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Magdalena Migocka blames students for impending retractions

Magdalena Migocka is a shooting star of plant sciences in Poland. Now she will have to retract at least two papers, for which she blames her incompetent students.

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

Migocka announced:

“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.

Migocka 2014

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.
jexb 2011

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.

Migocka tryptych

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

Migocka 2015

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

Migocka PCE 2015

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

Migocka JBC 2015

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…

Migocka JBC 2015 more

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”.

Migocka JBC 2015 quiz
Use the comment section to tell what’s wrong with this figure, and you might win a signed retraction JBC notice by Dr Migocka!

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:

migocka

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:

Migocka 2019

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.

Screenshot_2019-05-30 Dr Magdalena Migocka - PDF
Source: Autoreferat 2015

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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60 comments on “Magdalena Migocka blames students for impending retractions

  1. @Concerned Citizen – very much to the point! Falsifying data makes the whole idea of scientific work absurd. We are obliged (and payed for) to look for the truth. I do not know, if Mrs. Migocka is to blame. But somebody certainly did it and he/she should be made responsible for such actions. It is generally harmful to the scientific community and can not be tolerated. In this light the reaction of @Caltha palusnrus or @ Donnie Darko shows how little scientific integrity really means in Poland.

    Like

    • Concerned Citizen

      Yup. It is important to say that we do not know whether Magdalena Migocka is guilty of all these manipulations (whether she made or suggested to make them), but for sure she is responsible for all the data, as a corresponding author. Therefore, the community should stay vigilante not to let her (or her peers) blame students or in general play the “I-wasn’t-aware-of-all-these” card.

      Like

  2. To donnie darko, iwonne and others: I have never met with what you write about, I think they are simply slanderous!!! The time I spent in the Institute during my master’s and doctoral studies was a great time. Professor Kłobus is a wonderful lecturer, always smiling and willing to help, full of interesting ideas and the best expert in his field. Everyone who knows her can confirm this! If it was not for her help and involvement, my doctoral thesis would not be so good, thank you! I regret the fact that the good name of the institute and professor has been tainted with this scandal with the falsification of results, and all this by one black sheep…
    If you can not submit to the prevailing rules, it’s your fault! Maybe you just can not be used by scientists and blame everyone around you?

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  3. 2019 retraction for The Journal of Biological Chemistr 290, 15717-15729
    http://www.jbc.org/content/290/25/15717
    Functional and Biochemical Characterization of Cucumber Genes Encoding Two Copper ATPases CsHMA5.1 and CsHMA5.2*
    Magdalena Migocka‡1, Ewelina Posyniak‡, Ewa Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska§,Anna Papierniak‡ and Anna Kosieradzaka‡
    -Author Affiliations

    From the ‡Institute of Experimental Biology, Department of Plant Molecular Physiology, and
    §Institute of Experimental Biology, Department of Genetics and Cell Physiology,
    ‡University of Wroclaw, Kanonia 6/8, 50-328 Wroclaw, Poland
    ↵1 To whom correspondence should be addressed. Tel.: 48-71-3754113, E-mail: mmigocka@biol.uni.wroc.pl

    2019 retraction notice.
    http://www.jbc.org/content/294/35/13200

    This article has been withdrawn by Magdalena Migocka, Ewelina Posyniak, Ewa Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska, and Anna Kosieradzaka. Anna Papierniak could not be reached. The CsCACS gels in Fig. 3 (A and B) were duplicated. The following were found in Fig. 4. The CsHMA5.1 immunoblot was inappropriately manipulated. Lanes 6 and 7of the CsHMA5.2 immunoblot were duplicated. Lanes 1 and 2 of the PM H-ATPase immunoblot and lanes 6–9 of the PPase immunoblot are the same. Additionally, lane 8of the PM H-ATPase immunoblot was reused in lane 1 of the PPase immunoblot. Lanes 3–6 of the PM H-ATPase immunoblot were rotated 180° and reused as lanes 2–5 of the PPase immunoblot. Finally, the markers were reused between the PM H-ATPase and PPase immunoblots. Fig. 5 (A and B) contained many repeating features. In Fig. 8B, the first four colonies in the dilution series for the upper control CsHMA5.2 were reused in the lower control vector dilution series. Additionally, in the lower control panel, the rightmost in the dilution series was duplicated between vector and CsHMA5.2. Finally, some colonies shown in Fig. 8B and the V-PPase immunoblot in Fig. 9B were previously published in J. Exp. Bot. 2015 66:1001–1015, representing different experimental conditions.

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  4. SickOfWesternBlot

    Unfortunately, this is just a small percentage of image manipulations being performed around the world. I have seen a significant amount of altered, doubled or mixed western blot bands. Western blotting is now becoming a meme of science, there is so much crap published, that we shouldn’t even include this technique in our papers, as not only it is a semi-quantitive method, but also a not very reliable one.

    Like

    • Have you considered the theory that the other technologies you consider more reliable are actually impossible to expose as fraudulent without expertise and access to raw data? Do you know how laughably easy it is to fake qRT-PCR data, and nobody will ever notice?

      Like

      • I agree with your point, everything that has to do with numbers and graphs can be easily manipulated. Thinking that way, anything can be a fraud. So maybe a more rigorous check from more than 2-3 editors is necessary. I wonder how such blots passed the editorial control process. Anyway, I am curious if the author suffered any consequences.

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      • Migocka already had one retraction, every sane or halfway-honorable publisher will avoid her now. Because her gels betrayed her.

        Like

  5. I’m afraid I found another obvious example of fraud:

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    • Danny, obviously it is. For me, upper lanes 1, 3, 5 are the same. It is also the case for upper lanes 2, 4 and 6. I wonder if any investigation could be trusted against the first author.

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    • Another example of multiplied stripes! It seems that the whole institute in Breslau is corrupt, in Germany the whole department would be replaced and the president would resign! Shame on you!

      Like

      • @Renate – really? One scientist commits a fraud and the whole institute/department is fired? Even the scientists that did not collaboirate with the fraudster? Can you show some record of this happening in Germany?

        Like

  6. One scientist, really? As far as I can see, the last example was committed by Janicka-Russak M, Kabała K, Wdowikowska A, Kłobus G.! In 2012! So the whole affair has been going on for 8 years…

    Like

  7. Caltha.palustris

    That’s sad, but you’re right 😦
    https://uni.wroc.pl/en/school-organization/university-of-wroclaw-units/?j_id=114150
    More than half the team is involved in this shameful business!

    Like

  8. 3 retractions Magdalena Migocka

    https://academic.oup.com/jxb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jxb/erz449/5714919

    Published: 23 January 2020

    Following concerns expressed by a reader, the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Journal of Experimental Botany have taken the decision to retract the following papers. The articles are retracted due to concern over image manipulation and duplication.

    Cucumber metal transport protein MTP8 confers increased tolerance to manganese when expressed in yeast and Arabidopsis thaliana Magdalena Migocka1, Anna Papierniak1, Ewa Maciaszczyk-Dziubińska2, Piotr Poździk1, Ewelina Posyniak1, Arnold Garbiec3, Sophie Filleur4

    Journal of Experimental Botany, Volume 65, Issue 18, October 2014, Pages 5367–5384, https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/eru295

    4 comments on PubPeer (by: Alternaria Brassicicola)

    1Department of Molecular Plant Physiology, Wroclaw University, Institute of Experimental Biology, Kanonia 6/8, 50–328 Wroclaw, Poland

    2Department of Genetics and Cell Physiology, Wroclaw University, Institute of Experimental Biology, Kanonia 6/8, 50–328 Wroclaw, Poland

    3Department of Animal Developmental Biology, Wroclaw University, Institute of Experimental Biology, Sienkiewicza 21, 50–335 Wroclaw, Poland

    4Institut des Sciences du Végétal, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), 1 Avenue de la Terrasse, Saclay Plant Sciences Labex, 91198 Gif-Sur-Yvette Cedex, France

    Two metal-tolerance proteins, MTP1 and MTP4, are involved in Zn homeostasis and Cd sequestration in cucumber cells Magdalena Migocka1, Anna Kosieradzka1, Anna Papierniak1, Ewa Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska2, Ewelina Posyniak1, Arnold Garbiec3, Sophie Filleur4

    Journal of Experimental Botany, Volume 66, Issue 3, February 2015, Pages 1001–1015, https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/eru459

    9 comments on PubPeer (by: Alternaria Brassicicola, Magdalena Migocka, Actinopolyspora Biskrensis)

    1Department of Molecular Plant Physiology, Wroclaw University, Institute of Experimental Biology, Kanonia 6/8, 50–328 Wroclaw, Poland

    2Department of Genetics and Cell Physiology, Wroclaw University, Institute of Experimental Biology, Kanonia 6/8, 50–328 Wroclaw, Poland

    3Department of Animal Developmental Biology, Wroclaw University, Institute of Experimental Biology, Sienkiewicza 21, 50–335 Wroclaw, Poland

    4Institut des Sciences du Végétal, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), 1 Avenue de la Terrasse, Saclay Plant Sciences Labex, 91198 Gif-Sur-Yvette Cedex, France

    Metal tolerance protein MTP6 affects mitochondrial iron and manganese homeostasis in cucumber Magdalena Migocka1, Ewa Maciaszczyk-Dziubinska1, Karolina Małas1, Ewelina Posyniak1, Arnold Garbiec2

    Journal of Experimental Botany, Volume 70, Issue 1, 1 January 2019, Pages 285–300, https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/ery342

    3 comments on PubPeer (by: Alternaria Brassicicola)

    1Department of Molecular Plant Physiology, Wroclaw University, Institute of Experimental Biology, Kanonia 6/8, 50–328 Wroclaw, Poland

    2Department of Animal Developmental Biology, Wroclaw University, Institute of Experimental Biology, Sienkiewicza 21, 50–335 Wroclaw, Poland.

    Like

  9. Concerned Citizen

    Weird that the same journal haven’t retracted yet another one:
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/DD74412A5C70DFF70A3BC6A566E4B8

    the same team.

    Like

  10. Two July 2020 retractions.
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/tpj.14934

    First published: 24 July 2020

    Retraction statement: ‘Cucumber metal tolerance protein CsMTP 9 is a plasma membrane H+‐coupled antiporter involved in the Mn2+ and Cd2+ efflux from root cells’ by Magdalena Migocka, Anna Papierniak, Anna Kosieradzka, Ewelina Posyniak, Ewa Maciaszczyk‐Dziubinska, Robert Biskup, Arnold Garbiec and Tadeusz Marchewka (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/tpj.13056)

    and ‘Cucumber metal tolerance protein 7 (CsMTP7) is involved in the accumulation of Fe in mitochondria under Fe excess’ by Magdalena Migocka, Karolina Małas, Ewa Maciaszczyk‐Dziubinska, Anna Papierniak, Ewelina Posyniak and Arnold Garbiec (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/tpj.14006

    The above articles published online in The Plant Journal on 20 October 2015 and 22 June 2018 respectively have been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor‐in‐Chief (Lee Sweetlove), John Wiley & Sons Ltd and the Institute of Experimental Biology, Wroclaw University. The retraction has been agreed due to concern over image manipulation and duplication.

    Like

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