Data fabrication fells muscle physiology paper
Kinesiology researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have been forced to retract a 2010 paper in the American Journal of Physiology — Cell Physiology in the wake of revelations that the first author, then a graduate student, fabricated her data.
The paper, “ATP consumption by sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ pumps accounts for 50% of resting metabolic rate in mouse fast and slow twitch skeletal muscle,” was written by Sarah Michelle Norris and colleagues and published in March 2010.
According to the retraction notice:
This article is being retracted, in agreement with all authors, due to data fabrication. The first author of this paper, Sarah Michelle Norris, has acknowledged that she fabricated data on the effects of cyclopiazonic acid (CPA), a highly specific inhibitor of sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPases (SERCAs), on resting oxygen consumption of isolated mouse muscles, in order to report a positive experimental outcome. The actual experimental data show that CPA (even 15 μM) had no effect on muscle oxygen consumption but the first author reported a progressive reduction in muscle oxygen consumption with increasing CPA concentrations peaking at a 50% reduction with 10 μM CPA. None of the co-authors participated in or had knowledge of the first author’s actions.
The study has been cited six times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, and was funded by the Canadian government:
This work was supported by Grant MOP-86618 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (to A. R. Tupling). S. M. Norris was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postgraduate Scholarship M award. E. Bombardier, I. C. Smith, and C. Vigna are all supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postgraduate Scholarship D award.
It looks like Norris was doing similar work for her 2009 masters’ thesis at Waterloo, titled “ “Contribution of Sarcoplasmic Reticulum Calcium Pumping to Resting Mouse Muscle Metabolism”.
We wonder if that paper might also be compromised. We have attempted to reach her supervisor, A. Russell Tupling, but have yet to hear back. We also have a message out to Waterloo’s top research integrity officer and will update this post when we learn more.
Members of the group, including Norris and Tupling, also published a paper in another AJP journal, AJP Endocrinology and Metabolism, in 2010. That article has not been retracted.
Please see an update on this post.