Image fraud in papers by Sylvia Bulfone-Paus

In 2009, immunologist Sylvia Bulfone-Paus faced allegations of fraud involving both image and data manipulation. She was director of the immunology laboratory at Research Center Brostel in Germany and also a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester in the UK. The investigations came after a persistent (and sometimes unsavory) campaign by anonymous bloggers who reported fraud in her lab. Papers in 2001-2009. Investigations by the center found fraudulent image manipulation (images of protein blots from unrelated experiments, for example), and six papers were retracted. Then the DFG, the German research funding agency, investigated separately and found more fraud, and another six papers were retracted. She resigned as director. She and the investigators blamed two former post-docs who were co-authors on the papers, and she claimed to have no knowledge of the fraudulent activities. Papers before 2001. However, examination of Bulfone-Paus articles published before 2001 (before the post-docs joined lab) revealed further problems with data. In 2011 Transplantation retracted a 2000 paper because of a fraudulent image—the image for a control (untreated) was the same image used in her 1997 paper in Nature Medicine. Further, Blood is investigating duplicate image-data in a figure in a 1999 paper, and BioEssays has issued an Expression of Concern about a 2006 article coauthored with the two post-docs and her husband. Apparently no decisions have yet been made by these two journals.   A Nature article on the Bulfone-Pause retractions has garnered active comments.

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