University Backs Author of Retracted Stem Cell Paper

Newcastle University is standing behind its professor whose stem cell group had a paper retracted after a plagiarism charge. The paper, which described how sperm-like cells could be derived from human embryonic stem cells, was published online on 8 July by Stem Cells and Development. As ScienceInsider reported on Thursday, the journal’s editor, Graham Parker, retracted the paper on 21 July after it was discovered that several paragraphs in the introduction had been copied, without attribution, from a 2007 review article.

The paper’s corresponding author, Karim Nayernia, told ScienceInsider that the copied text was part of an old version of the paper, which the first author, a postdoc named Jae Ho Lee, mistakenly submitted. Nayernia says that as soon as he was made aware of the problem he sent Parker the correct version, without the copied text. He says that because the paper was published online before copy editing or proofreading, he and his colleagues did not realize their mistake. Nayernia says he initially received word that the journal had accepted the new draft.

Parker says, however, that “the available evidence does not substantiate the claim” of an accidental submission of the wrong manuscript. Therefore, he says, he decided to retract the paper, despite requests from Nayernia and Newcastle University to reconsider.

Newcastle University accepts Nayernia’s explanation. Late Tuesday, it released the following statement:

Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute are aware that the research paper “Derivation of Human Sperm from Embryonic Stem Cells” by a group led by Professor Karim Nayernia has been withdrawn from the academic journal Stem Cells and Development.

The paper has been peer-reviewed by the journal. No questions have been raised about the science conducted or the conclusions of the research.

The withdrawal relates to text in the introduction of an old version of the paper that was submitted in error. The text was copied without attribution to its original author by a research associate, Dr Jae Ho Lee who has since left the University. He has apologised to the authors for his mistake and the name of Dr Lee has been removed from the first authorship.

It should be noted that the correct version of the manuscript, upon the request of the journal’s editor, had been immediately submitted to the journal during the process of proof reading.

The group now intends to submit the paper to another peer-reviewed academic journal.

The University will be further examining the supervision of research associates in the process of submission to an academic journal.

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