Schneider Shorts

Schneider Shorts 18.06.2021- Papermill Heroes Revealed

Schneider Shorts 18.06.2021: job openings (but not in Marseille!), old Soviet bioweapon lab leaks, eternal life with coffee, pregnant male rats, Chinese paper mill dramas, and how Wiley may have accidentally revealed the identities of Smut Clyde and Tiger BB8!

Schneider Shorts for 18 June 2021: job openings (but not in Marseille!), old Soviet bioweapon lab leaks, eternal life with coffee, pregnant male rats, Chinese paper mill dramas, and how Wiley may have accidentally revealed the identities of Smut Clyde and Tiger BB8!


COVID-19 Origins

China officially registered first cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan in December 2019, although other official reports logged first cases in November 2019. Yet the Wuhan Institute of Virology database was removed offline in September 2019, and there were also mysterious earlier cases of pneumonia in the Chinese megacity, so maybe the pandemic started before November. From Wuhan, the virus spread all over the world.

But now this US study came out:

Keri N Althoff, David J Schlueter, Hoda Anton-Culver, James Cherry , Joshua C Denny , Isaac Thomsen , Elizabeth W Karlson , Fiona P Havers , Mine S Cicek , Stephen N Thibodeau , Ligia A Pinto , Douglas Lowy , Bradley A Malin , Lucila Ohno-Machado , Carolyn Williams , David Goldstein , Aymone Kouame , Andrea Ramirez , Adrienne Roman , Norman E Sharpless , Kelly A Gebo, Sheri D Schully Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in All of Us Research Program Participants, January 2-March 18, 2020 Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (2021) doi: 10.1093/cid/ciab519

It found that SARS-CoV2 was present in USA already around Christmas 2019, given that the “median time from SARS-CoV-2 infection to IgG antibody presence is 14 days“:

All of Us study participants in all 50 US states provided blood specimens during study visits from January 2 to March 18, 2020. […] Of the 24,079 study participants with blood specimens from January 2 to March 18, 2020, 9 were seropositive, 7 of whom were seropositive prior to the first confirmed case in the states of Illinois, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi.”

CNN reports in this regard:

“A study published last November found evidence of antibodies in people’s blood in the US as early as December 13. Other studies have also indicated the virus landed in the US in December.”

This would mean the pandemic started earlier than previously thought. Chinese Communist Party reacted swiftly and drew its own conclusions. A lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a xenophobic conspiracy theory, as we were taught throughout all of 2020, but the frozen red herring hypothesis is definitely on. Reuters reports:

“Beijing has promoted the theory that COVID-19 entered China from overseas via contaminated frozen food, while a number of foreign politicians are also calling for more investigations into the possibility it leaked from a laboratory.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state-owned tabloid the Global Times that attention should shift to the United States, which was slow to test people in the early stages of the outbreak, and is also the home of many biological laboratories.

“All bio-weapons related subjects that the country has should be subject to scrutiny,” he was quoted as saying.

Commenting on the U.S. study on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it was now “obvious” the COVID-19 outbreak had “multiple origins” and that other countries should co-operate with the WHO.”

Can you hear our top scientists rejecting this new version of a lab leak theory? Crickets.

More leaks

But of course, lab leaks never happen, right? I quoted the Sverdlovsk anthrax leak in my article, and of course there were many other cases, in USA, USSR and elsewhere. Now more lab leak stories from the Soviet Union, courtesy of Alla Astakhova, who found this article.

Allegedly, in 1975-1976 the entire population of the USSR, all 15 republics, was vaccinated for bioweapon-grade botulism, both Botulinum A and B, in utter secrecy without anyone knowing, inside the country or abroad. This was revealed in a small edition book by the late Petr Burgasov, former chief clinician of the Soviet Union. Burgasov also worked, already under Stalin on biological weapons (incl Botulitum A/B), and reported directly to Lavrentiy Beria. Burgasov’s explanation for the extremely urgent and utterly secret mass vaccination was to protect the Soviet people in case of a US attack with biological weapons. He always insisted that the bioweapons he developed were for defensive purposes, to make antidotes for when Americans attacks.

Burgasov however denied the possibility of a botulinum leak, but admitted that once bioweapon grade and vaccination-resistant pox did escape, on a Kazakhstan island in the Aral Sea where he and his team were testing bioweapons. Unknown number of people on board of a passing ship died from pox.

The more reasonable explanation for that stealth mass vaccination of the entire Soviet nation would be a massive lab leak from one of the Soviet bioweapon plants. Just like Sverdlovsk anthrax leak 4 year later, or the 1977 “Russian flu“. But then again, Burgasov explain that the Sverdlovsk incident was not a lab leak of bioweapon-grade anthrax, no, trust his expertise: it was actually a US “diversion”, a heinous attack y the CIA!

Pity Burgasov is not alive today to explain COVID-19.

Soviet bioweapon test area Aralsk-7 on the Rebirth Island in the Aral Sea in 1950ies.

Dirty Old Man investigated

The chloroquine guru of IHU Marseille, Didier Raoult, is now being investigated for research misconduct and financial fraud. But rest assured, if they do find anything, Didou will suffer no consequences, because this is France.

Figaro reports:

“Aix-Marseille University launched in June 2020 an investigation “to study the integrity of the scientific work published by Professor Didier Raoult and his teams on the treatmentOf the Covid, announced the institution Tuesday, June 15 to AFP.

This investigation has two parts, one -closed- covering 2020 and a second covering 2021, said the institution. He is one of the directors of the Marseille Infection University Hospital Institute headed by Prof. Raoult, author of several scientific articles on the treatment of Covid with the very controversial hydroxychloroquine. “This survey, conducted by independent scientific experts, requires time, seriousness and rigor.” And “the commission of inquiry continues to work by extending its field of investigation over the current year», affirmed the university, without wishing to give the conclusions of the first part. […]

The creation of this evaluation commission follows a request from Didier Raoult who in this capacity requested the presidency of the University in order to verify the integrity of his work“, the IHU told AFP. The first section relating to the 2020 publications has indeed been launched at the initiative of the institution, and the second has been extended to 2021 “in total transparency” with Didier Raoult, explained to AFP the president of the University Eric Berton.”

Translated: Aix Marseille University is busy whitewashing Raoult, first part already successfully completed. They also forwarded all complaints on his right hand man’s, Eric Chabriere‘s, threats and harassment straight to IHU lawyer.

IHU, specifically Raoult’s office, have been raided by the police last Monday due to a corruption investigation. France Bleu explained:

“The Marseille prosecutor’s office confirms that a preliminary investigation has been initiated since the transmission of a report from the French anti-corruption agency in 2019 targeting the IRD research institute for development (a public scientific and technological establishment ). The investigation concerns the financial links between this IRD and the IHU-Méditerranée infection, but also the internal functioning of the IRD in the use of public funds for expenses unrelated to the missions of the IRD or unjustified missions.”

Figaro quotes a press release by public prosecutor of Marseille:

The Marseille prosecutor’s office confirms that a preliminary investigation has been initiated since the transmission of a report from the French anti-corruption agency (AFA) in 2019 targeting the Research Institute for Development (IRD) […] in its financial links with the Mediterranean Infection Foundation […] “the internal functioning of the IRD on the use of public funds for expenditure unrelated to the IRD’s missions or not justified

That Marseille prosecutor is the same guy who dropped all charges against Raoult regarding illegal human experiments and who might now raise charges against Elisabeth Bik because Raoult and Chabriere asked him to. I fully concur with Yanis Roussel that his master will not be blemished in this police investigation.

Paper mills

Three-act drama

Smut Clyde comments:

A recent tranche of retractions of ‘contractor’ papers from Bioscience Reports included “Effects of microRNA-146a on the proliferation and apoptosis of human osteoarthritis chondrocytes by targeting TRAF6 through the NF-κB signalling pathway”. It’s a whole three-act play.

Act 1. July 12 2017: Published, with admiring commentary by C.West and M. F. McDermott, urging readers to consider the implications of this stimulating, ground-breaking research with its “compelling data”.

Act 2. September 28 2020: Expression of Concern.

Act 3. June 8 2021: “This Retraction follows an Expression of Concern relating to this article previously published by Portland Press.”

It doesn’t quite reach the heights of Ibsen or Chekov.

This was the retraction notice:

“This article is being retracted from Bioscience Reports at the request of the Editor-in-Chief and the Editorial Board following receipt of a notification from a reader, alerting the Editorial Board to the GAPDH Western blots in Figure 5B which are duplicated in several other publications.

The authors have been contacted in regards to the retraction, and have not responded to the Journal’s queries and the concerns raised. Given the extent of the issues raised, the Editorial Board stand by the decision to retract the article.”

This is the embarrassing editorial from 2017 by Leeds University professor Michael F. McDermott and his postdoc Camilla West:

“The data presented by the authors could have important implications for future OA therapies. [..] Overall, this study provides compelling data […] This study will stimulate further research into these other miR-146a targets, by evaluating how these are regulated and altered in OA, and is likely to contribute to a much-improved understanding of this debilitating condition.”

Usually, such editorials are written by the people who acted as peer reviewers the paper in question. McDermott didn’t reply to me, maybe he is sulking because I suggested his approach to peer review might need some improvement. The Managing editor of the Biochemical Society – Portland Press however replied instead:

I am working with the authors to deal with the commentary.

This is the paper mill in which that fake paper was fabricated, uncovered by Cheshire:

Wiley reveals Smut Clyde & Tiger BB8 identities?

I am glad Wiley thanked Smut Clyde and Tiger BB8 (not me of course, I am Satan) on Twitter (hattip Sylvie Coyaud):

The paper mill products Wiley retracted stem from the huge “tadpole” papermill exposed by Smut Clyde, Elisabeth Bik, Morty and Tiger BB8 in January 2020 on my site.

In Wiley’s blog post referenced in the tweet and written by Chris Graf, Director of Research Integrity at Wiley, the publisher incidentally seems to reveal the real identities of Smut Clyde and Tiger BB8!

“Our work continues. We remain proud of the people across Wiley teams who are investigating potential problems and who are innovating to prevent problems occurring in the first place. We continue to be frustrated that an unknown number of fraudulent companies and people seem to be prepared to dupe research communities and publishers alike by offering bogus services. And we are grateful for readers who take time to alert us to potential problems, including Elisabeth Bik from Science Integrity Digest and others, and Jennifer Byrne and Jana Christopher whose work is described here.”

I have no choice now but to concur with Wiley in revealing the real identities of my collaborators:
Smut Clyde must be Professor Jennifer Byrne
Tiger BB8 must be Jana Christopher
There, I said it.

As Wiley’s Journal of Cellular Physiology was retracting several fake paper mill products exposed by Smut Byrne and Tiger Christopher, the publisher further proved its professionalism by including the Latin text placeholder (backup here):

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. commodo vitae, ornare sit amet, wisi. Donec non enim in turpis pulvinar facilisis.

  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.
  2. Aliquam tincidunt mauris eu risus.”

I can’t agree more.

Chinese authorities

The excellent work by Smut Byrne and Tiger Christopher resulted in a bunch of Chinese academic fraudsters getting sanctioned. An official announcement:

“On June 8, 2021, the official website of the Department of Science, Technology and Education of the National Health Commission released the “Results of Investigation and Handling of a Batch of Medical Research Integrity Cases”. These cases came from public notifications from some medical institutions, including a total of 7 cases.The scientific misconducts involved include:

Failure to obtain the informed consent of all authors in accordance with the standard procedures before submission; falsified pictures; falsified data and irregular signatures; falsified corresponding author’s email address; ghostwriting; data deviations and inaccurate charts…

Followed by the description of each of the 7 cases and the various disciplinary measures against the lead authors (reprimands, demotions, funding bans, revocation of cash rewards etc, but no dismissals).

But according to Tiger BB8, Chengdu University nanofabricator Dong Ge Tong was sacked by his university despite his pious attitude.

Elsewhere the official WeChat account joined Wiley in celebrating the paper mill investigations by Byrne and Christopher:

[Shock] The FBS made a fierce response again and disclosed the evidence that a well-known university applied for promotion through fake essays. Just because: honest scientists are trampled under their feet!

June 7, 2021, a website dedicated to maintaining academic integrity “Forbetterscience” (FBS) published an explosive article。For the first time in its history, this website [revealed] “doctors” (suspected) of the university hospital used the thesis factory’s papers to apply for promotion.“”

Murder in Fudan

A lecturer in China was facing the sack for underperformance and reacted by stabbed his boss to death. Radio Free Asia reports:

“Police in Shanghai are investigating the murder of a ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official at the city’s prestigious Fudan University, as he was firing a colleague in the School of Mathematics. […]

A science professor who gave only the surname Luo blamed a recruitment policy among top Chinese universities, which try to attract overseas academics with jobs back home in China, but then fire them if they don’t attract enough research funding.

These universities, especially the lower-ranking ones in the western part of the country, will hire new PhDs as adjuncts on the basis that they will be demoted to lecturer if they fail to get promoted to associate professor level within four years,” Luo said. “[Some schools] will fire them if they can’t attract National Science Foundation funding within six years of starting in post, because that effectively means they won’t make associate professor,” he said.

A lecturer surnamed Liu said the policies were putting huge pressure on academic staff, which in turn encourages plagiarism.

It’s all about how many journal articles you can get published, and how much of your research is a national priority topic,” Liu said.”

This is why Chinese paper mill industry flourishes. It also serves mathematics.

Healthy Living

The Health Benefits of Coffee.

You probably know that New York Times writers are the best in the world, you can trust the newspaper blindly. Here further proof, by a Jane Brody, who is a “Personal Health columnist, a position she has held since 1976“:

“Drinking coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, melanoma, prostate cancer, even suicide. […]

Peer-reviewed science has spoken:

The latest assessments of the health effects of coffee and caffeine, its main active ingredient, are reassuring indeed. Their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

In fact, in numerous studies conducted throughout the world, consuming four or five eight-ounce cups of coffee (or about 400 milligrams of caffeine) a day has been associated with reduced death rates. In a study of more than 200,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, were 15 percent less likely to die early from all causes than were people who shunned coffee. Perhaps most dramatic was a 50 percent reduction in the risk of suicide among both men and women who were moderate coffee drinkers, perhaps by boosting production of brain chemicals that have antidepressant effects.

There is nothing scientists won’t prove as health-beneficial in exchange for (preferably indirect) juicy industry funding. On the other hand, industry giants like Nestle urgently need some scientific help health-washing their unhealthy or addictive products like coffee, chocolate or alcohol. With some money changing hands (there are even “consultants” whose business model consists of bribing journalists and media editors), articles like this caffeinated one are placed in top newspapers like the New York Times, often industry-ghostwritten. Everyone benefits, even you, if you take your 5 (cups of coffee) a day.

Sperm in space

A curious study from Japan, mouse sperm was shot into space and then tested if it still remained fertile:

Sayaka Wakayama , Daiyu Ito , Yuko Kamada , Toru Shimazu , Tomomi Suzuki , Aiko Nagamatsu, Ryoko Araki , Takahiro Ishikawa , Satoshi Kamimura , Naoki Hirose , Kousuke Kazama , Li Yang , Rei Inoue , Yasuyuki Kikuchi , Erika Hayashi , Rina Emura , Ren Watanabe , Hiroaki Nagatomo , Hiromi Suzuki , Tohru Yamamori , Motoki N. Tada, Ikuko Osada, Masumi Umehara, Hiromi Sano, Haruo Kasahara, Akira Higashibata, Sachiko Yano, Masumi Abe, Satoshi Kishigami, Takashi Kohda, Masatoshi Ooga, Teruhiko Wakayama Evaluating the long-term effect of space radiation on the reproductive normality of mammalian sperm preserved on the International Space Station Science Advances (2021) doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abg5554 

Scientists conclude:

“The space radiation did not affect sperm DNA or fertility after preservation on ISS, and many genetically normal offspring were obtained without reducing the success rate compared to the ground-preserved control. The results of ground x-ray experiments showed that sperm can be stored for more than 200 years in space.”

The real purpose of this study was revealed by the first author, assistant professor Sayaka Wakayama to Daily Mail:

These discoveries are essential for mankind. When the time comes to migrate to other planets, we will need to maintain the diversity of genetic re­sources, not only for humans but also domestic animals.

This is how Daily Mail illustrated this space sexploration vision:

Incidentally, the last author and RIKEN professor Teruhiko Wakayama (who shares last name with his first author/lab member) was one of the co-authors of the two fraudulent Nature papers on STAP, one of the biggest scandals in stem cell research which took place 7 years ago (here my old coverage). To be fair, Wakayama was the first to distance himself from his own papers (he did insist to have reproduced STAP though) and to demand a retraction, while his colleagues defended the fraudulent claims of the lead author, the former RIKEN and Harvard star Haruko Obokata.

Silence of the Rats

Rongjia Zhang, civilian researcher at the Naval Medical University in Shanghai, has been defending her bioRxiv male pregnancy preprint Zhang & Liu 2021 in a one-sided tirade on PubPeer, presumably against criticisms on Twitter (Chinese citizens are legally forbidden to use Twitter, hence Zhang’s reluctance to reply there).

In the study, pregnant female and castrated male rats were parabiotically sutured pair-wise for 8 weeks, the male rat then received first a uterus and then an embryo transplant:

The success rate of the model was 3.68%, and pups were only delivered from the male parabiont under pregnant blood exposure. Our results reveal the potential for rat embryonic development in male parabionts, which may have a profound impact on reproductive biology.

Apparently, readers found the study a bit sick. So Zhang explained:

Regarding animal ethics, we have our rules, which can be summed up in two points: (1) reduce the number of animals used as much as possible; (2) reduce animal pain as much as possible. If you read our paper carefully, you will find that we used different recipients in the surgical training phase, and the number of rat used was reduced by 60; all operations were performed under anesthesia and supported by previous literature, and animals did not have any painful symptoms such as screaming during the entire experiment. In addition, pregnancy does not cause significant pain, but delivery will. Thus we used a caesarean section.”

Rats generally don’t scream in pain, unless the torture gets extreme. But Zhong apparently is not aware of which signs of suffering to watch for with rats.

Eventually, Zhang announced in her PubPeer monologue:

After careful considerations, we decide to retract our articles in biorxiv, and has made an application to Biorxiv. We didn’t expect such a large number of non scientific comments, and we really don’t want to expand the unnecessary controversy. Please respect our final decisions.

Let’s hope that the real reason for retraction was that no animals were hurt in the making of that research study, if you know what I mean.

Job Openings

Call open for the position of the CEO of Athira Pharma, incidentally right after my article about Leen Kawas’ research appeared. Seattle Times sums up:

“Bothell-based biopharmaceutical company Athira Pharma said Thursday it has placed Chief Executive Officer Leen Kawas on leave.

In a brief statement with no details, the company said its board determined it needs to review Kawas’s conduct during doctoral research at Washington State University and has appointed an independent committee to begin the process. The company said Chief Operating Officer Mark Litton would immediately assume Kawas’s day-to-day responsibilities overseeing the company.”

Call open for the position of the Dean of the Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University.

The previous dean Jack Elias is gone, and which ever way you turn it, the laudatory press release from April 2021 by Brown reads like a demotion if not as a removal from faculty.

“…in the coming months Elias will transition to the role of senior advisor for health affairs, reporting jointly to the University president and provost. […] Plans for Elias’ transition began with conversations among Brown’s senior leadership in fall 2020. […] A physician-scientist specializing in immunobiology and pulmonary and critical-care medicine, Elias arrived at Brown to serve as the seventh dean in biology and medicine in September 2013. He continued to serve as dean while being appointed to the new position of senior vice president for health affairs in May 2017.”

In August 2020, Clare Francis informed Brown University that Elias has around a dozen of papers on PubPeer, the issue was taken over by the Research Integrity Officer. Here some examples of research from Elias lab:

Btw, here another former Brown researcher whose job is available: Devasis Chatterjee (whose data forgery was exposed by Elisabeth Bik) was caught drunk-driving twice and sent to jail without bail (hat-tip Clare Francis).

Maybe Chatterjee was drowning the sorrow about his recent retraction in PLOS One for fraud? It’s his second, after one retraction listed on Retraction Watch database, with Benjamin Bonavida and Demetrios Spandidos (yes, the publisher).

There was another job opening, in Harvard. David Panka, formerly affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was slapped with research misconduct findings and departed into “retirement”, according to his LinkedIn profile in September 2019. According to a November 2020 ORI verdict:

“ORI found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct by intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly falsifying and/or fabricating Western blot images by selectively cutting, flipping, reordering, and reusing the same source images or non-correlated images to represent different results”

Retraction Watch database lists presently two retractions for Panka, but he has another one (hat-tip Clare Francis), these are the 3 retractions ordered by ORI. The notice references a “investigation by Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center” and mentions: “David J Panka does not agree with this retraction“.

News in Brief

  • A clinical review paper in a Nature Publishing Group journal, Zaidi & Dehgani-Mobaraki The Journal of Antibiotics 2021, urges for ivermectin as COVID-19 therapy: “The probability that an ineffective treatment generated results as positive for the 55 studies to date is estimated to be 1 in 23 trillion (p = 0.000000000000043).”
  • Since early 2018, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has received more than 300 complaints of sexual and other harassment and approved removing 75 principal investigators (PIs) from grants as a result“, but their identities are secret so they can continue elsewhere (Science).
  • The easiest way to get admitted to an Ivy League US university is to have gone to private school. Even the allegedly oppressed and discriminated white protesters against the affirmative action use this private school bias as an argument to keep Blacks out (Slate).
  • The climate change and the retreat of the seasonal Arctic sea ice has already passed a tipping point, as an international North Pole expedition on board of the German research ship Polarstern determined. (DW English)

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1 comment on “Schneider Shorts 18.06.2021- Papermill Heroes Revealed

  1. Pingback: Il prato delle bufale – ocasapiens

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