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Manchester: “research misconduct concerned only one member of the research group”

The University of Manchester found out that someone has secretly manipulated data in the papers of their star cancer researcher, Richard Marais. Who might that be?

On 16 April 2019, the University of Manchester in UK issued this public announcement:

Research misconduct statement

The University convened a panel in accordance with the procedures contained within our Code of Practice for Investigating Concerns about the Conduct of Research to investigate an allegation of potential research misconduct. The complaint, which was raised by the Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, Professor Richard Marais, concerned discrepancies discovered by the Director relating to data from work conducted in his own research group.

Girotti Marais

[Photo source: CRUK]

“The Panel upheld the complaint and determined that it constituted research misconduct under 4.3 (h) of the Code of Practice “Fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or deception in proposing, carrying out or reporting the results of research.”, specifically fabrication and falsification. Following a review, requested by the individual being investigated, the conclusions of the Panel of Investigation were upheld.“The research misconduct concerned only one member of the research group who left the University in September 2016. The Panel found no evidence during the investigation to suggest any research misconduct by the other members of the research group. In accordance with our procedures, the affected funders, co-authors and journals will be notified and the record of research will be corrected.“The University of Manchester is committed to fostering the highest standards of research integrity and we expect the highest standards of research integrity from the researchers we support. These standards are set out in our Code of Good Research Conduct.

Update 28.06.2019: the press release was deleted this week, here a backup from Google cache and a screenshot.

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A source informed me that the accused scientist might be the Argentinian melanoma cancer researcher Maria Romina Girotti, who used to work in Richard Marais‘s lab between 2011 and 2016, first at the huge cancer research institute ICR London, and then in Manchester. During that time the young shooting star of melanoma research coauthored 20 papers with Marais, including two in Cancer Cell which according to my source might be now up for retraction. Or maybe not, knowing how Cell Press works. Also, a melanoma clinical trial started in Manchester in 2015 based on Girotti’s possibly flawed research, which was celebrated with a Young Investigator award from European Cancer Organisation in 2015. That phase 1 clinical trial is now completed according to update from 12 June 2019, according to ClinicalTrials website, but no results have been posted yet. Maybe Girotti’s discoveries never led anywhere, since since the update in 2016 its “recruiting” status was dropped.

girotti getimage

As aside, the University of Manchester is a special place where research integrity seems to be applied on a case-by-case basis. Almost exactly 10 years ago, a huge fraud affair shook Germany, when the pseudonymous image integrity sleuth Clare Francis blew the whistle on the immunologist Silvia Bulfone-Paus. At the end of the affair, two Russian postdocs got the blame, while Bulfone-Paus resigned from her tenured position as director of Research Centre Borstel and retracted 12 papers. Also her husband Ralf Paus was investigated, which proved tricky because the guilty Russians were not among coauthors of manipulated papers. You know where this is going, right? Bulfone Paus (just like her husband) is professor at University of Manchester, she is even funded by Cancer Research UK (if you recall, Marais is director of the local CRUK institute).

But now back to the Manchester’s most photogenic former researcher Girotti, who never replied to my email. There was also a British Association of Cancer Research Translational Award for her in 2015, and an award from Society for Melanoma Research, and another Early Career Research Award from the Biochemical Society, which followed in 2016. Girotti was quoted:

“I am absolutely thrilled to receive this award. I would like to thank my supervisor Prof Richard Marais for nominating me and for being such an amazing mentor. To work in his team is a privilege one and certainly one of the most important steps in my scientific career”.

Cw1F6jTXcAAcqz4 girotti
Found in Google cache, but the source, Girotti’s Twitter profile, is gone.

Girotti is presently named as professor at the Argentinean Enterprise University (UADE) and is employed at a CONICET research institute in Buenos Aires in her home country Argentina, where she is listed as member of the team of the immunologist and cancer researcher Gabriel Rabinovich. Less than 3 weeks ago Rabinovich posed with Girotti for a photo-op on the occasion of their recent common paper in Cancer Cell, Segovia et al 2019. Interestingly, as soon as I wrote to Rabinovich, the lab’s website went completely offline and came back after I tweeted at Rabinovich with an archived copy. Girotti’s personal Twitter profile (which had no new tweets for some time) was deleted permanently. Her company G4h (Genes for Health), which she runs together with her husband, another UADE professor, is still online.

My source informed me that two big papers are set for retraction due to fabricated mouse data. Which suggests it might be these papers:

Girotti MR, Lopes F, Preece N, Niculescu-Duvaz D, Zambon A, Davies L, Whittaker S, Saturno G, Viros A, Pedersen M, Suijkerbuijk BMJM, Menard D, McLeary R, Johnson L, Fish L, Ejiama S, Sanchez-Laorden B, Hohloch J, Carragher N, Macleod K, Ashton G, Marusiak AA, Fusi A, Brognard J, Frame M, Lorigan P, Marais R, Springer C.

Paradox-Breaking RAF Inhibitors that Also Target SRC Are Effective in Drug-Resistant BRAF Mutant Melanoma.

Cancer Cell. 2017 Mar 13;31(3):466. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2017.02.007.

Girotti MR, Lopes F, Preece N, Niculescu-Duvaz D, Zambon A, Davies L, Whittaker S, Saturno G, Viros A, Pedersen M, Suijkerbuijk BM, Menard D, McLeary R, Johnson L, Fish L, Ejiama S, Sanchez-Laorden B, Hohloch J, Carragher N, Macleod K, Ashton G, Marusiak AA, Fusi A, Brognard J, Frame M, Lorigan P, Marais R, Springer C.

Paradox-breaking RAF inhibitors that also target SRC are effective in drug-resistant BRAF mutant melanoma.

Cancer Cell. 2015 Jan 12;27(1):85-96. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2014.11.006.

The last author Caroline Springer, who also moved to Manchester from ICR London, did not reply to my emails (admittedly those were short notices). Her latter paper with Girotti was already corrected in 2016 for image duplication:

“The authors have noted an error in Figure 6A of the originally published version of this article. The image for pERK (top right panel) was incorrectly duplicated from Figure 4E (top right panel). The corrected Figure 6 is shown here. This error does not alter the original conclusions of the study, but the authors wish to apologize for this oversight and any confusion that may have resulted.”

Maybe the conclusions are affected after all, in view of the recent misconduct findings? A paper in Nature from Marais lab, Viros et al 2014, coauthored by Girotti, was corrected in 2015 for an error in the transcribed sequence of a mutated allele.

Marais himself was exonerated from all suspicion according to the press release of his university. Which is just as well, since the director of the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Manchester Institute was recently put forward as President of American Association for cancer Research (AACR), an enormous status achievement which cannot be tainted by any misconduct association. Marais was not elected in any case. The only communication I received from him was this, 3 weeks after I originally wrote to him asking about Girotti’s role:

“As the complainant in this case I have handed the matter to the University of Manchester Research Governance, Ethics and Integrity Team and it would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment”.

Marais never replied since. Incidentally, many of Marais’ common papers with Girotti appeared in AACR journals, most often in Cancer Discovery. Shall we assume these are perfectly reliable then, like this paper:

Maria R. Girotti, Malin Pedersen, Berta Sanchez-Laorden, Amaya Viros, Samra Turajlic, Dan Niculescu-Duvaz, Alfonso Zambon, John Sinclair, Andrew Hayes, Martin Gore, Paul Lorigan, Caroline Springer, James Larkin, Claus Jorgensen, Richard Marais

Inhibiting EGF Receptor or SRC Family Kinase Signaling Overcomes BRAF Inhibitor Resistance in Melanoma

Cancer Discovery (2013) doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.cd-12-0386

But what about Marais’ other papers where Girotti was not a coauthor, in fact even from the times before she joined his lab? There is an interesting PubPeer record, it is a pity University of Manchester decided not to look that way. Two collaborative papers are very problematic (here and here), but also those straight from Marais lab are not always paradigms of exemplary figure assembly practice. Mostly there is a lot of gel splicing, not always acceptable even by the standards of the time. But this paper (discussed on PubPeer), published in an AACR journal by AACR’s presidential candidate, needs particular attention:

Victoria Emuss , Mathew Garnett , Clive Mason , Richard Marais

Mutations of C-RAF are rare in human cancer because C-RAF has a low basal kinase activity compared with B-RAF

Cancer Research (2005) doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.can-05-1683

marais1.png

What we are expected to believe is that we see the same western blot, probed for total C-RAF protein (top, also serves as its own loading control) and for phosphorylated C-RAF (bottom). That is obviously not true, because the bottom image is spliced, meaning it shows a different gel (or maybe even two gels) spliced. Worse, someone chose to remove or “adjust” the signal in the last lane (RAS) of the total C-RAF blot using a rectangular patch in Photoshop. This is blatant data manipulation. But then again, in that paper the authors apparently committed it willy-nilly, for no other reason than to pretend that an experiment was done more than once:

Another non-Girotti paper from Marais lab, Tang et al Nature Communications 2017, was criticised on PubPeer because the published figures did not match the raw data (the Nature family journal require deposition of full-size original gel images, a very useful feature):

“Figure 4j: the pY1068EGFR blot does not correspond with the other blots.

Figure 1c: the LOX blots seem to be retrieved from a different gel when comparing with the corresponding blots, please see the raw data supplied.

Supplementary figure 1c: raw data indicates that different parts of the blots have been used. E.g. lanes 2-4 are used for the py1068EGFR blot, but lanes 4-6 are used for the other corresponding blots.

Supplementary figure 3f: similar issue as suppl figure 1c. Raw data shows that different parts of the blots have been used, and the blots have different number of lanes. Therefore LOX, MATN2 and GAPDH cannot have been run on the same gel.”

Basically, total and phospho-proteins were analysed on different gels and the loading control was run on yet another gel, instead of probing each gel for equal loading as in fact Nature journals expect from their authors. A questionable research practice which not only does not account for technicalities of western blot, but also demands enormous trust in the authors’ personal scientific integrity.

It is rather obvious that this unorthodox approach to western blot analysis did not happen behind Morais back. One can reasonably expect him to read at least those papers from his lab submitted to elite journals like Cancer Cell and Nature Communications. Maybe this relaxed attitude to controls is what makes for such breakthrough discoveries and such a stellar career in cancer research?

Marais arrived to the University of Manchester from ICR London, where he once coauthored a manipulated paper Sharp et al 2007, in AACR journal Cancer Research. Last author was ICR London President Paul Workman, while one co-investigator on the aforementioned melanoma clinical trial in London is Udai Banerji, another ICR professor and close collaborator of Workman. After my reporting nudged ICR to at least correct some of Workman’s papers, Banerji and Workman acted as unofficial internal investigators of their own papers and quickly flushed out the real perpetrators, namely their female colleagues.

Banerji even went so far as boldly to explain on PubPeer how cancer research is done properly:

“parallel gels were run and blotted with the […] antibodies. This is a common, reliable and widely accepted approach when the proteins being analysed are close in molecular weight”

Common and widely accepted at ICR London maybe. Now you know why these scientists are swamped in grant and charity money, while you pathetic loser toil with your ridiculous loading controls.


Correction: in the earlier article version, Marais was named as AACR president-elect. He was only put forward as candidate.

Update 22.06.2019

Because I received no further emails and no requests to keep the communications confidential, I am quoting those first hand sources messages from 18.06.2019, which replace the earlier update.

Romina Girotti wrote to me this:

I am innocent of the findings the University has reported and I am a victim of the procedure started by the Director of the Institute. I would be grateful if you refrain to keep this post online, which is an attack on my reputation, until my further contact as I want to be able to tell my side of the story. I am not able to share with you at this stage the grounds for my appeal but the investigation process has been biased, unfair and based on a factual error. The University says I have to wait for the outcome of this appeal and, either result, I would be happy to talk to you at a later stage. I would like to mention that Professor Gabriel Rabinovich is not involved in any way in this case.”

Gabriel Rabinovich wrote this:

“I was certainly shocked with the news. As you mentioned in your article, this affair took place when Dr. Girotti was performing her postdoctoral training in Manchenster. When she contacted us after her postdoc,  we got excellent recommendations and based on her outstanding CV  she applied to the Scientific Carreer and was promoted directly as  Adjunct Researcher. Unfortunately, I can´t give you an opinion on this affair at this time as I am not aware of the details that led to this situation when Romina was doing her postdoc in the UK. We will of course keep an eye on this.”

There have been no other communications from the persons mentioned in this article (Girotti later retrospectively declared her email confidential though).

Update 12.07.2019.

I informed CRUK leadership about the accusations of bullying and data manipulations in the many comments below. I eventually received this reply from Iain Foulkes, Executive Director Research & Innovation, CRUK:

“Thank you for your email and for making us aware of the anonymous posts on your blog relating to the CRUK Manchester Institute. CRUK expects all people involved in our research to treat each other with dignity and respect, and we consider bullying and harassment of any kind, in any context, unacceptable. We have a clear policy on bullying within the research environment (Dignity at Work in Research) and expect Host Institutions to investigate any allegations that are made to them. Anyone working under a CRUK grant who has a complaint should report it to their employer, who, under the terms of our policy are obliged to investigate.  Given the nature of the allegations raised in your email, we intend to pass your email to the University of Manchester.”

Don’t hold your breath though. Marais and his colleagues just received £25m in Government funding to build a new cancer research centre:

“The new research facility, currently known as the Paterson Redevelopment Project (PRP), will be built at The Christie on the site of the old Paterson building, which suffered fire damage in April 2017″

Now we know why University of Manchester deleted ‘that’ press release, because they have a better one now. It also turns out, Marais (who is busy censoring his Wikipedia entry) is very well capable of doing public statements, he is quoted with:

“I am absolutely thrilled. This significant funding announcement is an exciting step towards creating a world class facility and a vibrant environment for researchers, clinicians and external partners to work together.

“I am extremely proud of the work we are doing in Manchester, which is creating a strong legacy in cancer research. The new facility will attract scientists from around the world and make a huge difference in the way cancer is diagnosed and treated.”

Update 1.08.2019.

Now we know why University of Manchester deleted the press release: Girotti’s lawyers succeeded. This message was circulated by CRUK MI chief operating officer, Caroline Wilkinson, highlight mine:

“The University has received a challenge to the research misconduct process from solicitors instructed by the former member of staff who was the subject of that [misconduct] case. Whilst the University disputes the grounds of the challenge advanced by the solicitors, it recognises the impact of the issues to all concerned. The University has therefore taken the decision to quash (i.e. cancel) the findings of the research misconduct reached in the recent process to enable the University to consider afresh the allegations of research misconduct under the University’s Code of Practice for Investigating Concerns about the Conduct of Research. In accordance with the Code of Practice, the process will be conducted under the presumption of innocence. In the meantime, the University has requested that the relevant journals take no action in relation to the published papers until the resolution of the University’s processes.”


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201 comments on “Manchester: “research misconduct concerned only one member of the research group”

  1. “At the end of the affair, two Russian postdocs got the blame, while Bulfone-Paus resigned from her tenured position as director of Research Centre Borstel and retracted 12 papers.”

    13 retractions.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=bulfone-paus%20retracted

    https://retractionwatch.com/2011/12/13/bulfone-paus-retraction-count-grows-to-13-with-one-in-transplantation/

    Like

  2. Homing (metastasizing) to the University of Manchester. Somebody could do a study on the genetics of that.
    https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/paul.townsend.html

    Very impressive.
    “I am a fully tenured Principal Investigator, Associate Dean of Business Engagement, co-Director of Manchester Centre for Cellular Metabolism, I am Professor of Molecular Cell Biology, Division of Cancer Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre, University of Manchester. I act as one of the key university conduits for the CRUK Manchester Institute, Medicines Discovery Catapult and I am the Industry Lead for thr Manchester BRC and Manchester academic lead for Singapore. I am also a PI in the Manchester Cancer Research Centre and hold adjunct professorships in Athens and Singapore.”

    Also very impressive.

    STAT-1 facilitates the ATM activated checkpoint pathway following DNA damage.
    Townsend PA, Cragg MS, Davidson SM, McCormick J, Barry S, Lawrence KM, Knight RA, Hubank M, Chen PL, Latchman DS, Stephanou A.
    J Cell Sci. 2005 Apr 15;118(Pt 8):1629-39. Epub 2005 Mar 22.
    Retraction in: J Cell Sci. 2015 Mar 1;128(5):1064.
    PMID: 15784679

    ERK and the F-box protein betaTRCP target STAT1 for degradation.
    Soond SM, Townsend PA, Barry SP, Knight RA, Latchman DS, Stephanou A.
    J Biol Chem. 2008 Jun 6;283(23):16077-83. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M800384200. Epub 2008 Mar 31.
    Retraction in: J Biol Chem. 2018 Mar 30;293(13):4954.
    PMID: 18378670

    Cardiac release of urocortin precedes the occurrence of irreversible myocardial damage in the rat heart exposed to ischemia/reperfusion injury.
    Knight RA, Chen-Scarabelli C, Yuan Z, McCauley RB, Di Rezze J, Scarabelli GM, Townsend PA, Latchman D, Saravolatz L, Faggian G, Mazzucco A, Chowdrey HS, Stephanou A, Scarabelli TM.
    FEBS Lett. 2008 Mar 19;582(6):984-90. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2008.02.035. Epub 2008 Feb 22.
    Retraction in: FEBS Lett. 2018 Feb;592(4):657.
    PMID: 18295601

    The carboxyl-terminal activation domain of the STAT-1 transcription factor enhances ischemia/reperfusion-induced apoptosis in cardiac myocytes.
    Stephanou A, Scarabelli TM, Townsend PA, Bell R, Yellon D, Knight RA, Latchman DS.
    FASEB J. 2002 Nov;16(13):1841-3. Epub 2002 Sep 5.
    Retraction in: FASEB J. 2018 Apr;32(4):2315.
    PMID: 12223448

    Like

    • It is good to see (at least) that even after 10 years of publication, the issue was taken serious.

      Like

  3. REX RICTOR

    QUOTING https://d1ijoxngr27nfi.cloudfront.net/enterprise/23255.pdf :

    “The LOX drug discovery programme is led by Professor Caroline Springer (Institute of Cancer Research, ICR) and Professor Richard Marais (Paterson Institute). The ICR, together with its partner institution, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, forms the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The ICR and the Marsden together conduct research across the whole spectrum of cancer studies from basic biology to clinical trials. Professor Springer is part of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at the ICR, a renowned drug discovery unit that has developed many novel anticancer drugs. Professor Marais is director of the Paterson Institute in Manchester.”

    Was this 10-20 million pounds?
    In 2007 Marais recruited Dr. Erler to The ICR as a LOX expert.
    It seems there was some issues with the LOX research he based his drug discovery work on, see: https://retractionwatch.com/2018/03/22/figures-in-cancer-paper-at-root-of-newly-failed-compound-called-into-question/ and https://forbetterscience.com/2018/08/13/janine-erler-dossiers-which-erc-doesnt-want/
    There seems to be more problems at Manchester….from Caroline Dive https://pubpeer.com/publications/B48D7E0BE55D41581E33E20CC84BEC

    AACR board has been informed about this post.

    Like

    • Alison Backen

      Hello Milly, I am really surprised to hear this. What results of mine have you not been able to replicate? I take it you are based in Caroline Dive’s lab? I would be delighted to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am now based next door at The Christie, I am easy to find.

      This blog is an interesting read, but it is worth nothing that the vast majority of scientists work exhaustingly long hours to make sure data is produced and interpreted correctly. In a cancer research institute, the most important thing at the end of the day is improving outcomes for patients.

      I urge every single scientist to spend some time in a clinic seeing first-hand what our Christie patients face and how we can help them. It is a great privilege to be able to do this, but hugely inspiring.

      Like

    • Remember a “failed” post-doc is almost always an honest one…

      Like

  4. You might want to examine articles with Michela Garofalo (CRUK Manchester) as an author (Pubpeer, retractions/corrections in PubMed, etc.).

    Like

    • https://www.cruk.manchester.ac.uk/Our-Research/Transcriptional-Networks-in-Lung-Cancer

      “Michela completed her undergraduate degree in Biology at the University Federico II of Naples in Italy. She obtained her PhD in 2008 from the same University, in Professor G. Condorelli’s laboratory, elucidating the molecular mechanisms involved in the resistance to apoptotic cell death induction in different types of tumours. From 2008 to 2011, she trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Professor Carlo Croce’s laboratory at the Ohio State University, advancing the understanding of the role of non-coding RNAs in cancer progression and development. ”

      The offical bio and the publications here seem to match (Naples with G Condorelli, and Ohio with Carlo Croce) the publications in this list:
      https://pubpeer.com/search?q=michela+garofalo

      First one on the list received a 2019 “Expression of Concern” from PLoS One..
      https://pubpeer.com/publications/0DD8F65D7A38CF77B5F3EF3D47AC73
      https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213701

      This is much less than Paul “4 retractions” Townsend, or Silvia “13 retractions” Bulfone-Paus.

      Like

      • Correction. Also one retraction for M Garofalo (with G Condorelli, Naples, and CM Croce, Ohio).

        Cell Death Differ. 2010 Dec;17(12):1908-16. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2010.65. Epub 2010 May 28. c-FLIPL enhances anti-apoptotic Akt functions by modulation of Gsk3β activity.
        Quintavalle C1, Incoronato M, Puca L, Acunzo M, Zanca C, Romano G, Garofalo M, Iaboni M, Croce CM, Condorelli G.

        PMID: 20508645 DOI: 10.1038/cdd.2010.65

        https://pubpeer.com/publications/3509E071846676BD6154FE04D29234

        2017 retraction notice.
        https://www.nature.com/articles/cdd20177

        “The Editors have agreed to retract the above article in Cell Death and Differentiation (2010) 17, 1908–1916, due to the use of a mismatched image in control lanes of Figure 2c However, the authors wish to note that the results reported in Figure 2c have been reported and confirmed in Figure 2f of the same manuscript. The authors are convinced of the reproducibility of the data presented, which will be resubmitted for publication using the correct panel for Figure 2c. The authors apologize to the scientific community for any inconveniences caused.”

        http://retractionwatch.com/2017/01/24/journal-retracts-paper-due-image-mismatch-one-co-author-alleges-fraud/

        “The second to last author — Carlo Croce, chair of the department of cancer biology and genetics at The Ohio State University — told us he believes there’s more to the retraction than what the notice says. Specifically, he said that the paper includes an image from a previous paper by the same authors, which he called “fraud.””

        Like

    • Deeply concerned

      OK. So you find some anomalies for a few scientists now at Manchester. Do you have any idea of the tens of thousands of studies the have been published by the rest and the high international esteem of its staff. Get some perspective why don’t you.

      Like

  5. Ben Dover

    And does anything change? Do they ever hand back their gongs, their accolades, their prizes, their fellowships or appointments? Or do they just keep claiming their six-figure salaries while enjoying all the plaudits, power and esteem.

    Perhaps it doesn’t matter the odd retracted paper among so many others. But do their big achievements really offset the damage they do to public trust in science? Does it matter that they suck up all the funding and create unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved in a few years, through fabricating, hyping and spinning findings? So much work unfunded while millions go to a few people who seem incapable of following what’s going on closely anymore in their labs. What inspires them finally: money, esteem, power or the pursuit of truth and the desire to lift mankind?

    Does it matter the millions of charity donations, taxpayers contributions and shareholders profit wasted on snake oil? The false hope and hazard for patients entering trials based on quackery?

    Is this the portrait of a successful scientist for CRUK and University of Manchester? A role model for future scientists?

    Like

  6. It appears that analyses on different gels and the loading control was run on yet another gel, instead of probing each gel for equal loading seems to be a common practice…
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/0FC6F73BD768E84781B33A523DACE4

    Like

    • oh well, loading control library is not a problem for Diabetes and Cell Death and Disease, and a handful of other journals. See the earlier post by Leonid.

      Like

      • Actually I don’t know of a single case where a paper was corrected because loading controls were from a different gel (duplicated loading controls are different issue)

        Like

    • It appears that blot mis-match is not restricted to loading controls but also for phospho-protein and total protein for several blots in several figures in this paper.

      Like

  7. this article would be better if written with less arrogance and sensationalism

    Like

    • Ben Dover

      So you’re an apologist for malpractice and fraud

      Like

    • Anything to please my paymasters, dear London friend. Working at ICR, perchance?
      How much public money went into those Cancer Cell papers now found fraudulent?
      Anyway, here you have an example of scicomm without arrogance or sensationalism:
      http://www.cruk.manchester.ac.uk/news?newsId=94

      Like

      • Rex Rictor

        Marais receives 100.000s-millions of Pounds annually from Private Donors, CRUK and Government programmes. Wellcome Trust has invested heavily in his drug development projects. As part of that there are fundraising events where one can only assume people are being misled and lied to, same with patients. Perhaps some of this should be referred to a public prosecutor ?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Marais is a bully and mistreats his team members on a regular basis. He creates a environment of fear and high pressure to produce data. Recently, he has introduced gagging orders for his team members to protect himself legally. Is this what CRUK stands for?

        Like

    • Reply to BC
      June 20, 2019

      To paraphrase somebody you may have heard of in the U.K. :
      being “tough on sensationalism” is not enough, you need to be “tough on the causes of sensationalism”.

      Leonid has used material which is readily observable, and produced by CRUK.

      Are the CRUK, or the University of Manchester, going to criticise journalists for not towing the party line?

      If so it would not be new. It happened in Liverpool.

      The BBSRC, a branch the the U.K. civil service, i.e. government, criticises a press report by the Times Higher Education:

      http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/policy/2011/111110-n-janet-allen-resignation.aspx

      “Statement on media coverage of Janet Allen’s resignation from BBSRC
      10 November 2011

      BBSRC would like to make clear that it informed the Times Higher Education prior to its story of 10 November 2011, that the circumstances of Janet Allen’s resignation as Director of Research are categorically in no way related to allegations being made against Alirio Melendez. Janet has left BBSRC for personal reasons. It is invidious to suggest that this should bring into question her integrity.

      During Janet Allen’s time as Director of Research for BBSRC her achievements were many and covered every aspect of the Council’s Strategic Plan – Basic Bioscience Underpinning Health, Bioenergy and Industrial Biotechnology, Exploiting New Ways of Working and Global Food Security.”

      The Times Higher Education report

      http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=418084&c=1

      Just because the BBSRC “informed the Times Higher Education prior to its story of the 10 November 2001”

      :-

      does not mean that the Times Higher Education has to believe the BBSRC.

      and

      The questions surrounding the 12 papers co-authored by AJ Melendez and JM Allen still need to be answered.

      If the BBSRC reads it own press release is simply says “Statement “, there is nothing about veracity, just authority.

      FYI, AJ Melendez ended up as a professor at the University of Liverpool, 35 miles west of Manchester.
      It does happen in a neighbourhood near you.

      https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-university-academic-professor-alirio-3362448

      https://retractionwatch.com/2013/12/03/melendez-notches-retraction-14-lemus-now-stands-at-12/

      Like

      • Indeed Melendez was recruited here in Liverpool. I did post something at the time his fraud came to light
        https://ferniglab.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/research-integrity-ii/

        What is interesting is that his papers were read by a now retired senior colleague of mine who was eagle eyed for this sort of thing, and he was quite shocked when the initial fraud was reported in the now defunct (and lamented!) ‘Science Fraud” site, because he missed seeing it. So even if you do perform due diligence, you may not notice fraud. Hence these issues coming to light after some years, when a better pair of eyes is on the case.

        There are lessons from the Melendez saga, which include:
        1. There are well documented papers he was to associated with at NUS where nothing has happened, so his claims to be a scapegoat have some merit, at least in the sense it wasn’t only him.

        The secrecy surrounding investigations and their outcome is irksome and causes problems. This may relate to the possibility of legal challenge and the worry institutions have regarding the effect this may have on their reputation or finances and this is something that need remedying.
        It is too common for the junior and/or person born overseas to carry all the blame. While in an isolated instance raid is likely to be the work of a single person, in the more pervasive cases, such as those catalogued above, it cannot be the work of one person. Leonid has documented a number of such instances and it might be interesting to analyse the data in this light.

        Like

  8. Eileen Dover

    Twenty publications in five years! If it looks to good to be true, it probably is to good to be true. Wonder what kind of lab culture it takes to lead to serial data manipulators?

    Like

    • 20 papers in 5 years may not be unrealistic, if you are an active PI with many parallel projects and collaborations: in many of them you are a contributing author. If all these 20 papers are high IF research articles and you are the senior author in all of them: now that seems unrealistic.

      Like

  9. Benjamin

    I think Donnas description above is 100% correct. I have heard this from several people from his lab and know he also treat some PIs like this. In addition he has threatened other people including students with the police.

    Like

  10. Reply to ferniglab
    June 20, 2019

    “It is too common for the junior and/or person born overseas to carry all the blame”

    https://forbetterscience.com/2019/05/14/edinburgh-saves-bird-men-from-clutches-of-bulgarian-jezebel/

    If it’s not and old boys’ club what is it?

    Like

  11. Eileen Dover

    Well done Donna and Benjamin for speaking out. It’s frightening talking truth to power. No point complaining to HR; they’re all scared witless too. And thanks Leonid for providing this forum. Science needs a #MeToo moment to get its house in order. I only hope that the mainstream media pick up on this so we can start a wider debate.

    BULLYING, HECTORING, BELITTLING, PATRONISING, CONTROLLING ARE WRONG.

    But how did we get here? Scientists like Marais are feted like rock stars. There’s also a growing winner take all mentality with a few individuals receiving multiple multi-million pound awards. All of which has been mandated by Paul Nurse and encouraged by funders like CRUK as it gives good press and supposedly empowers the most talented individuals. But they’ve created a powder keg in which investigators are retained on rolling tenure, having to attain ridiculous levels of funding and publications to keep their jobs.

    But at what cost? We see it here and elsewhere:
    https://retractionwatch.com/2015/06/12/nature-retraction-resignation-result-after-lung-cancer-cell-lines-cannot-be-those-specified/
    https://retractionwatch.com/2012/09/05/glasgows-beatson-institute-investigating-circumstances-of-cell-retraction-for-inappropriate-images/
    https://retractionwatch.com/2019/04/11/authors-have-papers-in-nature-and-science-retracted-on-the-same-day/

    Time for CRUK to embrace DORA https://sfdora.org and not just pay it lip service. Time too for it to condemn bullying and stamp it out. Let’s see if https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/funding-for-researchers/research-features/2018-10-18-dignity-at-work-in-research applies to Institute directors. Science is a serious business for grown ups and gentlefolk.

    Like

    • Funny pseudonyms you have, Dover!
      But shame on you for referencing Retraction Watch for Abderrahmane Kaidi story which was originally plagiarised (by BBC!) from my site.
      https://forbetterscience.com/2018/09/17/abder-kaidi-fraud-and-bullying-scandal-unravelling/

      Like

      • Sometimes, when I read your posts, I think: really you guys do all of these things to keep scientific literature pure and correct? I mean: really the advancement of “true” science is your ultimate goal?! I don’t want to judge you guys, but sometimes it looks like you enjoy to see someone else is humiliated, regardless of if he or she is guilty of research misconduct or not…

        Even in criminal courts, when the jurists are 100% sure that someone is guilty of a crime, they give the accused a chance to defend himself/herself and his/her talks to be heard, but here, correct or not, you guys judge other people and ruin their life. I mean: OK, some fucking blots are duplicated maybe, but who cares?! society at the general level?! I’m pretty sure society doesn’t give a shit to your thoughts… I talked to several researchers about the general concept of this blog and they were like: WTF?!

        Like

      • It might interest you that I stood trial in court in Macchiarini affair, several times. I was NEVER allowed to defend myself before I was sentenced as a criminal.
        These are active doctors. Courts wanted to make sure patients never hear of what these doctors did.

        Like

  12. Quiet frankly, nobody might care about a western blot or two. But if whole clinical trials and further approaches to cancer treatments are obscured by these western blots and manipulated mouse data, then yes, it does matter!!! You are saying that the comments on this blog are humiliating the accused. Do you know how many PhD students and PostDocs and have been humiliated and intimidated to tears in front of their lab mates during meetings by Marais? Both Marais and Girotti were asked by Leonid by email to share their view, but they did not take the opportunity. Unfortunately, in academia people like him are not forced out easily. Even in cases of formal complaints, the perpetrators don’t really face any consequences. That’s it’s important that these cases of miscount and violations of basic employment laws are made public!!

    Like

    • I know what you mean Donna, but right or wrong these people have reputation, connection, money, support, etc. that make them invincible. For you Leonid: Do you think it is a sane thing to do to engage with these powerful jerks like Macchiarini and be sentenced to criminal for basically something that nobody will care? Particularly, for Macchiarini case, if he killed some patients, why you should stand in the court and not the family of deceased patients to accuse Macchiarini?

      Like

      • I was sentenced in court because everyone else wrote and said only good things about Philipp Jungebluth, and Heike & Thorsten Walles. Check German media. This is how their patients find them.

        Like

      • Lucy Lastic

        I totally agree Mike. Marais has been exonerated. Besides, with so many great achievements under his belt, he should be allowed the odd mistake. It’s the price for greatness. And besides, some people you just have to degrade to bring the best out of them. These guys are all losers thinking they might change the system.

        Like

  13. Benjamin

    @Mike look at the data presented then judge yourself. If you don’t see fraud you are not a scientist.

    Like

    • I’m not saying I don’t see any fraud but I’m saying, OK, who cares?! Even other scientists don’t care…

      Like

      • Lucy Lastic

        Hey Mikey. You’re awful quiet. I miss your pearls of wisdom. Are you too busy making up western imaging blots to come out to play.

        For a guy who supposedly doesn’t care about this stuff, wonder what brought you to this site? Guilty conscience? Maybe the guys at PubPeer can give you a clean bill of health?

        Fraud matters and most of us, scientists or not care. Science has to be ethical otherwise we end up with ‘MMR causes autism’ and ‘CRISPR’d babies’.

        Grow a pair Mikey.

        Like

      • “I’m not saying I don’t see any fraud but I’m saying, OK, who cares?! Even other scientists don’t care…”

        That is exacly the problem of today’s research. Too many people like Mike simply don’t care. Why then do you read Leonid’s blog?

        Too many “researchers” are not scientist but loosers searching for prestige and acceptance in the society. Walking proud around in the lab with a lab coat and pretend to do something meaningful. So damn pathetic.

        Like

      • I read this blog because personally I care about these stuffs but when I talk about these topics to my colleagues, they just laugh and say you are just wasting your time by reading these geeky blogs… My main purpose is that: when the mainstream of research society see the people of this blog as some kind of crazy people, how could we be optimistic toward changing the research society behavior and reduce the number of fraudsters?

        Like

  14. Benjamin

    Marais has in 2007 falsely accused two PhD students at ICR of stealing laptops and threatened with police and to send CCTV records. Later it turned out the students had been to the nearby gym. No wonder if his people are bullied.

    Like

    • False accusation can happen at any workplace, and anyway, anybody can make mistakes. It is not bullying.

      Like

      • Benjamin

        It is when he knew it was a false allegation meant to intimidate.

        Like

  15. The fellows should go to HR if they feel intimidated, and if it is not enough, still can ask for legal help. Today such things are taken serious, although workplace is still not a soul & spa service. Maybe in a few years 🙂 But if they were in the gym, probably they also got the balls to live with such a horrible intimidation.

    Like

    • HR are useless in this regard. Their only apparent function is to ensure the smooth running of the staus quo for this in Senior Management. Complaints magically disappear and there is a continual of denial of facts and evidence.

      Like

  16. Everyone is too terrified to speak out loud here. Marais has bullied and harassed every single person who has crossed the doors of his lab and his Institute where people are secretly whispering that he sacrificed a person to save himself – ie he needed a scapegoat and much handier if the scapegoat had left his lab some years back. Dig out the complaints against him at the ICR and get your information together Leonid!!. You might not find much in Manchester, the gagging and fear policy applies to all who work there. Going to HR and/or legal aid = end of your job.
    Maybe CRUK should be reminded of their own policy: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/funding-for-researchers/applying-for-funding/policies-that-affect-your-grant/policy-on-dignity-at-work-in-research
    At CRUK, we expect all people involved in our research to treat each other with dignity and respect, and we consider bullying and harassment of any kind, in any context, unacceptable. @Donna – breaking into tears was the minimum toll.

    Like

  17. I have known Caroline Springer for over two decades now. She is the most sinister and awful person I’ve ever met. She mistreats her team in an even more disgusting way than Marais does. Maybe, as Leonid said, something went wrong in the trial and they are trying to save their asses?? Her ex hubby, Richard Marais (married for over a decade with Caroline), would do anything for her. He even asked the former Drug Discovery Head at CRUK MI to quit so he could make space for his dearest Caroline to lead the Drug Discovery Unit in Manchester!!. It’s sickening but we, of course, understand that he has to pay her back the 52 papers they coauthored as senior authors together.
    But hey! kudos to Richard for making Caroline leave the ICR after a lifetime there.
    Someone should take action now to stop these people before is too late.

    Like

    • Imperial

      She has forced her postdocs to delete entire datasets. Her LOX inhibitors program is a total farce. She would sacrificed her mother before admitting an error in her shitty compounds. Please investigate what happened with the former Marais/Springer postdoc HaoRan Tang (first author in a Nature Comms paper). Also investigate Caroline Dive and all of Caroline Springer publications, they are full of crap.

      Like

      • Sue Thsayer

        If they can just get it licensed, they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. Thereafter it can fail in trials.

        Nature Communications volume 8, Article number: 14909 (2017) Competing interests:
        H.T., L.L., D.N.-D., C.S. and R.M. have filed a patent application which includes the therapeutic use of CCT365623. All authors H.T., L.L., G.S., A.V., D.S., G.D.L., E.M., D.N.-D., F.L., L.J., N.D., C.S. and R.M. could benefit financially if CCT365623 is licenced, as part of a reward scheme for employees at ICR and CRUK MI.

        Like

  18. WonderWoman (WW)

    And this guy is a Royal Fellow !!!?!?!?
    https://royalsociety.org/people/richard-marais-13828/
    REALLY???
    Perhaps fighting this monster is only a job for Dames and OBEs? Perhaps they are the only ones who can help to make the voices of those silenced to be heard?
    C’mon Dame Nancy Rothwell!! you should intervene here !! https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/nancy.rothwell.html
    You should also get involved Michelle Mitchell OBE !!!
    https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/how-we-are-run/chief-executive-and-executive-board
    It is starting to feel like a #MeToo movement here…These guys are fully protected by politics, power and money and they can destroy as they please. Probably NOTHING will happen.

    Like

  19. Robert Bleegd

    Supervisor and “supervised” are both guilty. Say no more.

    Like

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