N – Retracted papers and attempted extortion

Two papers recently retracted by Science (2004;303:371-3) and the Journal of the American Chemical Society (2004;126:15654-5) have been linked to an extortion attempt, Nature reports (2009;462:969, doi:10.1038/462969a). Documents seen by Nature show that in 2007, police in San Diego considered a former postdoctoral fellow as a possible suspect after another received an anonymous email demanding a $4000 payment and threatening to reveal alleged fraud. The author, Zhiwen Zhan, received an email that read, “You have fraud on at least 3 papers and you stole library material.” Zhang decided not to press charges and says that he stands by his work.