Singapore researchers' scientific papers retracted, PhD revoked over data falsification

Professor Ravi Kambadur held joint appointments at NTU's School of Biological Sciences (pictured) and A*Star's Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, both of which have since been terminated.
Professor Ravi Kambadur held joint appointments at NTU's School of Biological Sciences (pictured) and A*Star's Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, both of which have since been terminated.PHOTO: NTU

SINGAPORE - A string of scientific data falsification cases - involving researchers from multiple institutions in Singapore - has been exposed in an investigation. This has led to six papers being retracted, academic appointments terminated and one PhD degree revoked.

The researchers, affiliated to Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and led by Professor Ravi Kambadur, were investigated by NTU.

Prof Kambadur held joint appointments at NTU's School of Biological Sciences and A*Star's Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, both of which have since been terminated.

The falsifications were committed in his team's research on myostatin, a protein that regulates muscle growth in humans and animals.

The case goes back to December last year, when NTU's investigations led to three myostatin papers being retracted, two corrected and one withdrawn.

In the latest development, three more papers, published from 2012 to 2014, based on research funded by A*Star and the National Research Foundation, are being retracted from the journals Molecular Endocrinology and Journal of Biological Chemistry.

This follows another saga in June, when NTU said it had retracted 11 papers on special education by National Institute of Education researchers.

The authors of the retracted myostatin papers include Mridula Sharma, who was associate professor at NUS' Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and co-authored the retracted papers in that capacity.

Furthermore, the investigations have led to the revocation of the 2012 NTU doctorate of team member Lokireddy Sudarsanareddy.

Retraction Watch, a website that monitors retractions of scientific publications, reported NTU research integrity officer Tony Mayer as saying that the falsifications also happened in Dr Sudarsanareddy's doctoral thesis.

Since graduating from NTU, Dr Sudarsanareddy has been a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, where he published at least one paper as first author, in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) late last year.

A Harvard Medical School spokesman did not respond to questions from The Straits Times about Dr Sudarsanareddy's employment status or the integrity of the PNAS paper, but said: "We are fully committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and to rigorously maintaining the integrity of our research. Any concerns brought to our attention are thoroughly reviewed."

NTU, which is taking the lead in the investigation, said on Wednesday (July 13) that disciplinary proceedings against other researchers are ongoing.