Why Nature Genetics overlooks Voinnet cheatings

Why Nature Genetics overlooks Voinnet cheatings

The Olivier Voinnet affair, the biggest research fraud scandal in modern plant science, is officially over. It is time to forgive, to forget and to move on. Let us not look back on those retracted, corrected and let’s-pretend-fraud-evidence-isn’t-there Voinnet papers and focus on what’s really important: science. The pure, unadulterated academic science, which is obviously first and foremost about placing beautiful papers in impactful journals and helping yourself and your friends to public money, while making sure that traitors, snitches and envious haters are “drummed out of science”, as Voinnet himself once threatened it towards his whistleblower, Vicki Vance.

Everyone moved on. Plant scientists summarily put the Voinnet embarrassment behind them, some see my past Voinnet reporting to be a kind of obsessive stalking. French CNRS, Voinnet’s original employer, declared in a more recent case of CNRS chief biologist Catherine Jessus the Photoshop data manipulations to be good scientific practice and called all French scientists to vigilance against whistleblowers (read here). Swiss federal university ETH must be quite happy with having elegantly avoided to sack their now CNRS-delegated professor despite the massive misconduct findings: just in the last two years Voinnet published papers in elite journals The Plant Cell, Molecular Cell, and PNAS . The journal Nature Plants even explained why Voinnet and his associates are welcome to submit their papers again. Despite new evidence of manipulated data still popping up, the journals drew the line and are not interested anymore.  Especially the elite journal Nature Genetics, whom I sent in June (as a reminder) a dossier of four Voinnet’s papers in need of some editorial attention. Not much happened, which may or may not have to do with the fact that the editor of Nature Genetics Myles Axton has some strange data in his own last-author paper in the journal Development. Incidentally, same journal which found itself unable to retract a Jessus paper having established massive data manipulations in it.

Continue reading “Why Nature Genetics overlooks Voinnet cheatings”

Janine Erler dossiers which ERC does not want

Janine Erler dossiers which ERC does not want

Janine Erler is a star of Danish cancer research. She is professor at the University of Copenhagen, group leader at the university’s Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) and member at the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Her earlier research led to the discovery of the key role of the enzyme lysyl oxidase (LOX) in hypoxia-induced cancer metastasis, postulated during her research stay in Stanford University in USA, in her seminal Nature paper 12 years ago, Erler et al Nature 2006. Next year, the entrepreneur Erler co-founded the company Arresto Biosciences, ready to market an LOX inhibitory antibody simtuzumab. A phase 1 clinical trial began, and in 2010 the business was sold to the pharma giant Gilead for $225mn. The clinical trial on 32 patients completed in 2012, unfortunately Dr Erler and her clinical collaborators were too busy to post any results or publish any papers about the outcomes. It was assumed however that LOX inhibition by simtuzumab “led to reduction in size of several solid tumors”. Even before that phase 1 trial completed, phase 2 on 250 patients with with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma began, and ended in 2015. Yet for some reason, the LOX inhibitor suddenly proved no more effective than a placebo (Benson et al 2017), meaning it had no effect whatsoever. In November 2016, Gilead dropped the product completely. Not the first time when many millions get wasted in clinical research just because something was published in Nature. Never mind the burdens and false hopes given to patients.

In 2008, Erler was group leader at the ICR London (known for highly creative cancer research) and in 2012, she moved her lab to BRIC. In 2016, the European elite funding institution European Research Council (ERC) recognised the potential of Erler’s innovative approach to scientific discoveries and awarded her with €2mn Consolidator grant for 5 years. Without false modesty, Dr Erler is not just a very successful businesswoman and celebrated scientist, but she has also been very close to curing cancer. Until some sad envious bad-wishers found duplicated gel bands in her papers.

Luckily, neither BRIC nor ERC were bothered. When I received two dossiers with evidence of data manipulation, I tried to send them to ERC Standing Committee on Conflict of Interests, Scientific Misconduct and Ethical Issues, but I was made to understand that I am not welcome. Just like the ERC press office, the members of the committee refused to reply to my emails. Incidentally, the head of that Committee and ERC Vice-president is the Danish chemist Klaus Bock, senior executive with Danish beer maker Carlsberg and the Danish National Research Foundation. Which probably means that Denmark’s star scientist Janine Erler not only has friends in high places, but also free beer.

Continue reading “Janine Erler dossiers which ERC does not want”

How Macchiarini was recruited to Karolinska

How Macchiarini was recruited to Karolinska

In September 2010, the trachea transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini was basically at the end of his career of fraud and patient abuse, found out and unwanted by everyone, because of his psychopathic tendencies. Except by Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Sweden, which pushed the recruitment process through in just 3 weeks, despite negative references and known lies in Macchiarini’s CV.  Thanks to the emeritus KI professor and KI scandal chronist Johan Thyberg, I now share below some documents which Thyberg received from a confidential source, after KI told him those very documents were missing.

The central document is a report by the KI pulmonologist Sven-Erik Dahlen submitted to the Karolinska University Hospital investigator Kjell Asplund on 26 April 2016 (read here the Asplund report), as well as some of the attachments Thyberg obtained so far. KI were warned from colleagues by Florence, Barcelona and Hannover not to employ someone who was basically a lying psychopath. Yet the rector Harriet Wallberg and lead clinicians Lars-Olaf Cardell and Li Felländer-Tsai were desperate for some positive academic reviews to push the professorship through. They finally got one from London, from Macchiarini’s partner at UCL, Martin Birchall.

Totally kept under wraps so far: another London institution was apparently involved in Macchiarini’s recruitment at KI: the Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s clinic with big plans for trachea transplants. Swedes were quite worried to anger GOSH by rejecting Macchiarini and thus lose the collaborative opportunities. Just some months before the recruitment process started at KI, Macchiarini performed at GOSH in March 2010 a trachea transplant on a child (now one of just 2 or 3 survivors of what otherwise became basically a killing spree). That GOSH operation was another Lancet paper in the making (Elliott et al, Lancet, 2012), yet when it was finally published, Macchiarini ‘s friendship with London surgeons abruptly ended over a patent fight and the Italian was thrown off the paper. But back in 2010, a “boss at GOSH” is mentioned by Cardell as someone whom KI approached for a reference, this boss was likely the medical director Martin Elliott, who performed that trachea transplant together with Macchiarini. Continue reading “How Macchiarini was recruited to Karolinska”

Catherine Jessus case: journals hide behind Sorbonne & COPE to avoid retractions

Catherine Jessus case: journals hide behind Sorbonne & COPE to avoid retractions

Some rather jaw-dropping corrections for the French martyr saint of research integrity, Catherine Jessus, head of biology branch at the French CNRS, professor of developmental biology at Sorbonne University in Paris. Jessus is the feared CNRS executive whose case divided French academics and even media into loyal Stalinists and enemies of the people, after Sorbonne whitewashed their professor in a parody of an investigation. The Stalinists being the over 500 signature supporters of Jessus, the enemies of the people to be rooted out are 10 critical authors of a counter-report and the daily newspaper Le Monde. The fresh corrections were now issued by the UK-based non-profit academic publisher The Company of Biologists, in their two journals Development and Journal of Cell Science. Two of these four papers, the worst ones, feature as first author Jessus’ mentee Anthi Karaiskou (now associate professor at Sorbonne University). All these works of science contain such appalling Photoshop manipulations (while the relevant raw data was reliably missing) that the academic publisher had to bend over backwards to invent the reason why they did not retract those. In one case, there wasn’t even a correction. The journal simply issued a strange “publisher’s note”, telling which figures have been rigged and that original data was unavailable.

The argument went: the investigation by the Sorbonne University declared those copy-pasted gel bands to be good scientific practice, and even announced in advance on behalf of the journals that no corrections will be necessary. Based on that investigative report (which, as it was leaked, was written by Jessus’ personal ally and subordinate colleague Francis-Andre Wollman, assisted by Jessus herself), namely that manipulated data has no impact on the scientific message of the paper, the two journals resorted to the guidelines by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) which say that a retraction is not appropriate where scientific message is solid. The circle of Pravda-esque idiocy was complete, and here come the three corrections and the bizarre “publisher’s note”, illustrated by the evidence from my site and on PubPeer. Do compare them with what now serves as replacement, the scientific message is not really always the same. Continue reading “Catherine Jessus case: journals hide behind Sorbonne & COPE to avoid retractions”

DFG and Marburg drop misconduct investigation of Roland Lill papers

DFG and Marburg drop misconduct investigation of Roland Lill papers

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has terminated the investigation against their Senator and Marburg University professor Roland Lill, after having found no research misconduct in his papers on yeast biochemistry. No comments are issued on the integrity of the data in his papers as it was flagged on PubPeer and reported on my site, or on the fact that some unusual image manipulations were already admitted by Lill and his former PhD students (read here), or that some papers already had to be corrected (read here). All I was told that the investigation was dropped after DFG followed the Marburg University in their decision that “a scientific misconduct can not be proved”.

This was the letter I received yesterday from the Marburg University Ombudsman Helmut Remschmidt : Continue reading “DFG and Marburg drop misconduct investigation of Roland Lill papers”

Tarantino & Finelli: i plagiatori di Napoli

Tarantino & Finelli: i plagiatori di Napoli

Plagiarism and self-plagiarism used to be an easy way for career advancement for many ruthless and entitled academics. It became a bit more difficult now, in the times of internet where automatic software can flush out a cheater in a matter of minutes. Provided of course, the scholarly publishers care about such things. And in fact, many don’t. My regular contributor Smut Clyde now presents you the case of two medical plagiarists from Naples in Italy, who became infamous after one of them was caught having stolen the work of a US colleague he was peer reviewing. In other cases, the two Napolitans were even too lazy to plagiarise. They simply republished their already plagiarised “works” several times, and not just as some pedestrian papers, but as book chapters, all in order to boost their publishing record even further. Smut Clyde alerted the journals, but most of them couldn’t care less. To their defence: some are known predatory publishers.

And these are the two Plagiatori di Napoli: Giovanni Tarantino , born 1946, likes to present himself as “Professor of Internal Medicine” at the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, thought the university website has no records of his faculty membership. He was apparently a subordinate group leader there for 20 years till 2005 and might have had afterwards an adjunct professorship under a Napoli faculty member Giovanni Di Minno, whom Tarantino invited to join the plagiarism game. Their common paper in Oncotarget disappeared from the internet without a trace when the misconduct became known. Tarantino’s junior partner in the plagiarism scam is Carmine Finelli, educated at the same university, last (allegedly) affiliated with the hospital Stella Maris Mediterraneo in Puglia and now a “free medical professional”, whatever that might be. Continue reading “Tarantino & Finelli: i plagiatori di Napoli”

Former KI rector Dahlman-Wright: stones in a glass house

Former KI rector Dahlman-Wright: stones in a glass house

The irony is rich. Just last month, the Swedish Karolinska Institutet (KI) announced the results of the investigation into papers by their former guest professor Paolo Macchiarini and his right-hand man Philipp Jungebluth. The two were found guilty of research misconduct and their plastic trachea transplant papers were set for retraction, where at least the journal The Lancet finally obliged (read here). Exemplary decision, but there is a snag: next to the ruthless trachea transplanters, other scientists were found guilty of misconduct, among them Karl-Henrik Grinnemo, one of the four original KI whistleblowers without whose brave actions there would have been no Macchiarini scandal. Two more whistleblowers were found “blameworthy” of negligence. Also KI professor Katarina Le Blanc was found guilty of misconduct, incidentally a whistleblower herself who reported severe ethics breaches in a different case of regenerative medicine and human research at KI two years ago. Finally, KI fingered the sacked UCL nanotechnologist Alexander Seifalian for research misconduct, using the very same shaky arguments the London university pulled off in its investigative report in 2017 (read here). The bizarre thing: back then UCL did not allow Seifalian to defend himself or to appeal against the accusations, and KI now did exactly same. He was served a misconduct verdict, but was denied by KI a right to testimony or appeal, which Macchiarini and his gang were granted generously and made ample use of.

The Macchiarini investigation was initiated in 2016 by the interim KI Vice-Chancellor (rector) Karin Dahlman-Wright and was completed this year by the newly installed Vice-Chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen. The promised irony is that several Dahlman-Wright papers were now scrutinised by the pseudonymous data integrity sleuth Clare Francis with the result that one wonders if Dahlman-Wright was the right person to supervise a research misconduct investigation. Here comes namely even more irony: that former interim rector and her successor Ottersen previously absolved the notorious KI group leader Helin Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg and her former PhD mentor, the KI professor Boris Zhivotovsky (read here), despite heavy evidence of manipulated data. Nine more professors were under misconduct investigation during Dahlman-Wright’s tenure (read here), and since we heard nothing yet, one can assume that all the duplicated and photoshopped data in their papers was also a misunderstanding which bears no relevance on the quality of their research. The Dahlman-Wright evidence I present below is heavy, but also Ottersen himself might be tainted: he is co-author on an old paper with a likely image duplication. Continue reading “Former KI rector Dahlman-Wright: stones in a glass house”