Series of retractions from Amy Wagers’ stem cell lab

by Alexey Bersenev on January 11, 2012 · 1 comment

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We wrote about some “high profile” paper retractions in stem cell field. Unfortunately, very recently, we’ve got more retractions from Amy Wagers lab at Harvard Stem Cell Institute. I think, it’s important to follow-up on this case, because her studies had a significant impact in the field.

In 2010, Nature retracted Wagers paper about rejuvenation of blood stem cell niches. The whole chain reaction of events has followed later:

The most interesting part in this story is a public comment from Wagers’ lab postdoc Shane Mayack, whose papers were retracted.

…Shane Mayack, a postdoc in Wagers’ lab who had been dismissed after an inquiry into what happened, did not sign that retraction. Since then, Mayack has not spoken to the press, except for a brief comment to Nature through her attorney.

Here, we present, unedited, Mayack’s side of the story. While accepting responsibility, she also has a number of suggestions for how universities and journals can handle these situations better.

You can read comments and see reaction on her open letter. It was an unique case when postdoc speak out after retraction.

Well, the story is continuing. Two weeks ago we got new retraction from Wagers’ lab:
Blood retracts stem cell paper from Amy Wagers’ Harvard lab after 14 months of concern:

That Mayack refused to sign on to the retraction notice follows form; she did not agree to the Nature retraction. According to Mayack, the issues involving her work in the lab involved what boil down to organizational problems or, perhaps more accurately, disorganizational problems. She called them “mistakes made in data retrieval that were a cause of a poor, but not a unique, data management and archiving system” — but not fraud.

As the latest retraction notes, Harvard has been conducting an internal investigation of the matter — for years, it seems. We attempted to pry a few facts from the university back in October, on the anniversary of the Nature retraction, but our entreaty went unanswered.

The whole story is very sad. It’s getting a lot of publicity. But we really have to know the reasons for all retractions in order to learn something and avoid mistakes in the future.

You can track all Wagers retractions here