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Ferrara rector Zauli unleashes Italian authorities to protect his phony privacy

On 27 December 2018, I received an email from the Italian Office for Protection of Personal Data. A certain Professor Giorgio Zauli has reported me for publishing an official letter his University of Ferrara sent to me on his behalf.

On 27 December 2018, I received an email from the Italian Office for Protection of Personal Data. A certain Professor Giorgio Zauli has reported me for publishing an official letter his University of Ferrara sent to me on his behalf.

Zauli is namely the rector of this Italian university, and he got into that position thanks to a large body of research in haematology and oncology. Many papers from his lab show signs of inappropriate data manipulation, in particular for the research-field typical flow cytometry analyses, but also for western blots. Zauli previously threatened to sue me and even reported me to Italian state prosecutor, this however did not lead anywhere. So now he complains about an injury to his privacy, because in Italy apparently it is possible for a rector to have his university send official headed threats to journalists, and then demand personal privacy for the very same.

University of Ferrara previously tricked me into providing them with my full address and phone number (they even demanded a copy of my ID) when I reported the suspected research misconduct in Zauli’s publications. Instead of investigating their rector (I was told my evidence is not admissible because I was not associated with the University of Ferrara), the university sent me an officially headed letter, signed by Zauli himself and threatening all kinds of legal action. The missive was stamped and sent off by university’s own mail office, it bears the head of university, and is signed by Zauli in his official capacity as rector. Yet Zauli, who declares in his complaint his university offices as his legal residence, insists that the letter was of a “private nature”. The Italian authorities now accuse me of having published this official university letter and thus of having revealed Zauli’s personal data. Those being his official signature as rector as well as his mobile phone number, which is likely a work phone, financed by the university, and hence by taxpayer.

To top it off, the Italian officials also reiterate Zauli’s ridiculous claim as a proven fact that I would spread “fake and unproven information” about him by presenting the evidence of manipulated data in his papers. In this regard it is worth noticing that Zauli never mentions a word about the primary source of that evidence, namely PubPeer. The PubPeer list of Zauli’s papers suspected of data manipulations grew much longer since my first reporting, and includes many papers from the lab of his Ferrara colleague and regular coauthor, Luca Maria Neri. None of that is any problem for Zauli, but my presentation of that obscure information for the wider public is.

letter 27.12

This was the English-language letter I received (original here, I removed Zauli’s private email address provided there):

Rif.: DCRT/GP/127352

OBJECT: Complaint submitted by Professor Giorgio Zauli on personal data dissemination.

Dear Mr. Leonid Schneider,

on the 30st May 2018 this Department received the attached complaint, addressed to the Italian Data Protection Authority, by Professor Giorgio Zauli, who complains the publication of a post created by Mr. Leonid Schneider reporting fake and unproven information and also the scan of a registered mail (“raccomandata”) sent by the same professor Zauli, also including his mobile phone number.

This Department asks you to communicate, with all due diligence, and in any case not later than 20 days after receipt of this notice, your remarks on what is represented in the complaint and whether you intend to adhere to the requests of the complainant.

The communication, specifying any action taken or to be taken about what happened, must be sent to the email address: The same communication shall be sent to the complainant, who could send his own replies by the next 15 days.


Riccaro Acciai


Note that there are no quotation marks around “fake and unproven information“, I am indeed being accused of having done that. The “scan of a registered mail” showed that the letter was an official one, sent by the university. Yet here, I am accused to have injured Zauli’s personal privacy!

The email from the Office for Protection of Personal Data contained as attachment the above quoted letter, the original letter from University of Ferarra, signed by rector Zauli, and a pdf copy of my article where I reported about that letter. Also attached: the complaint by Zauli to this Italian authority, dated 30 May 2018. I make a copy available here, with Zauli’s private postal and e-mail address as well as his fiscal code removed.

That complaint is in Italian, it also contains my phone number which Zauli could only know because I had to provide it to University of Ferrara when lodging a notification of suspected research misconduct against him. Basically, the man under misconduct investigation abused his position as rector to illegally procure my personal data in order to subject me to legal threats and frivolous accusations with the authorities.

Here a section, translated:

“the circumstance on which this complaint is based concerns the publication, in
23 May 2018, on the following site: /
as well as on the publicly shared document:

of a scanned registered letter sent by the undersigned on 18 May 2018 to Mr. Leonid Schneider, in which both the cell phone number and a scan of the digital signature are clearly visible (Annex 1).
This registered letter, of a private nature, does not in any way give the addressee
a permission to disclose the content arbitrarily.
This unfortunate situation was generated by a warning presented by the undersigned against a previous article published on May 15th 2018 by Mr. Leonid Schneider, “independent science journalist” on his own internet home page, with seriously defamatory content in relation to the scientific activity produced by me.
This article is visible at the following link: /.
This article was published and / or commented on social media:
• “Facebook”, on his personal page “Leonid Schneider”, as well as
on the “For Better Science” home page (Appendix 2-3)
• “Twitter”, at the following link:
• “Linkedin”, at the following link: /,
as well as on the blog “Oca Sapiens” of the newspaper La Repubblica /
In this regard it is also known – for mere information – that the undersigned has already engaged the appropriate authorities to protect his own defamed position following the statements contained therein.”

Again, the issue in question is an official letter sent by University of Ferrara. Zauli’s  signature and phone number provided therein are the official ones of the rector of that university, no third-party data is included in the letter I published. Same rector used illegal channels to interfere into a misconduct investigation against himself and to obtain my own personal data, in order to report me to Italian state prosecutor and now the Office for Protection of Personal data. Zauli now claims that all his professional activities as public servant and Rector Magnificus, even and especially those illegal ones, are covered by personality and privacy protection.

Rettore Magnifico

Not just the fact is outrageous that Italian authorities are trying to prosecute me for publishing an official document from a public institution, the University of Ferrara. They fail to understand that the university is responsible for all of its communications, 100%. Neither can a rector suddenly switch into a private person mode to complain when an official letter he sent in his official function is published. The private person Zauli was not the author of that letter, he cannot complain or claim any privacy protection for his official communications in the name of his university. The whole matter should be subject to a disciplinary procedure instead.

What is also appalling is that the Italian authorities openly accuse me of having spread “fake and unproven information” about rector Zauli, solely because he says so. Why his university allows him to do all that, instead of initiating a investigation into scientific misconduct, breach of work ethics and theft of my own personal data, is beyond me. Maybe the university really thinks they are Zauli’s own personal and private property. This subservient attitude towards rectors is not uncommon, also outside Italy.

Since my last article, my readers have been exposing additional irregularities in the papers of Zauli and his Ferrara coauthors, in the comment section on my site. At which point will University of Ferrara stop Zauli and end this farce? This for example, from a Giberellini et al 2011 paper with Zauli as last author:


Those two lanes are clearly identical, duplicated in Photoshop. How about this creative re-use of a loading control, in a paper just 7 years old? Voltan et al 2011, last author is Zauli.


The samples are clearly utterly unrelated, in addition another loading control from the same Figure 2C from Voltan et al 2011 was apparently re-used in a different context two years later in Voltan et al 2013, last author is again Zauli.


Italian authorities first have to figure out who owns the University of Ferrara. Is it a public institution, or Zauli’s wider personal property? Until then, they seem inclined to persecute me for publishing this university’s official communications.



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32 comments on “Ferrara rector Zauli unleashes Italian authorities to protect his phony privacy

  1. It is a farce worthy of Dario Fo!


  2. Just to be precise, because as lawyer I work often with this kind of problematics: the Italian Data Protection Authority isn’t “prosecuting you for publishing an official document from a public institution”, but is offering you a chance to reply to Mr. Zauli’s allegations.
    It’s a standard procedure: they receive a complaint, they have to ask for a reply, and after that, they’ll decide if and how to proceed.
    And also, though the phrasing is actually bad, they’re not accusing you to spread fake informations, but they’re merely reporting what Zauli states in his complaint.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Smut Clyde

    “Well,” (thought a small army of anonymous PubPeer contributors), “I was going to check more of Zauli’s papers in search of faked results… but he is issuing censorious, bumptious legal threats against Leonid, which convinced me that the rest of his work is free from shenanigans, so I won’t bother now.”

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Dear Leonid

    Just ignore that stupid missive!
    There is no chance that anything will hapen to you.
    Seriously, wipe your ass with that paper and be done with it.

    That cartoon of the “king without clothes” is priceless 🙂

    Cheers, Oliver


  6. 2018 Luca M Neri publication.

    Mol Ther Nucleic Acids. 2018 Jun 1;11:485-493. doi: 10.1016/j.omtn.2018.04.002. Epub 2018 Apr 12.
    miR-199a-3p Modulates MTOR and PAK4 Pathways and Inhibits Tumor Growth in a Hepatocellular Carcinoma Transgenic Mouse Model.
    Callegari E1, D’Abundo L2, Guerriero P2, Simioni C2, Elamin BK3, Russo M2, Cani A2, Bassi C2, Zagatti B2, Giacomelli L4, Blandamura S4, Moshiri F5, Ultimo S2, Frassoldati A2, Altavilla G4, Gramantieri L6, Neri LM2, Sabbioni S7, Negrini M8.
    Author information
    Department of Morphology, Surgery and Experimental Medicine, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy. Electronic address:
    Department of Morphology, Surgery and Experimental Medicine, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy.
    Department of Basic Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Bisha, 61922 Bisha, Saudi Arabia; Microbiology Department, Faculty of Medical Laboratory Sciences, University of Khartoum, 11115 Khartoum, Sudan.
    Department of Medicine DIMED, University of Padova, 35128 Padova, Italy.
    Department of Morphology, Surgery and Experimental Medicine, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy; Department of Molecular Medicine, School of Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, 11369 Tehran, Iran.
    Center for Applied Biomedical Research, St. Orsola-Malpighi University Hospital, 40138 Bologna, Italy.
    Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy.
    Department of Morphology, Surgery and Experimental Medicine, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy.

    Figure 2B.


    • Another problematic Carlo Croce (present pillar of Ferrara University) paper.

      “But the Court believes that an ordinary reader would credit such a paper, on which Dr. Croce willingly allowed his name to appear as a co-author, to him.”

      Oncogene. 2005 Oct 13;24(45):6809-19.
      HMGA1 protein expression sensitizes cells to cisplatin-induced cell death.
      Baldassarre G1, Belletti B, Battista S, Nicoloso MS, Pentimalli F, Fedele M, Croce CM, Fusco A.
      Author information
      Kimmel Cancer Center, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

      Figure 1. See:


      • Another problematic Carlo Croce (present pillar of Ferrara University) paper.

        Mol Cell Biol. 2007 Mar;27(5):1889-903. Epub 2006 Dec 18.
        Knockdown of ALR (MLL2) reveals ALR target genes and leads to alterations in cell adhesion and growth.
        Irina Issaeva 1, Yulia Zonis 1, Tanya Rozovskaia 1, Kira Orlovsky 1, Carlo M. Croce 2, Tatsuya Nakamura 2, Alex Mazo 3, Lea Eisenbach 4 and Eli Canaani 1*
        1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
        2Institute of Genetics and Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43221
        3Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
        4Department of Immunology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.

        Problematic data.


      • Another problematic Carlo Croce (present pillar of Ferrara University) paper.

        Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jun 26;104(26):10980-5. Epub 2007 Jun 20.
        Oncogenic All1 fusion proteins target Drosha-mediated microRNA processing.
        Nakamura T1, Canaani E, Croce CM.
        Author information
        *Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology, and Medical Genetics and Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.



      • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Mar 19;99(6):3615-20. Epub 2002 Mar 12.
        Restoration of fragile histidine triad (FHIT) expression induces apoptosis and suppresses tumorigenicity in lung and cervical cancer cell lines.
        Roz L1, Gramegna M, Ishii H, Croce CM, Sozzi G.
        Author information
        Luca Roz
        *, Marcella Gramegna*, Hideshi Ishii†, Carlo M. Croce†, and Gabriella Sozzi*‡
        *Department of Experimental Oncology, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Via Venezian 1, 20133 Milan, Italy; and †Kimmel Cancer Center, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, 233 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
        Contributed by Carlo M. Croce

        Figure 1. Much more similar than you would expect.


    • 2019 expression of concern for Carlo Croce (faculty and pillar of Ferrara University) paper,
      PLoS One. 2008;3(12):e4070.

      PLoS One. 2008;3(12):e4070. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004070. Epub 2008 Dec 30.
      9 comments on PubPeer (by: Unregistered Submission, Peer 1, Eriobotrya Bengalensis, Bulbophyllum Melleum)

      Akt regulates drug-induced cell death through Bcl-w downregulation.
      Garofalo M1, Quintavalle C, Zanca C, De Rienzo A, Romano G, Acunzo M, Puca L, Incoronato M, Croce CM, Condorelli G.
      Author information
      Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology and Pathology, Federico II University of Naples, Naples, Italy.


  7. RE:

    6th November 2018 Ruling United States District Judge James Graham (Ohio) applies to problematic publications James A McCubrey (North Carolina), Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University.

    Relevant case. Case: 2:17-cv-00402-JLG-EPD Doc #: 54 Filed: 11/06/18 Page: 1 of 35 PAGEID #: 1007

    Click to access CroceNYT.pdf

    Many, but not all, of the problematic papers are as co-author, but East Carolina University Medical School is in the State of North Carolina, which part of the United States,

    Click to access CroceNYT.pdf

    and United States District Judge James Graham (Ohio) has ruled
    (top page 25,

    “Dr. Croce contends that not all papers on which his name is listed were the product of research either conducted by him or under his supervision. But the Court believes that an ordinary reader would credit such a paper, on which Dr. Croce willingly allowed his name to appear as a co-author, to him”.

    This will apply in North Carolina. We can thank Carlo Croce’s pugnaciousness for bringing the excuse of only being a co-author to the attention of the courts as a way of avoiding taking responsibility. We have the answer.

    Problematic publications McCubrey:-


  8. Rix Rictor

    What a lunatic of a Rector…….perhaps we should all write to the Italian data agency and inform them the rector has filed a fake fake news claim and should resign from public office as he clearly is not acting in the interest of the public and pursuit of the truth for the better of mankind.


    • Perhaps Giorgio Zauli does know he should not publish his data more than once, and he also does not know that the same data cannot present different experiments? Not knowing these things would lead to increased production of papers and hey presto! Top of the greasy pole! Just not knowing would be enough. No need to cast any aspersions.

      In addition Giorgio Zauli might claim that the problematic data were too difficult for him to notice.

      The latter defence is believed and accepted by “research powerhouses”.
      “Now, a second UCL inquiry into the research practices of the Latchman lab has reaffirmed that “Latchman had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the image manipulation identified,” according to a statement from Birkbeck on November 15.

      “I am very pleased with this news,” Latchman says in the statement. “The hearing clearly recognised that issues such as those identified in the investigations may be difficult to detect even in well run teams.””

      “…issues such as those identified in the unvestigation may be difficult to detect…”?
      How did the investigation manage to detect them in the first place if they were difficult to detect?
      The investigation either detected the problematic data, or it did not.
      They must have believed the claims of problematic data as evidenced for the call for retractions.

      Make your own judgement.

      It is worth Giorgio Zauli pleading that the issues were difficult to detect in that:-
      1. it does work as an excuse,
      2. and would it give us a laugh.

      Zauli would be in the best of company, might ask Latchman for a reference.


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  10. Smut Clyde

    What fresh hell is this? “HelixComplex snail mucus exhibits pro-survival, proliferative and pro-migration effects on mammalian fibroblasts”

    “Snail mucus is a mixture of active substances commonly thought to have healthy properties for the treatment of skin disorders. … Our group has recently developed technologies to collect and purify the Helix aspersa muller mucus (Patent N: 10207000117547), referred to as HelixComplex, characterized by a specific and unique molecular profile.”

    Let the record show that snail-slime as skin-care is a sick fantasy that popped into my head years ago (beer was involved).
    I demand credit.


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  13. Additional problematic data Oncotarget. 2015 Jul 10;6(19):17147-60.
    The novel dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor NVP-BGT226 displays cytotoxic activity in both normoxic and hypoxic hepatocarcinoma cells.
    Simioni C1,2, Cani A1,2, Martelli AM3, Zauli G4, Alameen AA1,5, Ultimo S1, Tabellini G6, McCubrey JA7, Capitani S1,2, Neri LM1.
    Author information
    Department of Morphology, Surgery and Experimental Medicine, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.
    LTTA Center, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.
    Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
    Institute for Maternal and Child Health, IRCCS “Burlo Garofolo”, Trieste, Italy.
    Department of Chemical Pathology, Faculty of Medical Laboratory Sciences, University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan.
    Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy.
    Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA.

    Figure 4B.

    See also:


  14. More prolematic data Oncotarget. 2015 Jul 10;6(19):17147-60.

    Figures 4B and 5B.


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