Researcher disciplined for using own blood

A US cancer researcher pretended that she had extracted blood samples from nearly 100 people when in reality they were all from a single source – herself.

Academic integrity site RetractionWatch reports that the samples formed part of the material used to construct two papers in the journals Cancer and PLOS One, both investigating genetic variants involved in the development of salivary gland carcinoma.

The Cancer paper, published in 2015, was ultimately retracted, with the journal’s editors noting that “the sampling had been compromised, resulting in duplicate samples involving 93 controls and 4 cases”. (RetractionWatch notes archly that the term “duplicate samples” seems a “quite oblique” way in which to refer to almost 100 slides identical in every way except for the labelling.)

The PLOS One paper, also published in 2015, and where the researcher is not listed among the authors, is still available, unchanged.

In a finding handed down by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, investigators say the perpetrator of the misconduct was Maria Cristina Miron Elqutub. At the time the research was conducted, she held a position at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre.

Her current position is unknown.

He ORI investigation concluded that Elqutub’s use of her own blood, incorrectly labelled, caused false data to be reported in both journal articles, and in two hefty grant applications currently in progress.

In a negotiated settlement, the scientist has agreed to have her work supervised by the ORI for three years, and to refrain from sitting on advisory committees for the same period.

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