“Say it isn’t so!”, is basically the universal reaction I’m getting from people in the stem cell field.
Well, sadly it seems to be so folks.
What’s going on?
Allegations have emerged on a website called PubPeer (a post-publication review kind of website) about the recent Cell paper by the Mitalipov lab on human therapeutic cloning.
A person called “Peer 1” has pointed out alleged instances of image duplication and cropping in the paper. The story was also picked up by Retraction Watch. Science is on the story too. Just to be clear, I am not “Peer 1” as some people have suggested.
A quick look at the paper would suggest there are indeed 3 separate instances of image duplication and images are cropped in various ways that make them look kinda different on first glance.
It makes one feel a bit queasy.
A fourth allegation of inaccurate representation of microarray data related to two panels in Figure S6 in the paper remains more difficult to confirm or deny to this scientist.
The other thing I’m hearing from readers of this blog and others is that they are astonished over the microscopic 3-day period (see image above from the paper) between when the journal Cell received the Mitalipov paper and when it was accepted. A leading stem cell scientist said to me, “Are you f’ing kidding me? 3 days for a human cloning paper?”
Given the 2004/2005 cloning papers by Hwang Woo-suk that proved to be bogus and the highly sensitive nature of human therapeutic cloning, an intense review of the paper before publication would indeed seem like it should have been a no-brainer, eh?
Another leader in the stem cell field told me that Cell should have had 5 independent reviewers look the paper over and have a highly detailed, methodical examination of the paper figure-by-figure, line-by-line, by at least two editors.
Now I’m hearing that we’ll see an announcement by OHSU and Cell as early as tomorrow about this, in all likelihood saying it was all a big innocent mistake.
Maybe it was. I’m betting that to some people though, there will always be doubts after this though.