There is a popular saying: “A fish stinks from the head down”. This is what the situation starts to look like for French CNRS Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes (IBMP) in Strasbourg, also unofficially known as “The Olivier Voinnet Institute for Research Integrity in Plant Sciences”, after its most famous former research director. A publication from the lab of the institute’s head, Laurence Maréchal-Drouard, seems to contain evidence of inappropriate data manipulation. The gel shown in Figure 1A of Salinas et al 2014, seems to have “no less than 4 copies of a background patch”, according to a concerned reader who contacted me with this evidence. Drouard herself did not reply to my email, possibly because she and her entire CNRS institute are banned from communicating with me.
A tenured scientist in the Droaurd lab, Thalia Salinas-Giegé, is the first author on that publication. Her husband is Philippe Giegé, and a paper from his own lab proved to contain duplicated gels (Gutmann et al 2012, PubPeer evidence and Giegé’s response here). As aside, it was Giegé’s tenured researcher Géraldine Bonnard who also issued the communication ban with me to her IBMP colleagues. The middle one of the three co-authors on the problematic Gutmann et al 2012 paper is Anthony Gobert, who is married to Hélène Zuber, a tenured member of a rather problematic IBMP lab of Dominique Gagliardi. Why is this lab problematic? Because Gagliardi’s other tenured lab member, Heike Lange, is a person with a record one should be most cautious with. This German researcher has been accused of western blot band duplications in her earlier papers from the lab of Roland Lill at the University of Marburg (Lange et al 2000 and Lange et al 2001). With Gagliardi, Lange published a paper for which she recently had to admit more band duplications on PubPeer, for Lange et al 2011. She wrote there:
“I regret making the wrong control panel in the first place but it was never made to be published instead of the original control. Its insertion in the figure was a genuine mistake. Please note that both the creation and the publication of this panel was a mistake of me, Heike Lange, and none of the other authors knew of its existence. These issues are being communicated to the journal editor”.
Just some days ago, IBMP had to retract a paper from the lab of Véronique Ziegler-Graff for data manipulation in four figures (Pfeffer et al 2002). A co-author on that paper was Voinnet’s former right-hand man, self-admitted data manipulator and currently IBMP group leader, Patrice Dunoyer.
Given all this data manipulation chaos, it is rather fitting that this institute will be visited tomorrow, on March 8th by a travelling circus of research integrity evaluators, also known as “Comité HCERES” scientific review board” (see my report). The members of this evaluation committee themselves had to admit data manipulations in their own papers. Alain Tissier and Ute Vothknecht sent their first authors to PubPeer to admit data manipulations for Rontein et al 2008 and Chigri et al 2006, respectively. Martin Crespi and his first author admitted data manipulation on PubPeer for Campalans et al 2004. Everyone however dismissed own data manipulations it as scientifically irrelevant. A previously corrected paper from Crespi lab (Elvira-Matelot et al, 2016) had a duplicated gel band introduced by his postdoc, as the paper’s other corresponding author, Hervé Vaucheret, told me:
“I’d like to point that the author responsible for the image manipulation in Elvira-Matelot et al, 2016 that was recently corrected is Florian Bardou. […] Thus, this manipulation was not done in my lab. Was I aware of this manipulation? NO ! Martin Crespi, the supervisor of Florian Bardiou also was not aware of this manipulation”.
In addition to other IBMP scientists whom I already listed in my earlier report, also the tenured IBMP researcher Thierry Heitz, member of Danièle Werck lab, had concerns about the data integrity in his publications flagged on PubPeer. Here is an example flagged on PubPeer for La Camera et al 2009, where Heitz is last author:
Tomorrow’s HCERES evaluation will therefore be a great fun for sure. One does wonder if the IBMP or CNRS in general learned anything at all from the Olivier Voinnet scandal, except of the importance of a thorough cover-up and a communication ban. The CNRS currently have another fresh data integrity scandal on their hands, with yet another plant scientist: Susana Rivas.