Schneider Shorts of 7 January 2022 – The real lesson from Theranos affair, various psychiatric disorders cured with cannabis, resveratrol and mushrooms, a huge Russian papermill exposed, Raoult finds a new coronavirus variant, and learning research integrity with Dr Eckert (ex-Curno) of Frontiers.
Table of Discontent
- Theranos vs Peer Review – Nature draws lessons
- Dr Eckert-Curno of Frontiers – with publication ethics, it takes one to know one
- Resveratrol to the rescue – Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s cured
- Mushrooms make you happy – Penn State solves Blacks’ anxiety
- Cannabis for autism! – Israeli Scientists’ new invention
China and Russia
- Chinese interference – How China controls discourse at US universities
- Russian Papermill – Anna Abalkina exposes a giant fraud factory
Theranos vs Peer Review
Nature is excited that the only known science fraudster of modern times has been now found guilty in court:
“Elizabeth Holmes, the infamous biotech chief executive who promised to revolutionize blood testing, has been found guilty of fraud. The Theranos founder intentionally deceived investors, a US federal jury concluded yesterday after a nearly four-month trial. Holmes likely faces up to 20 years in jail and a hefty fine. She has not yet been sentenced.
The case will likely shape the way biotech entrepreneurs approach investors, say researchers who spoke to Nature — and makes abundantly clear the importance of validating early research through peer-review processes.”
The article’s sub-headline is:
Dear Nature, I invite you to check all other fraud scandals of the past and the present. They all are based on research which passed peer review. In fact, if Holmes was male, academic, and preferably an Ivy League professor like, let’s use a random name, David Sinclair, there would be no fraud scandal at all, no court trials, no nothing, but one celebrated scientific breakthrough study in Nature after another and some financially very rewarding biotech start-ups.
Sylvie Coyaud reminds in this regard:
“The board of directors was in hiding and the biomed community was sleeping.
Just as it slept during the peer-review of results that even announced effective drugs for hitherto incurable diseases. Just think of the simufilam against Alzheimer’s promised by “problematic” papers by the researchers who founded Cassava Sciences, reported by Elisabeth Bik on PubPeer.”
Dr Eckert-Curno of Frontiers
Please allow me to introduce you to the Chief Publishing Officer at world’s bestest Open Access publisher Frontiers, Dr Mirjam Eckert. She is with Frontiers for already 8 years, you may have heard of her under her previous name Mirjam Curno. In her role as publishing director she is also the one who deals with your sad pathetic complaints about ethics and research integrity in Frontiers journals. She also used to be board member and a trustee at the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Thus, Dr Eckert (ex-Curno) is one of world’s biggest experts on research integrity and Frontiers’ own saint of science ethics.
Courtesy of Clare Francis, here is Dr Eckert’s paper from her PhD period at University of Dundee, supervised by the husband-and-wife dream team Ted Hupp and Kathryn Ball (now both in Edinburgh). The first author is now Chief Science Officer at the US biotech Bolt.
David Dornan , Mirjam Eckert , Maura Wallace, Harumi Shimizu , Eleanor Ramsay , Ted R. Hupp, Kathryn L. Ball Interferon regulatory factor 1 binding to p300 stimulates DNA-dependent acetylation of p53 Molecular and Cellular Biology (2004) doi: 10.1128/mcb.24.22.10083-10098.2004
Now you can deduct from the actions or non-actions of Dr Eckert about her hilariously fake paper to learn where Frontiers stands on ethics in general.
Resveratrol to the rescue!
A website named Study Finds informs:
“A nasal spray that combines the benefits of two drugs may be able to treat and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Researchers from Osaka City University say the potentially groundbreaking treatment combines the antibiotic rifampicin with the popular supplement resveratrol — an antioxidant found in plants.
Their study reports that experiments involving mice were so encouraging, global clinical trials are already in the planning phase. Scientists genetically engineered the animals to develop Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia, or dementia with Lewy bodies — three of the main forms of the disease.
Cognitive skills in the mice dramatically improved after the team injected the chemical cocktail into their noses five times a week for four weeks.”
Now, Rifampicin is an antibiotic, aimed against bacteria, and it has heavy side effects. I invite you to savour the scholarly wisdom here:
“However, the drug also has a link to side-effects, including liver damage. Luckily, resveratrol boosts the functioning of the organ. It’s a naturally occurring ingredient in wine, fruit, nuts, and chocolate — and manufacturers sell it as a food supplement.
“To combat the negative side effects of the existing drug rifampicin, we thought of combining it with the hepatoprotective effects of resveratrol,” Prof. Tomiyama says.”
In reality, resveratrol is useless, does exactly nothing and is not even bioavailable, long debunked, ask David Sinclair, who earned $750 million with resveratrol quackery.
You probably wonder where that silly Japanese study was published. In Frontiers, of course!
Tomohiro Umeda , Ayumi Sakai , Keiko Shigemori , Ayumi Yokota , Toru Kumagai , Takami Tomiyama Oligomer-Targeting Prevention of Neurodegenerative Dementia by Intranasal Rifampicin and Resveratrol Combination – A Preclinical Study in Model Mice Frontiers in Neuroscience (2021) doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.763476
Conflicts of interests are declared:
“TU, TK, and TT have applied for a patent on intranasal rifampicin and resveratrol combination for neurodegenerative dementia (PCT/JP2019/000278). TK and TT are the founders of Medilabo RFP, Inc., who is developing nasal rifampicin. This study received funding from Medilabo RFP, Inc”
For some reason, the company’s website prefers to keep resveratrol secret:
“ML1808 is an intranasal anti-Alzheimer drug.
It suppresses not only Aβ oligomer but also tau oligomer and oxifative stress by using 2 active ingredients: rifampicin(RFP) and compound X.”
Mushrooms make you happy
No, not those mushrooms. The normal, edible one you buy in the supermarket.
Penn State University announced in a press release last November:
“Mushrooms have been making headlines due to their many health advantages. Not only do they lower one’s risk of cancer and premature death, but new research led by Penn State College of Medicine also reveals that these superfoods may benefit a person’s mental health.
Penn State researchers used data on diet and mental health collected from more than 24,000 U.S. adults between 2005 and 2016. They found that people who ate mushrooms had lower odds of having depression.
According to the researchers, mushrooms contain ergothioneine, an antioxidant that may protect against cell and tissue damage in the body. Studies have shown that antioxidants help prevent several mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.”
Turns out, eating mushrooms make white women happy:
“According to the researchers, college-educated, non-Hispanic white women were more likely to eat mushrooms. The average age of surveyed participants was 45, and the majority (66%) were non-Hispanic white people. The investigators observed a significant association between mushroom consumption and lower odds of depression after accounting for socio-demographics, major risk factors, self-reported diseases, medications and other dietary factors. They said, however, that there was no clear additional benefit with relatively high mushroom intake.
Here is the peer reviewed paper, all its four senior authors are white men:
Djibril M. Ba , Xiang Gao , Laila Al-Shaar , Joshua E. Muscat , Vernon M. Chinchilli , Robert B. Beelman , John P. Richie Mushroom intake and depression: A population-based study using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005–2016 Journal of Affective Disorders (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.07.080
The Black and Latina women in USA display more anxiety simply because they don’t eat enough mushrooms! This Penn State research almost funny, except that it is not.
Cannabis for autism!
The best science is of course by Israeli Scientists (TM). The Times of Israel informs us of a scientific breakthrough:
“Israeli scientists are reporting they have made autistic mice more sociable and less obsessive by giving them cannabis products.”
It’s not cannabidiol (CBD) though, the Israeli scholars warn, but tetrahydrocannabinol (THC):
“Studies that are underway mostly don’t focus enough on the details of what it is in the cannabis that may be helping people,” researcher Shani Poleg told The Times of Israel. “In our study, we looked at the details, and came up with surprising and interesting findings.
“THC was more effective. The main difference was that THC treatment also improved social behavior, not only repetitive compulsive behavior.” CBD mostly helped the mice in the study just to deal with repetitive compulsive behavior.[…]
Poleg stressed that the research, supervised by Prof. Daniel Offen and recently peer-reviewed and published in the journal Translational Psychology, is preliminary and shouldn’t be considered treatment advice.
Not a treatment advice? Oh, such a pity. Anyway, here is the paper:
Shani Poleg, Emad Kourieh, Angela Ruban, Guy Shapira, Noam Shomron, Boaz Barak & Daniel Offen Behavioral aspects and neurobiological properties underlying medical cannabis treatment in Shank3 mouse model of autism spectrum disorder. Transl Psychiatry (2021). doi: 10.1038/s41398-021-01612-3
China and Russia
ProPublica has an investigative story on how Chinese Communist Party controls the academic discourse in US universities:
“As the regime of Chinese President Xi Jinping reaches across borders to control its citizens wherever they are, its assaults on academic freedom have intensified, according to U.S. national security officials, academics, dissidents and other experts. Chinese intelligence officers are monitoring campuses across the United States with online surveillance and an array of informants motivated by money, ambition, fear or authentic patriotism. A comment in class about Taiwan or a speech at a rally about Tibet can result in retaliation against students and their relatives back home. […]
At Brandeis University near Boston, Chinese students mobilized last year to sabotage an online panel about atrocities against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region. Viewers interrupted a Harvard-educated lawyer as she tried to describe her brother’s plight in a concentration camp, scrawling “bullshit” and “fake news” over his face on the screen and blaring China’s national anthem. To the dismay of participants, the university’s leaders failed to condemn the incident.
At the University of Georgia, a graduate student became the prey of an intelligence officer in China who pressured him over the phone to become a spy and inform on fellow dissidents in America. When the student made the conversations public, Chinese security forces harassed his family back home.”
Anna Abalkina, Germany-based expert in Russian paper mills, published a new preprint, here its abstract:
“This study attempts to detect papers originating from the Russian paper mill “International publisher” LLC. A total of 975 offers published during 2019-2021 on the 123mi.ru website were analysed. The study allowed us to identify at least 303 papers (31%) that are potentially linked to the paper mill. Further evidence of suspicious provenance from the paper mill is provided: matches in number of coauthorship slots, year of publication, country of the journal, country of a coauthorship slot and similarities of abstracts. This study also demonstrates collaboration anomalies and the phenomenon of suspicious collaboration in questionable papers and examines the predictors of the Russian paper mill. The value of coauthorship slots offered by “International Publisher” LLC in 2019-2021
is estimated at $6.5 million. Since the study analysed a particular paper mill, it is likely that the number of papers with forged authorship is much higher.”
And this is how the Russian paper mill industry, which largely caters to domestic customers, became so strong:
“According to President Putin’s May decrees of 2012, the share of publications by Russian scholars among the total number of publications in scientific journals index in Web of Science should reach 2.44% by 2015, and at least five Russian universities should be ranked in the top 100 world’s leading universities by 20202. These legal acts shaped the academic landscape for the subsequent decade. First, the 5-100 project, also known as the Russian Academic Excellence Project,
selected 21 Russian universities to enter international top rankings, which also meant increasing their publication performance. Second, in response to the new legislative framework, universities introduced new publication criteria for effective contracts, promotion or financial benefits.”
Putin’s orders apparently meant to open new business avenues to the already existing Russian essay mill industry which used to fabricate PhD dissertations, including for Russian politicians. One of the biggest papermill businesses is “International Publisher”:
““International Publisher” LLC is one of the best known companies in Russia that offers coauthorship for sale. It is a registered legal entity and has an office in one of the modern skyscrapers in the Moscow International Business Center (Moscow-City) […]
The papers offered cover several disciplines, such as economics, law, education, linguistics, medicine, engineering, and agriculture. All of these areas (except linguistics) are considered to be the most corrupt in Russia. According to Dissernet’s data, economics, education, law, medicine, and engineering represent 83% of all detected plagiarized PhD theses in Russia (www.dissernet.org).
According to the website, an author should not worry about anything; “International Publisher” LLC will take care of the entire process of publication and indexation of the manuscript with the name of the client. S/he needs only pay. The price range for coauthorship varies from 14,760 rubles (180 euros) to 410,000 rubles (5,000 euros).”
Abalkina also provides a Google Sheets file, constantly updated, with the papers she determined to be products of the International Publisher papermill. These were placed with “reputable publishers (Elsevier, Springer Nature, Emerald, Wiley, Taylor &Francis, etc.)”.
The International Publisher papermill also directly collaborates with corrupt journal and editors. The worst is International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, its editors are US and European professors. This is my favourite bit:
“Analysis of offers and papers potentially originating from the paper mill allowed us to identify at least one episode of questionable collaboration between editors of MDPI journals and “International Publisher” LLC. Nineteen of 20 identified papers published in MDPI journals had a specific feature: they were coauthored by scholars associated with one Eastern European country; 17 of them were affiliated with University C, and two had an affiliation with University D in this Eastern European country. One might suggest that these coauthors dishonestly purchased a coauthorship slot, but we suppose that the relationship is of a different nature. Some of these Eastern European coauthors were editors of several MDPI journals or guest editors of special issues. One could suggest that it is a coincidence, but some of the offers on the 123mi.ru website mentioned straightforwardly that one coauthorship slot of the paper was reserved for the editor of the journal or editor of the journal from this particular country. This coauthorship pattern in MDPI journals served as a good predictor of other dishonest papers.
Four MPDI journals (Sustainability (Switzerland), Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, Energies, Mathematics) were involved in such suspicious
MDPI really will publish anything for money.
News in Tweets
- Didier Raoult discovered a new SARS-CoV2 variant, in France, with many many mutations! It is out as preprint Colson et al medRxiv 2021 and soon likely in one of Raoult’s personally controlled “peer reviewed” journals at Elsevier. So shall we take it seriously? The media picked it up. At least the German magazine Der Spiegel mentions that Raoult peddled chloroquine quackery and was criticised by Elisabeth Bik, although reminding that he is merely one of the authors. Without saying Raoult is the last author and the rest are his IHU subordinates who are just as guilty of the institute’s ethics disasters as he is.
- “Genetics of psychic ability – A pilot case-control exome sequencing study“- published in March 2021 in Elsevier’s journal EXPLORE. No, it did not slip under the peer review radar, everything this journal publishes is paranormal woo, magic quackery and religiously insane mumbo-jumbo. And every single university library pays for it. Read about this journal and its editor Larry Dossey (one of his “research” areas: reincarnation) here.
- On the value of peer-reviewed journals:
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