Postdoc censured for fudged images

A Texas stem cell researcher falsified data by mucking around with her results in Photoshop, according to an Office of Research Integrity (ORI) linkurl:ruling.;http://ori.dhhs.gov/misconduct/cases/Gu.shtml Peili Gu, a postdoc in linkurl:Austin Cooney's;http://www.bcm.edu/star/?PMID=3007 lab at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, Texas from 2000 to 2007, falsified images in three papers that investigated the role of the germ cell nuclear factor on the expression of pluripotency genes in

By | December 3, 2008

A Texas stem cell researcher falsified data by mucking around with her results in Photoshop, according to an Office of Research Integrity (ORI) linkurl:ruling.;http://ori.dhhs.gov/misconduct/cases/Gu.shtml Peili Gu, a postdoc in linkurl:Austin Cooney's;http://www.bcm.edu/star/?PMID=3007 lab at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, Texas from 2000 to 2007, falsified images in three papers that investigated the role of the germ cell nuclear factor on the expression of pluripotency genes in mouse embryonic stem cells. Her misconduct mostly involved Photoshop forgery, the ORI concluded. Gu sliced and diced lanes from Western blots to insert, delete, or duplicate various bands and lanes in multiple figures in three papers -- one from the __Journal of Biological Chemistry__ in linkurl:2005,;http://www.jbc.org/cgi/content/abstract/280/36/31818 which has been cited 6 times according to ISI, and two from __Molecular and Cellular Biology__ in linkurl:2005;http://mcb.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/25/19/8507 and linkurl:2006,;http://mcb.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/26/24/9471 which have been cited 34 and 16 times, respectively. "It's stupid and crazy really," Cooney told __The Scientist__. "The work is good and we stand by it, it's just Photoshop [manipulations]." Cooney was alerted of the iffy images by a Baylor colleague. He then reported his suspicions to the BCM Office of Research in March 2007, which immediately forwarded the concern to the BCM Committee on Scientific Integrity (COSI), Lori Williams, a BCM spokesperson, told __The Scientist__. A COSI subcommittee interviewed Gu and her colleagues and forwarded the results of their internal investigation to the ORI, an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services, which found sufficient evidence of scientific misconduct without requiring an additional review. "The college supports the findings of the ORI," said linkurl:Susan Hamilton,;http://www.bcm.edu/about/officers.cfm BCM's senior vice president and dean of research, in an email. Gu was fired on March 17, 2007. She entered a voluntary agreement not to serve on any Public Health Service (PHS) advisory boards and to be formally monitored for any future PHS-funded research. Gu also agreed to request retraction of her 2006 __Molecular and Cellular Biology__ paper and to accept sole responsibility for the paper's falsified data. The two other papers' overall conclusions were deemed sound enough not to warrant retractions, the ORI concluded. "All of my research findings and conclusions are true," Gu told __The Scientist__ in an email. "Special things happened in the special times. I just want to forget all of these and tried (sic) to start my new quiet life." Gu was hired on September 29, 2008, as a non-faculty, senior research assistant at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, working under the supervision of associate professor linkurl:Sandy Chang.;http://www3.mdanderson.org/public/genedev/public_html/chang.html Chang "is fully aware of her work history and consulted with [the] ORI and the National Institutes of Health before hiring her," Scott Melville, an MD Anderson spokesperson, wrote in an email. No problems were found in any other studies, including another first-author linkurl:2005 paper;http://mcb.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/25/9/3492 from __Molecular and Cellular Biology__, which investigated the role of another orphan nuclear receptor, LRH-1, in maintaining __Oct4__ expression, noted Cooney. (That study has been cited more than 50 times.) "We went back and vetted every piece of work," he said. **__Related Stories:__** *linkurl:Iowa biologist falsified figures;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55182/ [11th November 2008]*linkurl:Grad student falsified data;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54912/ [5th August 2008]*linkurl:US postdoc fabricates DNA data;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54637/ [9th May 2008]*linkurl:Norwegian dentist falsified grant;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53706/ [16th October 2007]
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Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 23

December 8, 2008

I'm glad that I never had to perform any research that rested on how good images looked.\n\nOnce again, however, who's watching the store!
Avatar of: Jun Zhang

Jun Zhang

Posts: 10

December 8, 2008

Tutor says: Only believe <10% of moleculer biology publications.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 12

December 11, 2008

Quoting the article:\n\n"It's stupid and crazy really," Cooney told The Scientist. "The work is good and we stand by it, it's just Photoshop [manipulations]." \n\nCooney is deluding himself... Check the raw data before publication. You are equally at fault.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

February 3, 2009

"The two other papers' overall conclusions were deemed sound enough not to warrant retractions, the ORI concluded."\n\nThis statement seems so bizarre. I think a great followup article by the Scientist would be to see what the Journals do about these articles. Is some sort of disclaimer added about the numerous falsified figures in these articles (see ORI Newsletter vol 17, no 1, Dec. 2008)? Were the Journals even notified of the problems? Can a manuscript be really considered "accepted" after figures are redacted?

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