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Jessus investigator identity leaked, CNRS President to expose whistleblowers

An update to the ongoing cartoon Stalinism propaganda and purge activities at the EU largest research institution, the French CNRS, in the wake of the affair around manipulated data of CNRS chief biologist Catherine Jessus, according to their press release an innocent “victim” of my “slanderous” and “unscientific” blogging.  First of all, a reliable source forwarded to me information from inside CNRS who one of the anonymous investigators was: Francis-André Wollman, CNRS researcher and professor at Jessus’s university UPMC (now Sorbonne University) in Paris. Wollmann is plant cell biologist, specialising in chloroplasts, the technology of western blot is standard in his lab. He did not reply to my emails, also the CNRS and Sorbonne University press speakers chose not to deny his role as anonymous Jessus investigator. The experts namely declared western blot manipulation to be good scientific practice, and lashed out at those who have a problem with copy-pasted gel bands (read here).

Then, the new CNRS President Antoine Petit, who replaced interim president Anne Peyroche (deposed after my reporting about data manipulations in her papers) proved to be not really a reformer, quite the opposite. Petit approved the new definition of what research misconduct in biology is, following cues from Sorbonne University and its president Jean Chambaz (who is cell biologist, specialising on intestinal metabolism and thus also a western blot expert), as well as Wollman and other Jessus investigators. New Sorbonne and CNRS Party doctrine is that data manipulation is definitely not research misconduct, but criticising that data manipulation is.

This is how Petit responded to the Jessus affair in public so far:

  • Called myself and other PubPeer commenters “arseholes” (in French connards) at his first meeting with the section heads of CNRS (one of whom is Jessus)
  • Claimed that PubPeer evidence and my reporting was an accusation of misconduct directed personally at Jessus and Peyroche (a lie, check my articles here and here), in this radio interview.
  • Described documented and now validated data integrity concerns raised against publications by Jessus and Peyroche as equivalent to false accusations of pederasty (then corrected to paedophilia), in same radio interview.
  • Announced to use IT surveillance technology to identify anonymous PubPeer commenters after their evidence was exposed as “wrong” (as it was in case of Jessus), in same radio interview.

Petit is a computer scientist, so for him the latter point is not a general empty talk. He even already has the right man with the right tools in place to set up the surveillance and hunt for traitors. Petit’s successor at the French National Institute for computer science and applied mathematics (INRIA) is nominated to be Eric Horlait, former head of Jessus’ university UPMC and president of Qosmos, an UPMC spin-off company producing deep network surveillance tools and accused to be supplier of such equipment to dictatorships and of “complicity in acts of torture” in Syria and Libya. On the other hand, PubPeer website is operated by two CNRS scientists, Brendon Stell and Boris Barbour. Together with the announcement of IT surveillance from Petit, and Qosmos being part of the game, PubPeer community seems to be receiving a warning to stay away from key figures of French science.

Arseholes, traitors, saboteurs and enemies of science will be exposed and dealt with. Comrade Antoine Petit to deploy Stasi.

PubPeer operators, known to be the new Watchdogs of Science, indeed largely stayed out of the Peyroche and Jessus affair, aside of removing links to my site or evidence I tried to post in this regard. Now, these two CNRS scientists are presiding over a kangaroo court against my own research on PubPeer, where my replies were occasionally system-edited to become a semblance of guilt admission, and where I was eventually publicly ordered by PubPeer to immediately explain my shady research activities on a predefined blog post on my own site.

A PubPeer comment on my own research paper, referring to Anne Peyroche case, with an accusation that I was behind her hospitalization. Posted soon after I tweeted about Cordyceps fungus on unrelated matter. Remained in that form for some time, despite my protests to PubPeer.

This was what PubPeer founder and CNRS researcher Stell said about institutional misconduct investigations in March 2016, when there was at CNRS just the Olivier Voinnet affair, which PubPeer exposed together with Retraction Watch, and no one else:

“most of the time, nothing happens. And there’s obvious reasons for that. There are
conflicts of interest throughout the entire system. When there’s an error that’s found, the authors usually don’t want to admit that they made a potentially embarrassing mistake. The journal doesn’t want to say that there was a problem with one of their articles. The institute doesn’t want to say that there was a problem with one of their faculty.
There are conflicts of interest built throughout the entire system so that these issues aren’t recognized and aren’t sanctioned”

Truly so, but academic conflict of interest works like this: others always have it, I don’t. Many scientists are acquitted daily by rigged investigations in secret. The Sorbonne University investigation of Stell’s superior Jessus initially followed that pattern, and absolved her in secret just some weeks after beginning  an investigation, until my article prompted CNRS to go Pravda. After having validated the evidence of manipulated data in papers by Jessus, those manipulations were declared by CNRS to be good science, in a press release. All CNRS PhD students will probably now receive courses in western blot photoshopping, taught by Olivier Voinnet.

Those were Petit’s own quotes on the Jessus and Peyroche affair in the aforementioned radio interview:

“I believe that there is no justification for scientific fraud. Conversely, the principle of presumption of innocence must be respected. […] I’m discovering these science integrity issues. In biology when it concerned the head of the CNRS. I am very shocked at the principle of anonymous denunciation that allows anyone to drill doubts into the work of anyone. […] I’ll take one comparison that may seem excessive to you […] Imagine that in an anonymous way we can accuse you of paedophilia, I think we are a bit in the same order of magnitude”

Now that myself and PubPeer commenters have been associated with paedophilia by proxy, from such an authority as CNRS President, let us see who the good guys are. The man who apparently was one of those secret Jessus investigators, Francis-André Wollman, is beyond any reproach. He is an esteemed cell biologist, director of CNRS Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique (IBPC) and of the Laboratory of Excellence “Labex DYNAMO” with around 200 scientists, and as such his authority on western blot integrity must never be doubted. If you still have trouble believing the Party order that gel band copy-pasting is good research practice, here are his other credentials: Prof Wollman is also member of French Académie des Sciences, Knight of the national Legion of Honour, EMBO member and member at Academia Europea. The Executive Secretary of the latter, David Coates, told me in regard to such attitude to data manipulation:

“Nothing to do with what is clearly an internal institutional matter, of no direct import for us or our individual members. We do not interfere with internal disciplinary activities of institutional and organisations that are outside of our individual membership”.

How did Wollman and other Jessus investigators know that band duplication in Karaiskou et al J Cell Science 1999 was not research misconduct? Very simple: one of the bands seems to be wearing a hat, as illustrated by fan art underneath. The two pictures are therefore not same.




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18 comments on “Jessus investigator identity leaked, CNRS President to expose whistleblowers

  1. Good luck on the surveillance, not going to work, there are 101 simple routes around this. One of course is to do it from home, ISPs not going to play ball with CNRS, their markets are pan national.
    If people are worried, they can simply pas son info form home to a colleague in another country.
    My view is that CNRS may be looking for a new head in due course…


  2. keep doing what you are doing!


  3. I am slowly getting annoyed with this PubPeer garbage. Clearly, just like Retraction Watch, it has nothing to do with research integrity or ethics. I hope nobody really sees this platform and the review format as the future of scientific research or post-publication review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • F.A.W. is a distinguished scientist and highly accomplished researcher. What are the credentials of the PubPeer commentators?


  4. I am frustrated over the epidemic of manipulations and falsifications seen in published “scientific” literature, which mostly is garbage. Pubpeer is one of the few tools we have to discuss this huge problem and hopefully get rid of the garbage. Life science research needs a huge clean up and if we just continue to ignore this problem I am afraid of the consequences both for the progress of science and patient safety. Too many clinical trials today are based on invalid science, and a small part of it can be seen at Pubpeer.


    • Ana Pedro

      Totally agree!


    • Fraud has always been an issue and the problem of reproducibility has been known for many years. So I am not sure there is an epidemic. There is a problem, of course, nobody argues against that, and it has to be dealt with. It is the “how” that matters. It appears to me people here think PubPeer is the solution. My opinion is the opposite. It is not the solution. It is even counter-productive as it creates a negative environment and sentiment towards the post-publication review idea altogether. From the technical side, knowing there are image analysis tools which can detect all possible forms of manipulation in a very large number of images in a very short amount of time, makes a website based on humans checking images and reporting errors kind of stupid 🙂
      My vision of the future can be read here (links in the bottom):
      As always, would be happy to admit I am wrong. But for now, my verdict stands. Actually, I’d like to downgrade it to TOTAL GARBAGE based on the fact mods edit comments! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • “there are image analysis tools which can detect all possible forms of manipulation in a very large number of images in a very short amount of time”
        Please provide us with link to this magic tool. I want to test it and check. Does this tool has access to all possible journals for free? Will it automatically detect images in pdf file, search all pdf files on line and at very short time return identical and photoshoped images?
        Assume you used this tool and found image duplications, how will you communicate it to broad public? To find image manipulations is 10% of story, 90% is how to make it known to readers and how to motivate journals, authors and Universities to take action.


      • Please contact Holger Lorenz:
        He will give you more information and send you the software.

        If you don’t like his software, you could visit a conference like:

        You could meet a lot of people there who can build such tools. Alternatively, if you can’t wait for the next conference, there are freelancers and organisations who can build such software. This you would of course have to pay. If you need more info, let me know.

        How to communicate and motivate?
        Option 1:
        Try not to get in the situation in the first place. Reduce the possibility of data manipulation. Rebuild the entire publication landscape with data sharing, reviewing etc. in mind. Don’t forget that the entire value system will have to change and this will affect everything, incl. hiring processes, grant allocation etc. So you have to work together with research institutions, but most importantly funding agencies.

        Option 2:
        If you don’t want to/can’t do that, you can start with better education. Teach people how they can analyse their data and what kind of image manipulation is allowed and what kind not.

        Option 3:
        If you are reluctant to do 1/2, and want to pursue an anonymous whistle-blowing website, you will face resistance. Not only papers, but grants, jobs, careers are on the line, so it is clear why people behave the way they do.

        Of course, there could be strategies how one could increase engagement. To give you more detailed suggestions, I would need to know the current strategy (if there is one).

        In any case, you should try to build a constructive environment with all the stakeholders, a solution everyone is happy with. Your chances of success will be slim any other way.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Me again

    What they do in the press release, different from the investigation report, is to only concentrate on Jessus. If they had done that in the first place, and not have been so greedy and simultaneously have tried to whitewash obvious misconduct, they might have gotten away with it. Maybe the CNRS staff needs some lectures in proper and intelligent management?
    Or do people know things, and is that why the investigation was stopped?


  6. Pingback: Boletim de Notícias: Estudo liga evolução humana a variação do clima na África | Direto da Ciência

  7. The discontinuation of PubMed Commons seems to confirm the will of scientific authorities to control the scientific TRUTH.


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

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

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

  11. Pingback: Olivier Voinnet, the new Dreyfus? – For Better Science

  12. Pingback: Inspector Voinnet, Wollman in fraud-overdrive, and Farewell to Jessus – For Better Science

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