This is a NEWS post.
My Twitter feed recently showed that the highly respected European research organisation, EMBO, is funding a scientist directly associated with possible misconduct and data manipulation.
EMBO has announced on December 8th: Nine scientists receive EMBO Installation Grants, each of the nine recipients is also to obtain the prestigious title of EMBO Young Investigator.
The problematic scientist in question is the Portuguese Sónia Melo, with research interest in “Exosomes in intra-tumor heterogeneity”. She is returning to Europe from the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, US, and is to receive from EMBO the funding of ” 50,000 Euros annually for three to five years” for her new lab in University of Porto, Portugal.
Indeed, Melo’s publication list is stellar, her sheer impact factor justifies every possible research grant. Or does it? Are image duplications any kind of concern for EMBO, especially those strangely rotated and flipped ones, which can very unlikely happen due to negligence or technical error?
Here are some examples, from the whistle-blower platform PubPeer:
- Melo et al, Nature Genetics (2009) A TARBP2 mutation in human cancer impairs microRNA processing and DICER1 function Update 27.01.2016: this paper has been now retracted, see my comment below
2. Melo et al, Cancer Cell (2014) Cancer Exosomes Perform Cell-Independent MicroRNA Biogenesis and Promote Tumorigenesis
3. Melo et al, Nature (2015) Glypican-1 identifies cancer exosomes and detects early pancreatic cancer
4. Melo et al, Cancer Cell (2010) A Genetic Defect in Exportin-5 Traps Precursor MicroRNAs in the Nucleus of Cancer Cells
I tweeted my surprise at EMBO’s decision, and wrote an email to the EMBO press officer with this text:
“My question concerns the latest grant recipient Sonia Melo. Exactly how were these concerns of data integrity in her first-author publications taken into account at the grant decision:May I ask if EMBO had reasons to assume these issues of data integrity were false, irrelevant or not directly purporting to Dr. Melo?I would greatly appreciate a statement”.
– Programme Manager and Deputy Director Gerlind Wallon