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Recklessness and carelessness

Researchers from a respected molecular biology laboratory at the University of Utah were punished for errors and oversights found in 11 articles published between 2007 and 2011. The author of the papers, Professor Ivana De Domenico of the Department of Medicine, was fired, and veteran pathologist Jerry Kaplan, head of the laboratory, retired while the case was being investigated. Twenty-one mistakes were identified, including alteration of images, graphs and tables, to which data was added months after completion of the research. The case emerged last year, when two articles on the regulation of iron in the blood were retracted by the journal Cell Metabolism after the University of Utah’s oversight committee discovered that a laboratory technician threw the study’s raw data in the trash. The notes were eventually recovered and it was discovered that they contained important information left out of the published articles. The oversight committee was not convinced that there was intent to defraud, but found that the process was so marked by carelessness and recklessness that “the publications do not represent what was done in the laboratory,” explained Jeffrey Botkin, vice president of research integrity at the University of Utah.