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Nature rewards data manipulation with a Mentoring Award

In Spain, there seems to be a tradition of reacting to emerging evidence of data manipulation with handing out prestigious awards to authors of these papers. This is how we were all taught that all the PubPeer evidence matters nothing whatsoever, as Pura Munoz-Canoves, Maria Pia Cosma and Manel Esteller were celebrated with prizes and grants for their research achievements (read here , here and here).  Now there is a new popular academic hero in Spain, Carlos López-Otín, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oviedo, and EMBO member. Lopez-Otin was now awarded a 2017 Mentoring Award,  presented to him by Sir Philip Campbell, on behalf of his journal Nature, which Editor-in-Chief Sir Philip has been for the last 22 years.

The journal Nature remains the highest authority in science, this Mentoring Award is Sir Philip’s parting present to the Nature-reading scientific community, as he is being promoted inside Springer Nature’s publishing hierarchy. It is in this way a statement of what Nature and its publisher think of research integrity. Lopez-Otin’s evidence record on PubPeer is telling enough, however most of the evidence of digitally manipulated gel images there was posted around 2-3 months ago, by the pseudonymous Claire Francis. Maybe the evidence appeared too late, and the award decision couldn’t be stopped anymore. Which would explain why Nature deleted their own tweet announcing the mentorship awards after I replied to it with PubPeer evidence on Lopez-Otin’s papers. According to another Nature website, which was for some reason also deleted, the closing date for nominations was Monday 31 July 2017. So I share some examples below, all are from papers where Lopez-Otin is last and corresponding author.

PubPeer evidence for Velasco et al Cancer Research 2000 and Velasco et al JBC 2002. It is obvious controls were run on separate gels, the-reused, and inappropriately inverted. Boxes highlight suspiciously similar areas of the background.

Nature tweeted the article about mentorship awards in Spain, to which I replied. Unlike with other social media, you cannot remove replies to your tweets if you disagree with those. Pop, the original Nature tweet was deleted, Nature followers on Twitter were then spared reading this filth:

The Nature site which invited award nomination from Spain, was gone as well. This was the awarding committee, according to residues that site left Google search and this source:

Chair of the judges: Josep Penuelas, Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) – National Research Council (CSIC), Barcelona

Judging panel:
Alison Abbott, Nature, Munich, Germany
Emilia R. Solano, CIEMAT, Madrid, Spain
Juan Lerma, Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante – UMH, Alicante, Spain
Mariano Barbacid, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas, Madrid, Spain
Pilar Ruiz Lapuente, Institute of Cosmos Sciences, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

PubPeer evidence for suspected gel band duplication (highlighted with colour boxes)  in Mariño et al, JBC 2007

For some reason, jury member Alison Abbot failed to mention her decisive role in her follow-up Nature article, while the past one listing her as member of the judging panel was deleted.
All which is left of the deleted Nature site, a Google search blurb

When issuing the award, Sir Philip said about Lopez-Otin:

Spain’s great examples are no exception – they are extraordinary in their ability to nurture emerging scientists of great diversity.”

Extraordinary re-use of a loading control indeed, in this paper from Lopez-Otin lab:

PubPeer evidence for Jiménez et al, JCB 2001. Not only does the loading control appear to be re-used for different experiments, the first band on that gel is clearly different,

Alison Abbot, who was one of the judges, later wrote in this Nature article:

“López-Otín’s mentees praised his ability to draw out and encourage even the shyest lab member. “Carlos gave me the strength to pursue an independent career as a principal investigator,” one wrote. “He made me feel that my career was a priority for him, and it is thanks to him that my career has advanced further than I would ever have imagined.” Another noted how López-Otín had encouraged trainees to read widely and think big. “Carlos told me that ground-breaking work comes from broad scientific knowledge, while overspecialization is the path to small science.”

Nominators said that López-Otín insisted on celebrating every accepted paper or project in the lab and was widely generous with advice”.

One wonders, how was this copy-pasting on the background, apparently required in order to get this paper accepted, celebrated?

PubPeer evidence for Llano et al, JBC 2008. This figure is most obviously crudely manipulated, with duplicated parts of background. The image is not even contrast-enhanced, only boxes and arrows added to highlight manipulations.

Another quote from the Nature article by Alison Abbot:

“Carlos has been a constant catalyst of scientific activities in Asturias, a region marked by decades of economic and social distress,” wrote one of his mentees”.

In this vein, was prompting people to clone gel bands part of those catalytic activities of the mentorship award-winner Lopez-Otin?

PubPeer evidence for Díaz-Perales et al JBC 2005. heavy lane splicing aside, one lane in GAPD seems to feature three times on the same gel.

Even Sir Philip’s own Nature family wasn’t spared of Lopez-Otis irregularities. This PubPeer post discusses Soria-Valles et al, Nature Cell Biology, 2015, and how the provided original blot images in the supplementary data do not match their published figure counterparts.




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63 comments on “Nature rewards data manipulation with a Mentoring Award

  1. For sure artistic creativity must be compensated….indeed a good part of a PhD in Spain is dedicated how to do the best Adobe Photoshop artistic jobs….


    • Manuel Garcia

      Well Ana,

      Sounds like you speak from experience, as, to the best of my knowldege, you are supporting such an UNTRUE statement by no evidence appart from your own PhD (and perhaps someone else’s in your environment?) in Spain.
      Bottom line: you are just fabricating the data on which you based your conclusions. Therefore, in the light of your affirmation, I could probably say that you did a great PhD in Spain, right?. Good for you then!!


      • Dear Manuel
        Indeed I did a great, fair and clean PhD in Spain and I am truly thankful to a couple of Spanish who helped me in their painful crusade against their own system
        Everybody knows about how the system works in Spain and most of the academics are afraid of talking fearing represalies
        In Portugal the system is similar, fortunately we have an research fellows association who intends to defend their rights, ABIC with many difficulties


      • Dear Ana,
        I cannot do other thing that support Manuel and feel sorry for the pathetic environment you had on your PhD, mine, also in Spain, was full of amazing scientists, that were able to publish in very good journal with much less support than other countries. I learnt very good science, how to be a good scientist, and testimony of that is the good job I am doing outside Spain. I’m super proud, and it was here in UK the first time I faced lies in science and had to live with it. You are an arrogant and an ignorant by thinking that you were the only honest scientist in Spain or one of the “few”…keep doing that thinking you are the best, that kind of humility and respect to others is exactly what a good scientist should be…


      • Yes, they should replicate the Portuguese system.


  2. Pingback: Boletim de Notícias: especialista defende cálculo de R$ 1 trilhão para MP do petróleo | Direto da Ciência

  3. You have to congratulate Nature on bringing the data manipulation to public attention.
    Nature may be unwitting, but it does have high impact.


  4. In reply to Isabel January 10, 2018 at 18:05

    “Spain, was full of amazing scientists”

    Care to name a few?


    • With that question you don’t even deserve an answer…


      • Dear Isabel,

        I am still waiting you to name 20 “amazing scientists” in Spain.
        It should not be difficult as you wrote that “Spain, was full of amazing scientists”.
        If you cannot name 20 where have they gone?


      • I hope we could end this debate by agreeing there are in fact quite a lot of very good scientists in Spain, but under current conditions they must live in fear of their dishonest peers who accumulate power, grants and awards. An award given to these cheaters is not just a meaningless cup or a medal. It is a sign who enjoys protection from the very top. Spain as a former oppressive dictatorship surely knows how this works.


      • “Spain as a former oppressive dictatorship surely knows how this works.” If I had any interest in this blog, this kind of bigoted and scientific statement unveils who you really are.


  5. No, you wrote that “Spain was full, of amazing scientists”. Name 20.


    • You know there are 20 and more. Yes, those that you mention are not part of that group. What else do you need?
      What is your plan to improve the scientific environment in Spain? Write helpful stuff that can be applied, hopefully without prejudice and racism. Don’t let your anger take the best of you.


  6. Maria Gasset.
    Instituto Química-Física Rocasolano, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Serrano 119, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


  7. Antonio Garcia de Herreros.


  8. J Biol Chem. 2004 Jun 18;279(25):26627-34. Epub 2004 Apr 15.
    Identification and characterization of human and mouse ovastacin: a novel metalloproteinase similar to hatching enzymes from arthropods, birds, amphibians, and fish.
    Quesada V1, Sánchez LM, Alvarez J, López-Otín C.
    Author information

    Departamento de Bioquimica y Biologia Molecular and Morfologia y Biologia Celular, Facultad de Medicina, Instituto Universitario de Oncologia, Universidad de Oviedo, 33006-Oviedo, Spain.

    Figure 4.

    Figure 3, see:


  9. NF-κB activation impairs somatic cell reprogramming in ageing
    Nature Cell Biology (2015) – 4 Comments
    doi: 10.1038/ncb3207 issn: 1465-7392 issn: 1476-4679 pubmed: 26214134

    Clara Soria-Valles , Fernando G. Osorio , Ana Gutiérrez-Fernández , Alejandro De Los Angeles , Clara Bueno , Pablo Menéndez , José I. Martín-Subero , George Q. Daley , José M. P. Freije , Carlos López-Otín

    Figure 2, 6, 7.

    Figure 3.

    Figure 7.


  10. Still arguments continue on the paper of Soria-Valles et al…
    NF-κB activation impairs somatic cell reprogramming in ageing
    Nature Cell Biology (2015) – 4 Comments
    doi: 10.1038/ncb3207 issn: 1465-7392 issn: 1476-4679 pubmed: 26214134
    Clara Soria-Valles , Fernando G. Osorio , Ana Gutiérrez-Fernández , Alejandro De Los Angeles , Clara Bueno , Pablo Menéndez , José I. Martín-Subero , George Q. Daley , José M. P. Freije , Carlos López-Otín

    Figure 6

    Supplementary figure 6

    Supplementary figure 8


  11. Similarities between three Lopez-Otin papers:-

    Cancer Res. 2000 Feb 15;60(4):877-82.
    Human MT6-matrix metalloproteinase: identification, progelatinase A activation, and expression in brain tumors.
    Velasco G1, Cal S, Merlos-Suárez A, Ferrando AA, Alvarez S, Nakano A, Arribas J, López-Otín C.
    Author information
    Departamento de Bioquimica y Biologia Molecular, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Oviedo, Spain.
    J Biol Chem. 2002 Oct 4;277(40):37637-46. Epub 2002 Jul 30.
    Matriptase-2, a membrane-bound mosaic serine proteinase predominantly expressed in human liver and showing degrading activity against extracellular matrix proteins.
    Velasco G1, Cal S, Quesada V, Sánchez LM, López-Otín C.
    Author information
    Departamento de Bioquimica y Biologia Molecular, Instituto Universitario de Oncologia, Universidad de Oviedo, 33006 Oviedo, Spain.
    J Biol Chem. 2003 Feb 7;278(6):3671-8. Epub 2002 Nov 21.
    Human autophagins, a family of cysteine proteinases potentially implicated in cell degradation by autophagy.
    Mariño G1, Uría JA, Puente XS, Quesada V, Bordallo J, López-Otín C.
    Author information
    Departamento de Bioquimíca y Biología Molecular, Facultad de Medicina, Instituto Universitario de Oncología, Universidad de Oviedo, Spain.



  12. J Biol Chem. 2005 Jan 21;280(3):1953-61. Epub 2004 Nov 9.
    Human polyserase-2, a novel enzyme with three tandem serine protease domains in a single polypeptide chain.
    Cal S1, Quesada V, Llamazares M, Díaz-Perales A, Garabaya C, López-Otín C.
    Author information
    Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Facultad de Medicina, Instituto Universitario de Oncología, Universidad de Oviedo, 33006 Oviedo, Spain.

    Sample order differences between other papers and this one outlined in orange.
    There are examples of re-use with sample order same.



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