Another data manipulation affair in Poland, already a third case on my site. First one was a grand scandal in biomedicine reported to me by no less than three independent whistleblowers, and now, after the Gregory Franklin farce in Poznan it’s again plant sciences, this time in Wroclaw. A total train wreck of a paper was recently discussed on PubPeer, by a certain reader of my site with a keen interest in plant sciences. It stemmed from the Institute of Experimental Biology at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, where its first author, Dr Magdalena Migocka is apparently a shooting star of plant sciences. She won her first prestigious research grant in 2010, just 3 years after completing PhD, and has been publishing in respected plant science journals ever since. Now questions about the secret to Migocka’s remarkable productivity arise. The PubPeer disputed paper, not even 4 years old, proved such a little total rascal, that Smut Clyde commented on Twitter:
“Figure 6 needs to sit in the corner and think about what it did wrong”
It certainly should. This is the paper where Figure 6 appeared:
Magdalena Migocka , Anna Kosieradzka , Anna Papierniak , Ewa Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska , Ewelina Posyniak , Arnold Garbiec , Sophie Filleur
Two metal-tolerance proteins, MTP1 and MTP4, are involved in Zn homeostasis and Cd sequestration in cucumber cells
Journal of Experimental Botany (2015) doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru459
Obviously the Figure 6 was not left alone to fight for itself. It was assisted by the boldly fraudulent Figure 5, and you will learn later how boldly fraudulent it really was:
And its other friends, among them Figure 9C and Figure 2A:
One more figure tagged along, cowardly hiding behind reasonable deniability of intent with its duplicated cell colonies:
Migocka replied on PubPeer less than 3 hours after criticisms were posted:
“Thank you for your comments. They are very valuable. When you work in a team it is sometimes difficult to control all the results obtained from each co-author. The confusion regarding spot-test is related with control plates. As we usually grow a set of different strains on one control plate in rows close to each other (we use the whole plate) and they look pretty similar it is easy to make mistake while cutting out a few rows for the final picture. However, the original photographs for these experiments show that all the strains grew actually well in controls.
As for the data from Western blots and organ expression analysis, they were all performed by our PhD student, and the biggest problem with them was the very low quality due to weak signals. Hence the author tried to increase the exposure and contrast and select the results that had the strongest signal. When we analyzed the raw data, they confirm the results presented in this work, however the students admits that she cut some bands from different membranes to obtain the best data in one final Figure. The student claims the results are reliable. Nevertheless, we don’t practice this kind of Figure preparation yet.”
See, a scientist shows determination, acts swiftly to interrogate a student, makes her confess, analyses the raw data and establishes that the main findings remain unchanged, all in the matter of two and a half hours. There was however another problematic paper by Dr Migocka, where such figure preparation was practised even two years later.
M. Migocka , A. Papierniak , A. Rajsz
Cucumber PDR8/ABCG36 and PDR12/ABCG40 plasma membrane proteins and their up-regulation under abiotic stresses
Biologia Plantarum (2017) doi: 10.1007/s10535-016-0679-2
“Thank you very much for this comment, I will try to clarify this situation with the author of the image.”
Expect more student confessions.
The last author of the first paper, Migocka et al 2015, is Sophie Filleur, tenured scientist at the CNRS Institute for Integrative Cell Biology in Paris, France. Yet the corresponding author is Migocka, all other coauthors come from Wroclaw. The PI of the lab where Filleur works wrote to me:
“The publication contains alarming data manipulation. Our team hosted the first author/corresponding author on the publication to perform the experiment presented on Fig 5A and 5B (confocal microscopy) under the supervision of Sophie Filleur. All the other experiments were performed in the corresponding author’s university under the corresponding author’s supervision. I discussed the matter with Sophie Filleur. She admitted that she should have checked more carefully all the figures of the paper before publication.
We have immediately contacted the corresponding author asking her to retract the publication.”
Filleur meanwhile had to check her own figures. Same reader of my site noticed that a paper Robert et al Plant Mol Biology 2012 which she coauthored with the research integrity expert Laurence Drouard, director of CNRS IBMP in Strasbourg, contained patchwork figures:
Right after her superior replied to me, Filleur posted raw data on PubPeer. Indeed, the figures were assembled from bits and pieces, while the editors, reviewers and readers were left believing they were looking at intact gels.
Meanwhile in Poland things were moving swiftly. Migocka’s Head of Department (and her former MSc and PhD thesis advisor!) Grazyna Klobus announced to me that she supports Filleur’s request for retraction:
“I have also contacted with dr Migocka and she informed me that is going to retract both papers immediately.”
There might be more trouble. This was Migocka’s first last author paper, and also that one contains duplicated data. A gel was reused for unrelated samples:
Kabała K1, Janicka-Russak M, Reda M, Migocka M.
Transcriptional regulation of the V-ATPase subunit c and V-PPase isoforms in Cucumis sativus under heavy metal stress.
Physiol Plant. (2014) doi: 10.1111/ppl.12064.
And this fabricated gel was published by Migocka in a common paper with her thesis mentor and now head of department Klobus:
Migocka M1, Papierniak A, Kosatka E, Klobus G.
Comparative study of the active cadmium efflux systems operating at the plasma membrane and tonoplast of cucumber root cells.
J Exp Bot. (2011) doi: 10.1093/jxb/err180.
Maybe you have a deja-vu when looking at this fabricated Figure 1C in Migocka et al 2011? This is because the bands re-appeared in the Figure 5 of the disastrous Migocka et al 2015 paper in same Journal of Experimental Botany, discussed in the beginning. Turned out, Figure 5 was even faker than we originally thought! It also contains elements from the Figure 4 from yet another paper, again in same journal: Migocka et al 2014, where Filleur is incidentally also last author.
More student interrogation, presumably. Dr Migocka must also determine who faked the gel in the Figure 3 of this paper:
Migocka M, Papierniak A, Kosieradzka A, Posyniak E, Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska E, Biskup R, Garbiec A, Marchewka T
Cucumber metal tolerance protein CsMTP9 is a plasma membrane H⁺-coupled antiporter involved in the Mn²⁺ and Cd²⁺ efflux from root cells.
The Plant Journal (2015) doi: 10.1111/tpj.13056
In the same year, another paper with fabricated data:
Migocka M, Papierniak A, Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska E, Posyniak E, Kosieradzka A.
Molecular and biochemical properties of two P1B2-ATPases, CsHMA3 and CsHMA4, from cucumber.
Plant Cell Environ. (2015) doi: 10.1111/pce.12447
2015 was indeed very productive. Someone felt very safe. This appeared in Journal of Biological Chemistry, which is very tough on data manipulation:
Migocka M, Posyniak E, Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska E, Papierniak A, Kosieradzaka A.
Functional and Biochemical Characterization of Cucumber Genes Encoding Two Copper ATPases CsHMA5.1 and CsHMA5.2.
J Biol Chem. (2015) doi: 10.1074/jbc.M114.618355
A gel was reused for different samples, with brightness slightly changed, likely to hide similarity. And what happened to Figure 4? JBC has retracted papers for less…
My reader, who assembled all this material decided to make the experience interactive. He invites you to study the Figure 5 of Migocka et al JBC 2015 paper:
“Figure 5A is just incredible, I’m not annotating it, I’d rather leave it for your readers to find out how creative Migocka can be with blots. I can’t even imagine what she’s up to with bar plots”.
But maybe that was all in the past, as Dr Migocka said? All good and honest, now that a full professorship is within reach? How sure is Adjunct faculty member Dr Migocka that her students “don’t practice this kind of Figure preparation” anymore? This was namely published just this year:
Obviously some gel bands from an unrelated experiment were reused in a different paper for different samples. The gel originally appeared in Migocka et al Plant Journal 2018, though what samples those originally was showing is anyone’s guess now. After all, if it’s the same antibody, and all bands look similar, does it really matter which samples the gel originally contained? Why wasting reagents on experiments one just knows the result of anyway? This is the 2019 paper which adopted the 2018 figure:
Migocka M, Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska E, Malas K, Posyniak E, Garbiec A.
Metal tolerance protein MTP6 affects mitochondrial iron and manganese homeostasis in cucumber.
J Exp Bot. (2019) doi: 10.1093/jxb/ery342.
There is also this remarkably similar photograph of a protoplast, which also made its first appearance in Migocka et al 2018:
Lots of work for teh journal editors, especially for the society-published Journal of Experimental Botany, and even more work for Inspector Migocka investigating her student saboteurs.
Maybe department head Professor Klobus should outsource the investigation of her mentee Migocka, to unbiased experts, ideally from abroad? Before more students are made to confess everything?
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