Schneider Shorts from 28 May 2021: research misconduct investigations concluded and in process, real experts opining on Chinese paper mills, some more “bullshit”, environmental pollution in Russia, and Russian men obsessed with eternal life.
Table of discontent
Updated on For Better Science
- Where is Oliver Bischof?
- Scientist Product Placement with Daniele Gilkes
- FEBS Letters and the paper mill
- Lab Leak Theory, and Aliens
- Bullshit (not a joke?)
Updated on For Better Science
Where is Bischof?
Oliver Bischof disappeared! The German-born cancer and ageing researcher is suddenly not listed among the group leaders of the Institut Pasteur in Paris anymore. His lab’s website is still there though. Where did Bischof go, and why?
I hope it has nothing to do with my previous reporting about the PubPeer record by Bischof and his Pasteur mentor Anne Dejean! Bischof has 4 retractions now, 3 with Dejean (Bischof et al MCB 2005, Bischof et al Mol Cell 2006, Ogrunc et al Cell Reports 2016) and one from his postdoc period with Judith Campisi (Bischof et al JBC 2001).
Eventually, I received this email from Christophe d’Enfert, scientific director of the Institut Pasteur:
“An enquiry into the alleged case of scientific misconduct by Dr. Oliver Bischof, a CNRS scientist, and Prof. Anne Dejean was launched in the fall of 2019 and recently concluded. Prof. Anne Dejean’s unit at Institut Pasteur is affiliated with Inserm. This enquiry was thus conducted jointly by the scientific integrity officers of the CNRS, Inserm and the Institut Pasteur. Several of the publications linked to the allegation were retracted prior to completion of the enquiry (PMID: 33626350, PMID: 33338405, PMID: 33277404, PMID: 33106371).
The team in charge of the enquiry presented a written report to the heads of the three organizations concerned. The evidence and conclusions indicate that during the preparation of many of the publications O. Bischof, but not A. Dejean, had engaged in fraudulent practices, in violation of the rules of honesty and scientific integrity. After due consultation with the President of the CNRS, Prof Cole, President of the Institut Pasteur, asked O. Bischof to leave the Institut Pasteur without delay. This is why the group of Oliver Bischof is not listed anymore.“
Mystery resolved, Bischof was found to have “engaged in fraudulent practices” and was asked “to leave the Institut Pasteur without delay“.
Scientist product placement
You all must have heard of “product placement”, for example when someone in a film for no apparent reason at all starts munching fast food, with brand logo prominently displayed.
Well, The Scientist introduces the new concept: Tainted Scientist Placement. In an article published on 13 May 2021, the magazine covered some cancer research paper in Frontiers by two Minnesota scientists, where cells deficient in DNA repair genes were analysed. Now, the strange thing was that out of nowhere, this bit came in the journalistic coverage:
“I really think the cooption of a host cell, leading to these strange structures that they found, was exciting and not something that I’ve seen under the microscope, probably because we haven’t looked at these DNA-damaging mutations,” says Daniele Gilkes, a cancer biologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Gilkes notes that all the cells in this study were cancerous, making it impossible to glean the interaction between different cell types. “I’d be interested in knowing if the Ku70-depleted cells could affect adjacent normal cells, because I would kind of see that more as coopting your host.”
Daniele Gilkes works on hypoxia, not DNA repair, and she is not at University of Minnesota but at Johns Hopkins University. Moreover, Gilkes is of course not a co-author of that paper, and neither the editor or the reviewer (Frontiers names those).
But Gilkes has a dozen of papers on PubPeer, she is the mentee and lab successor of none other but the Nobel Prize winner Gregg Semenza. I wrote about their problematic joint papers in this article. The Johns Hopkins University is presently investigating the affair. In such a constellation, like with Institut Pasteur above, the senior scientist is generally absolved in full, and the more junior one… Well.
Maybe Gilkes urgently needed some media presence, hence Scientist Product Placement? I expect she will now be invited to comment on all other papers in that magazine, be it COVID-19, plant science or particle physics.
According to the highest authority in science, namely the journal Science, the Australian oncology professor Jennifer Byrne and the FEBS Letters image integrity expert Jana Christopher are members of the investigative team which includes Elisabeth Bik, who previously uncovered a Chinese paper mill with over 600 fabricated papers. Meaning, Byrne and Christopher must be really Smut Clyde and Tiger BB8, Science has spoken. That mill was first revealed on my site in January 2020, but this is actually a lie because I reverse-plagiarised it, as Science‘s Editor-in-Chief Holden Thorp educated me.
Jealous. Neither Christopher nor her FEBS Letters colleagues replied to my emails. They have no high views of my person or my reporting, ever since the Mario Saad affair.
We take it seriously
Anges Noel is cancer research professor at University of Liege in Belgium. She also used to collaborate with a certain Spanish star scientist: Carlos Lopez-Otin. Four out of her 6 papers on PubPeer have Lopez-Otin as co-author, that disgraced data fudger who was served 9 retractions and who killed 5000 mice who knew too much. But this paper from Noel lab is without Lopez-Otin:
Nor Eddine Sounni, Christian Roghi, Vincent Chabottaux, Mathias Janssen, Carine Munaut, Erik Maquoi, Beatriz G. Galvez, Christine Gilles, Francis Frankenne, Gillian Murphy, Jean-Michel Foidart, Agnès Noel Up-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor-A by active membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase through activation of Src-tyrosine kinases Journal of Biological Chemistry (2004) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m307688200
Look at those cloned bands and those cloned fragments of background, deployed to remove undesired gel bands!
The first author and principal investigator at the University of Liege, Nor Eddine Sounni, previously declared on PubPeer that all this Photoshop mess is “a minor error while processing the images of the gels” which “does not affect in any case the significant finding of this work“. Imagine Sounni committing a major error then!
Btw, Sounni and Noel are assigned to the same teaching team as Sabine Wislet. The latter’s academic achievements include 4 retractions and 13 papers on PubPeer. Here a paper from Wislet’s lab in Liege (Neirinckx et al PLOS One 2013) which has not yet been acted upon:
What might these scholars teach to students, one shudders to think. So I wrote to Noel and the University of Liege leadership about the 15-year-old JBC paper above. Noel replied:
“We take it seriously on our side and will address this with the local ethical committee.”
The Board of Ethics and Scientific Integrity of University of Liege promised to inform me about the Noel and Wislet investigations. My suggestion: Wislet and her team can investigate Noel and Sounni, and these in turn investigate Wislet. You know, so the findings remain unaffected.
Like with the aforementioned Lopez-Otin, yet another stellar academic career crushed by those heartless JBC mass-retractions.
The Lantern, a student newspaper at the Ohio State University, reports that Ohio State’s Board of Trustees revoked the emeritus professor status of two professors: cancer researcher Samson T Jacob, for research fraud, and astronomer Bradley Peterson, for sexual harassment of students and faculty members. Regarding Jacob, who has over 30 papers flagged on PubPeer, The Lantern writes:
“Ohio State’s College of Medicine Investigation Committee in February found Jacob, a former professor emeritus in the Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics effective September 2016, committed research misconduct related to 14 allegations, according to the agenda.
In 2018, Jacob retracted nine research papers that he published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, according to the Retraction Watch. All of the retraction notices state the journal had questioned some figures in the data.
“The committee found that Dr. Jacob deviated from the accepted practices of image handling, figure review and/or manuscript correction and intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly reporting falsified research data,” Kristina Johnson stated in a letter to the Board of Trustees.
A notice by the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 2018 stated a paper Jacob authored contained concerning figures. He and the other authors offered to present a repeated experiment that would confirm their results, but the journal declined the offer and retracted the paper.
“After reviewing the findings of the investigation, the dean of the College of Medicine and the executive vice president and provost recommended that the university revoke Dr. Jacob’s emeritus status,” Kristina Johnson stated. “I agree and am seeking the board’s approval to immediately revoke emeritus status from Dr. Jacob.”
First one out
Astronomer and sexual harasser Geoff Marcy is the first member ever to be kicked out of the US National Academy of Sciences for misconduct. BuzzFeed reports:
“In 2015, BuzzFeed News reported that an investigation at the University of California, Berkeley, had found Marcy had sexually harassed students in several cases between 2001 and 2010. Marcy had also been accused of sexual harassment by students at his former employer, San Francisco State University. Several of those students cited Marcy’s harassment as part of the reason why they left science altogether.
“The NAS Council rescinded Geoffrey Marcy’s membership in the National Academy of Sciences for violating Section 4 of the NAS Code of Conduct. This action, which was effective on May 24, was taken following completion of the Conduct Review Process,” said NAS spokesperson Dana Korsen. “This is the first rescission of a member by the National Academy of Sciences.“
The article extensively quotes the anthropology professor Kate Clancy, who currently wages a war on MeToo journalist Michael Balter, currently sued for $10 million by the academic ex-wife of one sexual harasser. I am not sure how many bullies and harassers in academia Clancy exposed (if any), but Balter exposed many, which seems to be exactly the problem.
Lab Leak Theory and Aliens
What coincidence, in November 2019 three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) fell sick with COVID-19 symptoms, as if the lab leak theory of SARS-CoV2 origin was indeed something worth investigating. From Wall Street Journal:
“Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report […]
Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist on that team told NBC News in March that some WIV staff did fall sick in the autumn of 2019, but she attributed that to regular, seasonal sickness.
“There were occasional illnesses because that’s normal. There was nothing that stood out,” she said. “Maybe one or two. It’s certainly not a big, big thing.”“
The Chinese authorities say it all lies. Also lies must be the neglected appendix in the WHO report, according to which China was screening animals for SARS-CoV2 already before the first ever human case was officially registered on 8 December 2019. CNN reports:
“On page 98, the annex says that on December 7, 2019, samples were collected from 69 kinds of animals including macaques, forest musk deer, porcupines and bamboo rats. The samples were tested in February 2020 for the virus that would later be labeled SARS-CoV-2 and found negative, according to a statement from China’s National Health Commission (NHC) in response to queries from CNN.”
But stop! Don’t listen to all those scientists demanding an investigation into the lab leak theory of COVID-19 origins, even if those ignorant science-denialists include various top virologists, Biden’s CDC director Rochelle Walensky, and even Anthony Fauci himself. Especially since China now started to call Fauci liar as well. Listen to the real expert here, the astrophysicist and science populariser Ethan Siegel, who educates you in Forbes:
“No, Science Clearly Shows That COVID-19 Wasn’t Leaked From A Wuhan Lab”
Siegel’s expert conclusion:
“Conspiracy theories like the lab leak hypothesis might sound compelling and inviting to us. After all, how much more comforting would it be to know that just a handful of evil people — not the politicians who sacrificed their constituents, but rather some imaginary “mad scientists” laughing maniacally in their lair — were ultimately responsible for the tragedies of the past 18 months? Fortunately, as scientists, we are not guided by comfort, but rather by the pursuit of truth and accuracy, based on the best knowledge we can obtain. Despite what many prominent voices would have you believe, the virology is open-and-shut: there is no compelling reason to believe that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a lab.”
Just the day before Siegel taught you that the “conspiracy theory” of lab leak is wrong because science, he blogged (also on Forbes) that UFOs and aliens can be real because science.
But why not combining both, I demand? Here is the British professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, with his peer-reviewed study from already a year ago:
“Origin of new emergent Coronavirus and Candida fungal diseases—Terrestrial or cosmic?
See, science has spoken, the coronavirus came from outer space. I bet the WIV paymaster, coronavirus gain-of-function enthusiast, personal friend of WIV’s “Bat-Woman” Shi Zhengli and WHO/Lancet chief investigator of COVID-19 origins, Peter Daszak, would rather discuss coronavirus origins from alien space bats before he allows any discussion on the WIV lab leak.
Everyone knows psychology is the Queen of all sciences. It is more reliable and more useful than any other science, psychologists are known to be the most omniscient of scientists and have by far the biggest brains and highest IQ scores. And if psychology is Queen, then Evolutionary Psychology is King, the supreme masculine ruler of all knowledge in this universe. Behold, the wisdom.
Martin Harry Turpin, Mane Kara-Yakoubian, Alexander C. Walker, Heather E. K. Walker, Jonathan A. Fugelsang, Jennifer A. Stolz Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence Evolutionary Psychology (2021) doi: 10.1177/14747049211000317
“Navigating social systems efficiently is critical to our species. Humans appear endowed with a cognitive system that has formed to meet the unique challenges that emerge for highly social species. Bullshitting, communication characterised by an intent to be convincing or impressive without concern for truth, is ubiquitous within human societies. Across two studies (N = 1,017), we assess participants’ ability to produce satisfying and seemingly accurate bullshit as an honest signal of their intelligence. We find that bullshit ability is associated with an individual’s intelligence and individuals capable of producing more satisfying bullshit are judged by second-hand observers to be more intelligent. We interpret these results as adding evidence for intelligence being geared towards the navigation of social systems. The ability to produce satisfying bullshit may serve to assist individuals in negotiating their social world, both as an energetically efficient strategy for impressing others and as an honest signal of intelligence.”
Did your jaw drop?
I even wrote to the two corresponding authors, the PhD students Martin Turpin and Mane Kara-Yakoubian, and their professor Jennifer Stolz at the University of Waterloo in Canada, wondering if this paper is a joke and if they are actually making fun of IQ research and evolutionary psychology. No reply. So I guess it was not a joke? Not a sting to debunk the toxic masculinity of the field then?
Welp. Do they really think that the bullshit they publish in their bullshit field’s bullshit journals in order to advance their bullshit careers, is actually an “honest signal of intelligence“? So you are evolutionarily well advised to mate with the bullshitters, because their bullshit stands for quality IQ genes, which, as we know, encode financial wealth? Please let it be a joke…
- Autism and IQ genes have been found by Olivier Lichtarge and colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, USA, using a “EA equation” which scores “the effect of the mutation on the fitness of the protein” and links the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to “398 genes from 23 pathways.” The authors are quoted: “For the new genes we found linked to ASD, the mutations with higher EA scores were related to a 7 point lower IQ in the patients, which suggests that they have a genuine biological effect.” (Koire et al Science Trans Med 2021, quotes from Neuroscience News).
- A bunch of Soviet emigrees, all male, all affiliated with the anti-aging company Gero in Singapore (developing a kind of senolytics, and run entirely by people with Russian names), published a
company advertisementresearch paper Pyrkov et al Nature Communications 2021 which made big news: Humans can live till 150, and Gero is “Hacking Aging” to sell you the method! Andrei Gudkov is on board, but strangely not his Roswell Park institute’s colleague and close associate in journal editing, Misha Blagosklonny. Scientific American reported how the Gero biznesmeny studied the ““pace of aging” in three large cohorts in the U.S., the U.K. and Russia“, the paper declared they used UK Biobank data. I have no idea what it is with Russian men and life extension, anti-aging and immortality, this unhealthy fetish is the main reason Paolo Macchiarini was so popular in Russia.
- Science magazine is excited: “Lab-grown minihearts beat like the real thing“! I don’t know, beating cell clumps spontaneously differentiating from embryonic stem cells were a huge thing already 20 years ago, TV crews and all, including in the same lab I did my MSc thesis in, and yet not much came out of it. But now Sasha Mendjan from IMBA in Vienna, Austria, published in Cell a discovery of mini-hearts made from pluripotent stem cells: “Chamber-like cardioids form a cavity and recapitulate heart lineage architecture” (Hofbauer et al Cell 2021). Which is nice, Mendjan’s IMBA colleague Jürgen Knoblich grows mini-brains. Science writers also point to a preprint Lewis-Israeli et al 2021 from the lab of Aitor Aguirre at Michigan State University in USA, about “Self-assembling human heart organoids” (the Research Square preprint must be better than competitor preprints because it’s advertised as “under consideration at a Nature Portfolio Journal“). I can’t shake off the feeling this all is just a fancier version of the pulsing cell clumps from the early noughties.
- New Israeli scientists joke? Beta-sitosterol, a natural substance found in particular in avocados, can treat anxiety, at least in mice. The lab of Mike Fainzilber at the Weizmann Institute discovered that mice stuck for one and a half hour in a 50ml falcon tube were calmer when treated with the supplement (Panayotis et al Cell Reports Medicine 2021). Fainzilber and the first author Nicolas Panayotis “have a patent application related to this work, PCT patent application number PCT/IL2018/050495, Publication number WO/2018/207178, on “Methods of treating psychiatric stress disorders.”“. Beta-sitosterol (which a precursor of a certain anabolic hormone) worked in the Weizmann lab best when combined with fluoxetine. Does it mean it can also cure COVID-19 then?
News in brief
- If you still are into papermills and just hate the idea that nearly all these investigations are published on For Better Science and not somewhere respectable: Here RSC’ Chemistry World celebrating world’s top authority on Chinese paper mills, Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch. I have no idea why, maybe they think Oransky is Smut Clyde?
- Forbes has a list of 40 gentlemen who became billionaires thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., bosses of BionTech and Moderna, but especially Chinese PPE manufacturers) (Forbes, via Coda Story).
- Not yet billionaires, but quite rich are the saintly Coronil scammers of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, Swami Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna. Their quack cure is now being distributed gratis to COVID-19 by the BJP-ruled Indian state Haryana, despite doctors’ protests (Reuters)
- In Russia, COVID-19 restrictions have apparently only one function: to crack down on any attempts of dissident activities. Because only 30 people are allowed to gather, police raided an opposition meeting with 25 (sic!) participants and arrested two for violating pandemic restrictions (Radio Liberty).
- Also on Radio Liberty, a large investigation into massive environmental pollution with at least 10 million tons of toxic oil drilling slurry in the Russian Arctic north, which poisoned the river Ob, ground water and the Arctic sea. Nobody is cleaning up anything, if fact they are creating extra pollution while scamming on that. The Russian authorities, bribed by oil industry, have suppressed their own investigative reports, sabotaged own court cases against Rosneft and other oil giants, while all troublemaking officials were sacked and threatened (Radio Liberty in English / Радио Свобода in Russian).
- More on pollution: An Australian study by the Minderoo Foundation identifies 20 companies behind 55% of world’s total single-use plastic waste, and lists top 100 companies responsible for more than 90% of plastic waste. Of that plastic, 98% is made from “virgin” source, i.e., fossil oil. The top 3 producers, accounting for 16% of global single-use plastic waste, are Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical and the Chinese Sinopec (Minderoo report, coverage by Minnesota Public Radio).
- Also on pollution, this time in USA: under Trump’s rule, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been censoring scientists and forced them to extend approval for the dangerous pesticide dicamba. Scientists were ordered by Trump’s officials to discard their own analyses in favour of manufacturer’s, and to cherry-pick data (EPA report from 24 May 2021, reporting by The Hill). Dicamba is patented by the German pharma giant Bayer and is subject to lawsuits, just like glyphosate.
- Speaking of: a US court litigating glyphosate compensation rejected on 26 May Bayer’s proposal of a $2 Billion settlement with any potential future victims of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As reaction, Bayer announced to start selling its RoundUp to non-commercial users in a new formulation: without glyphosate (WSJ). Read more about glyphosate here.
- Finally, in case you think the currently rather chilly May weather may disprove the anthropogenic global arming: the Arctic is heating up three time faster than the rest of the planet. Which will melt even more of light-reflecting ice and methane-trapping permafrost, which in turn will raise sea levels even higher and heat up the planet even more (Deutschlandfunk, in German). Globally, the climate warming is likely to reach 1.5°C in the next five years, while the industry emissions unfortunately did not slow down because of the COVID-19 pandemic (UN emission report 2020, coverage by NPR).
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