Academic Publishing News Research integrity

CNRS: chief biologist Catherine Jessus “victim of slanderous campaign” by blogger

UPDATED. My earlier reporting about image irregularities in the papers by CNRS’ chief biologist and director of l’Institut des sciences biologiques (INSB) Catherine Jessus had some interesting effects, including two Corrigenda I discuss below. Evidence of data manipulation in several Jessus’ co-authored papers on cell cycle progression in Xenopus oocytes was collected by my readers, which I then posted on PubPeer. There, it was soon supplemented with additional evidence from other PubPeer users. CNRS now publicly accused me of  “slanderous campaign” against Jessus, declared gel band duplications to be either technical incidents or in fact scientifically well justified and called its scientists to “collective vigilance” against people like myself (see below).

While CNRSan institution of of 32,000 research employees and annual budget of €3.2 Billion, was busy suppressing the Jessus affair (allegedly on orders from the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation), something even bigger exploded: evidence of data manipulation appeared in the papers of the then-interim President of CNRS, Anne Peyroche, which then led to her removal and institutional investigation which could result in sacking. My own role in reporting data manipulations in Peyroche papers, initially dismissed as so-called compression artefacts by PubPeer moderation, was then acknowledged by Le Monde. The French national newspaper also brought the well-hidden Jessus case into the spotlight:

It’s also on PubPeer that Catherine Jessus, head of research in biology at CNRS, was incriminated – she did not consider it appropriate to answer on the site”.

Unlike the unlucky CNRS interim president, behind whose devastating PubPeer postings Retraction Watch suspectedpolitical motivations in trying to take Peyroche down“, the powerful CNRS’ chief biologist apparently doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Jessus was whitewashed in a secret investigation by l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), which professorship she holds. UPMC experts found only minor errors in 3 Jessus publications, and dismissed all other evidence.

Two Jessus papers have now been corrected, a key co-author on those is Aude Dupre, Jessus former PhD student and presently staff scientist at UPMC. Another coauthor is Olivier Haccard, “Directeur de Recherche” at CNRS I2BC in Paris. These papers from 2017 and 2015 were relatively simple cases, where no gel band duplications were spotted. One could even have explained those away as honest mistakes of negligence. But Jessus’ corrections of these two recent papers are not that straightforward, and do little to dismiss suspicions of her lab’s lack of research integrity.

DVXAV2RW0AA1O42.jpg large
CNRS blocked me on several of their Twitter channels, so they advertise for Jessus’ book “Etonnant vivant” in peace. Which CNRS for some reason does in this press release without mentioning the author’s name even once. Are they a bit ashamed after all?

1st Correction

Dupré AI, Haccard O, Jessus C

The greatwall kinase is dominant over PKA in controlling the antagonistic function of ARPP19 in Xenopus oocytes

Cell Cycle, 2017. Volume 16, Issue 15, pages 1440–1452. DOI: 10.1080/15384101.2017.1338985

The Corrigendum appeared on January 14th 2018 and goes as follows (comments as figure legends by me):

The Figures 1a, 2a and S1a were mistakenly composed using incorrect autoradiography films. Figures 1a and S1a originate from a single experiment. This was not mentioned in the legend of Figure 1a. These errors do not affect the overall scientific conclusions of the article.

The corrected figures are presented below.

The mention “See also Figure S1a corresponding to the full experiment” is now added to the legend of Figure 1a

The authors sincerely apologize to the journal, the readers and reviewers for any inconvenience caused.

Figure 1A, which was NOT flagged on my site or PubPeer.  Note that old top panel (pS109-ARPP) remained, while the other two (pS67-ARPP and loading control GST-ARPP) were replaced with new data, with splicing indicated. Source: Cell Cycle, and Sci-Hub for accepted manuscript
Figure 2A of Dupre et al 2017 was also NOT flagged on my site or PubPeer. Here, the entire figure was replaced with new data. Source: Cell Cycle, and Sci-Hub for accepted manuscript

However this correction did not address the problems with figures S1B and S2B, which I reported on my website  in September 2017. It does seem pretty obvious the gels were spliced, and are probably best exchanged also, but by now it is probably grossly impolite to ask Jessus to correct her 2017 paper again. Indeed, top panel ThioP in Figure S2B looks like authors were masking something they didn’t like, what with the stripes of different resolution, so it is really best to leave this paper now alone, to avoid a retraction.

2nd Correction

Enrico M. Daldello, Tran Le, Robert Poulhe,Catherine Jessus, Olivier Haccard, Aude Dupré
Control of Cdc6 accumulation by Cdk1 and MAPK is essential for completion of oocyte meiotic divisions in Xenopus

Journal of  Cell Science 2015, doi: 10.1242/jcs.166553
I reported in my article from September 2017 a duplication of one western blot panel in this paper:

The figure shows gel fractionation of oocyte lysates, which were either incubated with a Cdc6 antibody, or left untreated (control)

The Corrigendum appeared on February 1st 2018:

In Fig. 4B, the western blot used to illustrate the elution profile of Cdk1 in the control was mistakenly used a second time to illustrate the samples incubated with anti-Cdc6 antibody. The correct Fig. 4 is shown below. This error does not affect the conclusions of the study.

I made a comparison of the new figure with the previous one, and to me as former cell biologist it does look a bit like the results are slightly different now:
jcs correction
On the left hand-side (Control), protein Cdk1 is one distinct band. This is also what it used to look in the peer-reviewed version of the paper for the right-hand-side. So far, so good. Yet after the correction, Cdk1 however mysteriously became degraded in the presence of Cdc6-antibody, as evidenced by multiple Cdk1 bands of the new gel (Cdc6 antibody, fractions 3-5). And as for fractions 6-13, there Cdk1 signal is now completely gone. Nothing at all to see.
Would peer reviewers not wonder what horrible thing the Cdc6 antibody did to Cdk1 protein, and why? And since fractions 2-5 and 6-13 are not from the same gel, how do we know if the Cdk1 probe actually worked on the latter (or was even applied, for that matter)? That Cdk1 gel is indeed totally blank.
Unless you boost the contrast:
jessus JCS
Now something which might be some extremely faint bands appears, and it looks like there are 4 gel rows where the figure shows 3 (fractions 6,7,8).
Nevertheless, Executive Editor of Journal of Cell Science Sharon Ahmad declared this to me:

“We take all ethics issues seriously and investigate all cases reported. Where we investigate and an action results, there is a public output such as a correction or retraction. Any discussions with the authors and their institutes remain private, as is appropriate. We saw the original data in this case, and in discussions with the authors, agreed to publish the correction, and were satisfied that no further action was required. I’m afraid I am unable to discuss the case further with you”.

The Journal of Cell Science has indeed an interesting way of investigating evidence of data manipulation. A paper Imreh et al 2011 from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, received in June 2017 an editorial Expression of Concern, after additional evidence on PubPeer and on my site appeared. The paper already received a Correction for duplicated blot in May 2016. But then Karolinska investigated, and determined in August 2017 that there was nothing untoward in that publication. Though the original data for that 6 year old paper was not available, the irregularities were explained with, yes, what else, compression artefacts. Journal of Cell Science duly responded with replacing the Expression of Concern  in September 2017 with this Publisher’s note:

“Concerns were raised regarding some of the data in Fig. 1A of the above-named paper. An investigation carried out by Karolinska Institutet concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred, and that no further action was required. An in-house review of the original data by Journal of Cell Science reached a similar conclusion”.

One now wonders how this journal will deal with another Jessus paper, Frank-Vaillant et al 2000:

Somehow three bands from one gel in Figure 8A walked into a different gel in Figure 8B, where they met new gel band friends. Will J Cell Science now run an in-house investigation and determine that there is absolutely nothing sinister going on? After all, CNRS and UPMC decreed that this duplication was scientifically perfectly appropriate.  Source: PubPeer

A note to my readers: should you be inclined to check out the evidence for the corrected Daldello et al J Cell Science 2015 paper on PubPeer, you will find a certain comment I was not allowed to reply to by the PubPeer moderators. Here it is.

Update 21.02.2017. This is a Google-translated message by CNRS, as published by the French news agency AEF. The official press release is here. These are the files CNRS linked:

Les conclusions du rapport
L’analyse détaillée (which either declares original data lost or that gel band duplications were scientifically appropriate, and otherwise: GelDoc software did it).
L’annexe 1 

Report concludes lack of scientific misconduct in publications by C. Jessus, Director of INSB-CNRS

By Anne Roy

A joint commission of inquiry at Sorbonne University and the CNRS concludes, on February 21, 2018, on “the lack of scientific misconduct” after having examined figures of certain publications of Catherine Jessus, director of the INSB-CNRS, incriminated on Internet. The two institutions “reaffirm their confidence” and “are indignant at the slanderous campaign of which she was a victim”. The elements of the blog, “relayed on certain social networks and delivered to the appreciation of anonymous commentators were 11 articles published over a period of 20 years, of which she is not first author, and is the author last for four of them “, the statement said. “De facto, her co-authors, including several researchers or teacher-researchers belonging to UPMC or CNRS, were also implicated.”

There is “in the figures incriminated on the Internet, no base for a scientific misconduct of Catherine Jessus,” said February 21, 2018 an investigation report of a commission Sorbonne University / CNRS. In September 2017, the biologist, director of research at the CNRS, head of a team in the laboratory of developmental biology (Sorbonne University-CNRS) and director of the Institute of Biological Sciences of the CNRS, “was accused of scientific misconduct in a blog, “recalls the statement referring to a publication by blogger Leonid Schneider entitled “Voinnet’s CNRS investigator Catherine Jessus with own data integrity issues“. The publications were also reported on the PubPeer website.

UPMC (now Sorbonne University) has “set up a commission of inquiry, as every time a possibility of misconduct or scientific fraud is known” and the CNRS “is associated with this approach”, the statement said, and that “some scientific journals have also approached, according to their procedures, the university for investigation”.

“Multiplication of false accusations, without any scientific justification”

The committee asked by the institutions concludes that in 7 of the 11 publications, “suspicions of inappropriate assembly of figures are unfounded”. “In each of the other four, errors that do not call into question the conclusions of the research conducted have been identified, errors of which [Catherine] Jessus is never at the origin.” The report states that corrective requests have been made to the relevant scientific publishers, who have all accepted them.

“Deeply committed to the respect of the ethics as well in the conduct of research as in their publication”, the CNRS and Sorbonne University recall “their commitment of scientific institutions to treat with the greatest rigor the cases of scientific misconduct, by protecting sincere whistle-blowers like researchers and teacher-researchers whose innocence is proven, in case of misconduct or proven fraud, they take appropriate sanctions, without any complacency. “

The institutions call “the greatest collective vigilance regarding the multiplication of false accusations, without any scientific justification, under the guise of pseudonyms, because it complicates the identification of real fraud”


If you are interested to support my work, you can leave here a small tip of $5. Or several of small tips, just increase the amount as you like (2x=€10; 5x=€25). Your generous patronage of my journalism will be most appreciated!


9 comments on “CNRS: chief biologist Catherine Jessus “victim of slanderous campaign” by blogger

  1. Pingback: Boletim de Notícias: Capes oferece bolsas de até R$ 7 mil para inovação | Direto da Ciência

  2. Pingback: Voinnet’s CNRS investigator Catherine Jessus with own data integrity issues – For Better Science

  3. At the risk of being dragged into the mud with a known slanderer, has anyone bothered to notice that these papers are based on one-off experiments? At least given how crappy the replacement blots are, one must assume there are no repeats because they would have to be better. None of the altered data will change the conclusions of these papers because they are examples of genius science, which is where you only do experiments to demonstrate that your proposition is correct, not to actually test it. A sad day for any research enterprise when the geniuses take over.


  4. It would have been better if the CNRS had called for greater “collective vigilance” against data manipulation etcetera.


  5. Pingback: Pravda of Jessus report, CNRS Politburo scared of own people – For Better Science

  6. Pingback: Jessus investigator identity leaked, CNRS President to expose whistleblowers – For Better Science

  7. Pingback: French Biologists: CNRS-Sorbonne investigators “totally incompetent”, data manipulations in Jessus papers “intentionally fraudulent forgeries” – For Better Science

  8. Pingback: Jessus critics defiant, reactionary cock-up and Chicken of Dishonour Legion – For Better Science

  9. Pingback: Catherine Jessus case: journals hide behind Sorbonne & COPE to avoid retractions – For Better Science

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: