Sun Investigates

University of Maryland researcher's published articles retracted after investigation

A pharmacology professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine will no longer conduct research there after eight of his articles were retracted by a major scientific journal for inaccuracies.

The publisher of the Journal of Biological Chemistry retracted six articles written by Anil K. Jaiswal in early January, said Kaoru Sakabe, data integrity manager for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which publishes the journal.


Jaiswal had previously retracted two other articles in 2014, Sakabe said.

Jaiswal did not return calls or emails requesting comment.


Some of the retractions were made after an investigation by the University of Maryland, Baltimore, according to retraction statements that now accompany the articles on the journal's website. University officials confirmed that they were alerted to the problems in the articles.

"This article has been retracted by the publisher," reads one of the retractions. "An investigation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore determined that the data shown in Fig. 2A are unreliable and do not support the hypothesis of this work."

The university's investigation determined that data bands depicted in several figures were digitally altered, reads another retraction.

In one instance, the investigation found the data did not support the research paper's conclusion.

Officials at University of Maryland, Baltimore declined to comment in detail about the retractions.

"He has been a research-scientist here for the past 9 1/2 years," university officials said in a statement. "However, he is now transitioning out of research."

The university declined to elaborate or say whether Jaiswal would remain on the medical school faculty.

Most of the retracted articles involved research examining how the protein Nrf2 behaves. The protein, which is known to protect cells and tissues from carcinogens, has been studied in the prevention of cancer. But studies also have shown the protein can protect cancer cells.


The accuracy of research articles helps maintain scientific integrity, said Charles Burton, a neurological spine specialist and member of the board of the Association for Medical Ethics.

Scientists often build off the results of their peers' work.

"If the information that is provided is false, it is not very helpful," said Burton. He said he didn't know anything about Jaiswal's research.

Each of the retracted articles written by Jaiswal had been cited by other researchers dozens of times, in some cases more than 100 times.

Some retractions are honest mistakes, Burton said. When retractions occur, he said, it shows the peer review system, while imperfect, does work by catching mistakes or, worse, fraudulent research.

"If there is quality-control on publications that is wonderful because that is to the benefit of the medical community," Burton said.


Sakabe said the vast majority of scientific work in journals is credible.

"Retractions make up a very small portion of the scientific research," Sakabe said in an email. "Six retractions are unusual, but not unheard of. There are certainly authors who have more."