said Parker was right to retract the paper.

"This is clearly scientific misconduct," said Allan Pacey, secretary for the British Fertility Society. "I can understand why people might think, if they were sloppy here, maybe they were sloppy elsewhere."


Critics said the sperm did not have the specific shape, movement or function of real sperm.

**IPBiz would like to remark on the comment below

On matters of scientific fact and interpretation, the general policy of journals is that the authors must retract. This policy is not always followed. Jan-Hendrik Schon did not agree to retract, but several papers were retracted anyway. Imanishi-Kari did not agree to retract in the Baltimore/O'Toole business.

On failure to comply with journal policy, such as multiple publication or plagiarism, presentation of evidence of violation would invalidate the terms of the agreement of publication, and allow the journal to void the contract.

On the preliminary discussion (Parker seems to be talking more than Nayernia), it might seem that Parker was not happy with Nayernia's explanation of the plagiarism. If that is the problem, then a subsequent correction would not remedy the perceived problem. Blaming the post-doc, rather than taking responsibility, is poor form for a principal investigator. A secondary issue, lurking in the background, seems to be the perception that the work was mis-represented in the media, with the journal a vehicle for the misrepresentation.

The preliminary reporting suggests that the plagiarism was in the background section of the Nayernia paper. The issue of the significance of such plagiarism has been discussed in great detail in the Ohio University Masters Theses cases. There are different opinions. Graham Parker took a strong stand that unattributed copying will have consequences. Ohio University did not take such a strong stand. The position of Southern Illinois University (SIU) is pathetic, as is the position of Harvard University, School of Law. So far, the term inadvertent plagiarism has not arisen in the Nayernia matter, although it might.
Perhaps, TechDirt will mention that Nayernia was collaborating with the earlier workers.


Bob Park's WN on 2 Oct. 09--> But, as today's Science put it, "climate researchers are responding in their preferred venue, the peer-reviewed literature."

Earth to Park: "peer review" doesn't make it right, but likely shows it follows consensus. And, where was the peer review on Nayernia's plagiarism?


Blogger D. Mardan said...

We are hearing very controversial news about the retraction of Prof. Nayernia's publication from Stem Cells and Development. I read the nature news and comments on this news. In one comments, it was written that Dr. Parker asked Prof. Nayernia to redraft the plagiarized text and Prof. Nayernia did it very quickly. The journal incorporated the corrected introduction to a new proof. That means that Prof. Nayernia react on editor's request very quickly. There are two proofs available from the Journal. Why the journal did not accept the corrected proof which was submitted by Prof. Nayernia weeks ago?
I am very interested to know the retraction and withdrawal policy of the Journal and Publisher. Are both following the same policy? Based on which policy has this decision made?
I know that in general editors, publishers or funding agencies can decide to retract a paper, but the usual policy is that the authors themselves must retract. Only in extreme circumstances would an editor retract a paper without the agreement of the authors, but I know that it is very rare that authors will voluntarily retract.
Why Dr. Parker ignored the corrected proofs. Dr. Parker’s decision was after submission of corrected proof.

5:10 AM  
Blogger R. Jackson said...

As a librarian, it really bothers me that these articles are being retracted. Much better if they were left (for the record) and noted at the beginning that charges of plagiarism have been made against the paper. For historical studies of science research, the retraction of articles means much is lost. And no one in the future will know about it. With print, the record was still there--now things can disappear with no record ever existing.

7:00 AM  

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