What happens now at the Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Sweden gives a sneak peek into the dystopic world of Plan S and other visions of the golden future of Open Access (OA). As research funders, universities and politicians gear up to flip subscription-based academic publishing to author-pays OA, certain scientists will find themselves completely barred from publishing their research. Simply because they cannot afford to. Sure, Plan S and the Europeans-led cOAlition S of research funders expect the funding institutions to cover the article processing charges (APC), but what if these refuse to, because the funders lack funds, or because the scientist’s employment contract expired, or because someone up there decided to punish that hapless scientist?
Not everyone can afford to pay the APC from their own pocket: the OA bill can easily go up to €5k these days, with even bigger price tags to be expected if more journals start to flip to Gold OA. Poverty waivers are not an option: these are reserved for residents of certain developing world countries only, and even that often just in theory. Preprints are of course free, but most funders and employers won’t be impressed by preprints which never made a peer -reviewed paper. With no “platinum”, fee-free OA journals provided for, the future of Open Access will become a grim dystopia where bullying will be institutionalised at APC level, and academic freedom will become a thing of the past.
Commercial OA publishers are already prepared. I know of a case where an unemployed researcher saw his postdoctoral research paper blocked in limbo by Taylor & Francis after acceptance, with the demand that the author either pays the hefty APC of $2500 or formally withdraws the manuscript. All he was offered was a minor discount. Eventually, that ex-postdoc’s former employer conceded to his pleas and agreed to pay the APC. Only that it hasn’t happened yet and the accepted proofread paper is stuck for already over half a year in the Taylor & Francis black box, unpaid and unpublished. You can call it blackmail if you like. [this story has been corrected, I initially wrote the author was in luck and the university did pay.
The cell biologist and cancer researcher Joanna Zawacka-Pankau is a similar situation. Her affiliation with KI ended in 2017 and she is in-between jobs now, so to say. She did manage to publish with Springer Nature, and the publisher sent out the bills only after the papers appeared online with a doi. Since the research was all done at KI, Zawacka-Pankau listed her KI affiliation, and forwarded all the bills there, a total of €3,078.75, also because she left behind some unspent research funds. Only that KI categorically refused to pay.
Apparently, the Swedish medical university understood that Zawacka-Pankau is in the right, also because KI has an OA policy since 2011 (in 2018, they even made OA publishing agreement with world’s bestest publisher, Frontiers!). So the department heads went to the offensive: KI now opened a research misconduct investigation against Zawacka-Pankau to forbid her to use KI affiliation for research produced there. They even went as far as to insinuate that Zawacka-Pankau never performed any research at KI at all. All because of a bill of €3k. The irony is rich in many respects, also because KI’s past rector (now vice-rector) Karin Dahlman-Wright is about to be whitewashed for actual data manipulation on massive scale, and the present Rector Ole Petter Ottersen refuses to admit having hosted fraud in his former lab in Oslo.
Zawacka-Pankaw came to KI as postdoc in 2005 and worked at the Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology (MTC) until 2009. In 2012 she was employed 100% as Assistant Professor at MTC, Zawacka-Pankau’s superior there was the cancer researcher Galina Selivanova (incidentally one of 9 KI professors mass-investigated for research misconduct, and whitewashed by KI in utter secrecy). In 2015, Zawacka-Pankau switched as Assistant Professor (50% employment) to a different KI department, namely CLINTEC (Department of Clinical Science Intervention of Technology), where she maintained her affiliation until 2016. CLINTEC used to be the place where the murderous plastic trachea transplant research of Paolo Macchiarini took place. They sure know all there is to know about research ethics at CLINTEC.
The department’s prefect and Zawacka-Pankau’s chief accuser is Mats Blennow. He is a former PhD student of Li Felländer-Tsai, a character some of those versed in the Paolo Macchiarini trachea transplant affair might recognise. The former CLINTEC prefect Tsai was one of the key allies of Macchiarini’s at Karolinska University Hospital, she played a decisive role in recruiting him as guest professor to KI. “Litsi”, as Macchiarini affectionately called her, was even supposed to be guest at his fake wedding in the Vatican in 2014. Unlike KI whistleblowers who exposed the trachea transplant scandal, Felländer Tsai was never investigated or, god forbid, ever found guilty of any misconduct. Her only career setback was: Macchiarini affair exploded, KI removed Tsai as prefect of CLINTEC and appointed her mentee Blennow as the successor. Fresh wind, you know. Now Blennow the fraud buster brings the hammer down. He is apparently even prepared to lie and falsify official documents, all to avoid paying a measly Open Access bill of €3k.
Suspected scientific misconduct – Joanna Zawacka-Pankau
Joanna Zawacka-Pankau (JZP) was employed at the Department MTC in a total of five and a half years , first as post-doc (2 years) and then as “forskningsassistent” (3.5 years). Her contract at MTC ended 2015. Between 20160201-2060831 JZP was employed 50% at the Department CLINTEC. Afterwards during the period 20160908-20170317, associated with the department.
After the JZP’s affiliation with Kl has ended, JZP has in many ways been known to the central management of the institutions when she requested cost coverage for congress travel, expenses and open access fees.
The notification applies in particular that during this time JZP continues to publish articles where she claims that the article is based on Karolinska Institutet despite the fact that her affiliation was closed 2 years ago. Dr. Zawacka-Pankau had in 2018 and 2019 six publications in which she indicates MTC as her place of residence, two of which are errata, the other four original articles. The head of the MTC has written to journals where three of the original works published and asked for this affiliation to be removed. For a list of these articles, see below. In connection with these publications he asked the publishers to send bills to the institutions and also directly into firstname.lastname@example.org.
JZP states in social media that she belongs to the MTC / KI.
In addition to MTC and CLINTEC, JZP has repeatedly contacted several other KI institutions in order to be able to apply for research funding through affiliations to any of these. The undersigned are familiar with contacts with FyFa, IMM, LabMed, MedH.
The word “forskningsassistent“, research assistant, is decisive here. It is namely a bold-faced, intentional lie serving the purpose to justify an inadmissible research misconduct notification in the first place. A forskningsassistent is a kind of technician or student assistant job, with little to no claim to intellectual property of the research. Zawacka-Pankau however was employed as forskarassistent, which means Assistant Professor, and her employment contracts with KI (which I have seen) prove it. Her research belongs to her, in the academic sense (though not commercially). KI knows that very well, hence the lie about Zawacka-Pankau’s having been a mere research assistant, and not an assistant professor.
Forskarassistent is namely an academic position for which a PhD degree and several years of postdoctoral experience in research are required. Basically, what Macchiarini’s trainee Philipp Jungebluth never had, and still he was employed by KI and CLINTEC as assistant professor. KI even helped Jungebluth to bullshit the Swedish Research Council: the German medical doctor lied on his grant proposal that he holds a PhD degree, in order to get a juicy research grant to continue with his trachea transplant research. Jungebluth was later sacked by KI together with his boss Macchiarini, after the former’s grant was withdrawn for exactly that PhD lie, among other things (btw, Jungebluth had me sentenced in court in Berlin in two appeal trials).
But in Zawacka-Pankau’s case, KI did the opposite. They now pretend she never worked as forskarassistent (assistant professor) and retrospectively degraded her to a technician-like forskningsassistent. To top it off, KI demands that she removes all her past affiliations with KI from her papers, even if the research was done there. Zawacka-Pankau is puzzled why her, and not others:
“My most recent affiliation is Karolinska Institutet. No other affiliation is available as of today. I have now updated my social media on twitter, LinkedIn, ORCID and ResearchGate accordingly. Several former researchers from Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology Karolinska Institutet have not updated their profiles as of today. Note that several researchers no longer working are listed as active employees on website of Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology Karolinska Institutet.”
These are the papers listed with affiliated accusations in the letter by Nylen and Blennow (hyperlinks mine):
Kostecka A, Sznarkowska A, Meller K, Acedo P, Shi Y, Sakil HAM, Kawiak A, Lion M, Krolicka A, Wilhelm,A, Zawacka-Pankau 34. Correction to: JNK-NQO1 axis drives TAp73-mediated tumor suppression upon oxidative and proteasomal stress Cell Death Dis. 2018 7 Jun; 9(6):681 (Claiming affiliation to MTC and providing a non-existing KI email address)
Zawacka-Pankau explains about this correction:
“This is a publication that has been published by the publisher by error. I have contacted the Journal about this issue already two times in June 2018 and in May 2019”.
Kostecka A, Sznarkowska A, Koczergo K, Acedo P, Shi Y, Sakil HAM Kawiak A, Lion M, Krolicka A, Wilhelm M, None A, Zawacka-Pankau J.
Correction to: JNK-NQO axis is TAp73-mediated tumor suppression upon oxidative and proteasomal stress. Cell Death Dis. 2018 Jun 7; 9 (6): 690. (Claiming to MTC and giving to non-existing Kl-email address)
That paper was also preprinted, KI didn’t protest then. Zawacka-Pankau explains about this paper and its correction:
“The article describes the mechanism of induction of cancer cell death lacking p53 by a plant-derived proteasomal inhibitor, withaferin A. The mechanism of induction of cell death converges on stabilization and activation of TAp73 tumor suppressor.
Both, the data presented in the article and in the correction was generated by my team and supervised by me during my employment as an Assistant Professor in chemical biology (Forskarassistent, 100% employment), Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology, Karolinska Institutet 09 Jan 2012 – October 2014 (Figure 1-6 and supplementary figures). The project has been initiated during my employment at the University of Gdansk Poland and is collaboration with the University of Gdansk, Poland.
The email address provided in the correction was not active by the time of submission. It was provided because it has been the primary email address in the main article. I have contacted the Editor-In-Chief in Cell Death and Disease about this matter and I am waiting for his reply.”
Jiang L, Malik N, Acedo P, Zawacka-Pankau J. Protoporphyrin IX is a dual inhibitor or p53 / MDM2 and p53/MDM4 interactions and induces apoptosis in B- cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells. Cell Death Discov. 2019 Mar. 11,5:77. (Claiming affiliation at MTC)
Also that paper is available as preprint, no complains from KI there. Zawacka-Pankau explains about this publication:
“All data presented in the article was generated during my employment as an Assistant Professor in chemical biology (Forskarassistent, 100% employment) Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology Oct 2013 – April 2015 (Figure 1 – 3 and supplementary Figure 1).
This is a project of Amgen Scholar Natasha Malik from the Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology, Master student Liren Jiang from Uppsala University, affiliated to Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology (Oct 2013 – Dec 2014) and Postdoctoral fellow Pilar Acedo, Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology Karolinska Institutet (March 2014 – Sep 2015).”
Yet this is what Pille Ann Härmat, head of administration at CLINTEC, wrote to the publisher, over an APC bill for €1430 APC from Springer Nature:
“Johanna Zawacka Pankau are not (since 2017) affiliated or employed by CLINTEC at Karolinska institute, Sweden.
We are not supporting any financial requests from her.”
But we at KI sure will be happy to list her papers on our annual reports and grant applications?
Acedo P, Fernandes A, Zawacka-Pankau J. Activation of TAp73 and inhibition of TrxR by Verteporfin for improved cancer therapy in TP53 mutant pancreatic tumors. Future Sci OA. 2019 Jan 18; 5 (2): FS0366 ( affiliation to MTM and address at Biomedicum)
And here, there is a preprint, no complains from KI. Zawacka-Pankau explains about this publication:
“All data presented in the article was generated by my team and supervised by me during my employment as an Assistant Professor in chemical biology (Forskarassistent, 100% employment) Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology, Karolinska Institutet Sep 2014 – 08 Sep 2015 and during my affiliation to the Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology, Karolinska Institutet 09 Sep 2015 – 30 Sep 2015, (Figure 1-5 and supplementary figure 1).”
Sznarkowska A, Kostecka A, Kawiak A, Acedo P, Lion M, Inga A, Zawacka Pankau J. Reactivation of TAp73 tumor suppressor by protoporphyrin IX, a metabolite of aminolevulinic acid, induces apoptosis in TP53-deficient cancer cells. Cell Div. 2018 Dec 26; (Claiming affiliation to MTC)
No complains from KI about the preprint. Zawacka-Pankau explains about this publication:
“This article describes the mechanism of stabilization and activation of p73 tumor suppressor by a metabolite of aminolevulinic acid, protoporphyrin IX in cancer cells lacking TP53.
All data presented in the article was generated by my team and supervised by me during my employment as an Assistant Professor in chemical biology (Forskarassistent, 100% employment), Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology, Karolinska Institutet 09 Jan 2012 – 08 Sep 2015 and during my affiliation to the Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology, Karolinska Institutet 09 Sep 2015 – 30 Sep 2015, (Figure 1-5 and supplementary figure 1 – 6). This project is collaboration with University of Gdansk Poland.”
The CLINTEC administrator Hermät wrote to Springer Nature in response to a bill over €1,648.75:
“Johanna Zawacka Pankau are not (since 2017) affiliated or employed by CLINTEC at Karolinska institute, Sweden.
We are not supporting any financial requests from her.
Please send that invoice to Joanna Zawacka Pankau herself. We don’t have any contact with her”.
It is not nice to lie. They do have contact with her. They just don’t want to pay for her paper which they almost certainly will use to obtain new money for KI.
Zhang Q, Bykov VJN, Wiman KG, Zawacka-Pankau J. APR-246 reactivates mutant p53 at targeting cysteines 124 and 277. Cell Death Dis. 2018 May 1; 9 (5): 439. (Claiming affiliation to MTC and address at Biomedicum)
Yes, this paper was preprinted too. Zawacka-Pankau explains about this publication:
“This article describes the mechanism of mutant p53 reactivation by APR-246. This paper includes studies generated and supervised by me in large during my employment as an Assistant Professor in chemical biology (Forskarassistent, 100% employment) Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology, Karolinska Institutet 09 Jan 2012 – 08 Sep 2015 and when I was affiliated researcher at the Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell biology, Karolinska Institutet 09 Sep 2015 – 31 Dec 2015 (Figure 1-5).
Data for Figure 6 was supervised during my employment as Assistant Professor (Forskarassistent, 50% employment) Department of Clinical Science Intervention of Technology, Karolinska Institutet 01 May 2015 – 31 August 2015 and during my affiliation to Department of Clinical Science Intervention of Technology, Karolinska Institutet 01 Sep 2015 – 17 March 2016.”
However, these explanations won’t be heard at KI. Blennow shows an interesting attitude to the concept of due process. He doesn’t care about it namely. To him, and apparently to KI, a misconduct investigation is a mere formality when it has been decided already when someone is guilty of disrespecting their superiors. This was the letter Blennow sent to the publisher Springer Nature on 2 May 2019:
Regarding Joanna Zawacka–Pankau. Your ref “invoice 2676136327″
Joanna Zawacka-Pankau (JZP) is not an employee at Karolinska Institutet (KI). JZPs employment at KI ended 17 March 2017.
Consequently there are no funds at KI to cover financial claims arising for any reason such as publication costs.
JZP is not allowed to claim affiliation to any of the departments at Karolinska Institutet. Any such publication is regarded by KI as scientific misconduct.
All journals and publishers expect their authors to list those affiliations where the research work was primarily done. Cell Death and Disease for example instructs ”
“The name of the department(s) and institution(s) or organizations where the work should be attributed should be specified”.
The publisher Springer Nature therefore accepted Zawacka-Pankau’s explanation that the research was indeed done at KI, and declared to her in regard to Blennow’s bizarre letter:
“Thank you for the clarification. This is a not a problem as you complied with our policy.”
But KI still refuses to pay. Will they now find Zawacka-Pankau guilty of research misconduct over an open access bill of €3k, on fabricated evidence? Hold their Starköl.
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