Research integrity

The authors continue to stand behind Dilip Shah’s conclusions

The part of the fraud affair not included on Retraction Watch

Retraction Watch informed us recently:

“A lung researcher is up to six retractions for problematic images. 

Dilip Shah’s last academic post was at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J., where he worked as a post-doc in the lab of Vineet Bhandari.”

Two brown-skinned cheaters who arrived to America from the Indian sub-continent have been caught polluting American science. The main perpetrator Shah has been apprehended and dealt with, the other one, Bhandari, is basically begging for mercy. Order has been restored, American science can safely continue with its truthful exploits. The Watchdogs are watchdogging.

I am here to troll.

Because of course Shah is a fraudster, but he did not act alone, others were too happy to publish his fraud and to defend its unaffected conclusions even now. And it was not just Bhandari from India. White people even!

Shah’s LInkedIn profile (now private)

Shah worked for over 4 years as postdoc at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, in the lab of the pulmonologist Ross Summer. 4 of the 6 retracted papers by Shah came from Summer’s lab. But Summer’s involvement is never even hinted at in the Retraction Watch article.

Here is one such retracted paper:

Freddy Romero, Dilip Shah, Michelle Duong, William Stafstrom , Jan B. Hoek, Caleb B. Kallen, Charles H. Lang , Ross Summer Chronic alcohol ingestion in rats alters lung metabolism, promotes lipid accumulation, and impairs alveolar macrophage functions American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (2014) doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2014-0127oc

The retraction notice from November 2020 went (highlights mine):

“An article published in the December 2014 issue of the Journal (1) has been retracted by the authors. It was discovered that the GAPDH band in Figure 4C is incorrect and is identical to that used in Figure 4D. Moreover, the images used to represent acetyl-CoA synthase in Figure 4D and pAMPK in Figure 4C are the same. In addition, anomalies were identified in the Western blot images for AMPK (Figure 4C) and FASN (Figure 4D). Based on these findings, although the authors continue to stand behind the conclusions reached, the scientific integrity of the manuscript has been compromised. All the authors have agreed to this decision, and they apologize to the Journal and its readers.”

It seems, despite the fraud, conclusions remained unaffected. How can Dr Summer be so sure? Here another retraction, in the same journal:

Dilip Shah , Freddy Romero , Zhi Guo , Jianxin Sun , Jonathan Li , Caleb B. Kallen , Ulhas P. Naik, Ross Summer Obesity-Induced Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Causes Lung Endothelial Dysfunction and Promotes Acute Lung Injury American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (2017) doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2016-0310oc 

Obviously here the journal editors could not let the authors insist that the conclusions were not affected. The retraction notice, issued in parallel in November 2020, was different, highlight mine:

“This article (1) has been retracted by the authors. It was discovered that the same immunoblot images were used to represent two different experimental conditions. This includes Figure 1D in which a blot of GRP78 is identical to a blot labeled as β-catenin in another paper (2), and Figure 2F in which a blot of GADPH is identical to a portion of a GAPDH image used in that paper (2). In addition, anomalies were identified in the Western blot images in Figures 1D, 2B, 2F, 2H, 3A, 3E, 3F, and 5B. Given that the scientific integrity of this study has been compromised, the authors believe that retraction of this paper is the best course of action. All the authors have agreed to this decision.”

The referenced paper has been retracted also:

Dilip Shah, Freddy Romero, Michelle Duong , Nadan Wang , Bishnuhari Paudyal , Benjamin T. Suratt , Caleb B. Kallen, Jianxin Sun, Ying Zhu, Kenneth Walsh , Ross Summer Obesity-induced adipokine imbalance impairs mouse pulmonary vascular endothelial function and primes the lung for injury Scientific Reports (2015) doi: 10.1038/srep11362

Fig S1
Fig S4

Summer declared on PubPeer in August 2020:

“All uncropped gels are being sent to the editorial board of this journal. Kind regards.”

It must have annoyed Dr Summer immensely that yet another journal was unconvinced by what he declared to be uncropped gels. The paper was retracted on 3 February 2022, the retraction notice listed all manipulated figures and mentioned:

“The Authors were unable to provide the original high resolution scanned images for these blots. Therefore, the validity of the presented results cannot be confirmed.”

So what did Summer send to the editorial board then? Did he lie on PubPeer? Did he lie to the editors? I thought he was an innocent victim of a foreign brown-skinned man from the Indian subcontinent, as Retraction Watch wanted us to believe? And it’s not like people don’t fake “raw data” these gels, with today’s Photoshop technology you can have perfect images of beautiful full-length gels, utterly fake and made-up. Only the cack-handed incompetent fraudsters like those of Cassava get caught, yet even they receive full credulity from some journals.

Summer must be protected. Especially since the lung researcher was at the time working on finding a COVID-19 cure a repurposed drug. I am a bit confused why Summer talked on NBC about migraine nasal spray, because someone else at Jefferson’s was running that Vazegepant trial. Summer himself was actually trialling the chemotherapeutic Selinexor for COVID-19 (NCT04349098).

It wasn’t just Summer who officially has nothing at all to do with the Shah affair.

And what about the regular key co-author Freddy Romero, first or second author on most of the fabrications, whom Scientific Reports editors were unable to reach? Romero works as assistant professor at Jefferson University, he is just not replying to such emails. Did you read his name in the Retraction Watch article? No? Guess why.

Original photo: ResearchGate, profile apparently now deleted

Neither Summer nor Romero replied to my emails. There are in total 10 papers Shah produced in Summer’s lab, all have Romero as significant co-author, only 4 were retracted, but common sense suggests the rest also must be fake. Romero produced 23 papers with Summer, some even as last author, maybe this is why his name must be kept out of the fraud affair at all costs.

So here is a very problematic paper with Romero as first author, Summer as last and Shah as third, published in the same journal which already pulled two of Summer’s papers. Yet this one will never be retracted, maybe not even corrected. The reason is its co-author Augustine MK Choi, who is the dean of the Weill Cornell medical school, that New York university does not retract papers as not to trouble its science stars. And Choi’s own PubPeer record is nothing to be sniffed at.

Problem is, this Romero and Shah co-authored paper is so fake, a correction is impossible also. And its better not to draw attention anyway.

Freddy Romero, Xu Hong, Dilip Shah, Caleb B. Kallen, Ivan Rosas, Zhi Guo, DeLeila Schriner, Julie Barta, Hoora Shaghaghi, Jan B. Hoek, Clementina Mesaros, Augustine M. Choi , Nathaniel W. Snyder, Ross Summer Lipid Synthesis Is Required to Resolve Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Limit Fibrotic Responses in the Lung American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (2018) doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2017-0340oc

Total and phospho-protein western blots are expected to be similar in band shape. But never that identical.

Also safe from retraction is this paper, because the publisher American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) replaced its once legendary zero tolerance research integrity team with incompetent imposters.

Dilip Shah, Freddy Romero, Ying Zhu , Michelle Duong , Jianxin Sun, Kenneth Walsh , Ross Summer C1q Deficiency Promotes Pulmonary Vascular Inflammation and Enhances the Susceptibility of the Lung Endothelium to Injury Journal of Biological Chemistry (2015) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m115.690784

Now, Dilip Shah is certainly a fraudster, and his most recent boss Vineep Bhandari is also to blame. In 2020, the same year the Shah affair exploded in retractions, Bhandari left the Drexel College in Philadelphia and its St Christopher’s Hospital for Children as Chief of Neonatology, taking Shah with him. The two gentlemen moved to New Jersey to lead the neonatal department at Cooper University Health Care, a teaching hospital where no laboratory research is being performed. That would normally mean the end of the scientific road for Bhandari, but then again, Shah doesn’t need a lab to produce exciting scientific results in pulmonology. A laptop with Photoshop installed will suffice. But now Shah is gone and in between jobs, open for opportunities.

Here Bhandari’s and Shah’s joint retraction in the same American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology , and look, Jefferson University’s Assistant Professor Romero is on board:

Dilip Shah, Pragnya Das, Mohammad Afaque Alam , Nidhi Mahajan , Freddy Romero, Mohd Shahid , Harpreet Singh , Vineet Bhandari MicroRNA-34a Promotes Endothelial Dysfunction and Mitochondrial-mediated Apoptosis in Murine Models of Acute Lung Injury American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (2019) doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2018-0194oc

The retraction notice from March 20221 mentioned:

“The authors stand behind the conclusions of the work but acknowledge that the above anomalies compromise the scientific integrity of the paper. The participating authors have agreed to the decision to retract this paper and they apologize to the Journal and its readers.”

Retraction Watch quotes Bhandari:

As a lab head, I do my best to evaluate new researchers by getting multiple letters of recommendation/additional details about their professional and personal work by talking to that person’s previous colleagues/peers/supervisors/employers/teachers/mentors, prior to hiring them.

Is it wrong to assume Summer’s reference letter got Shat the job?

Here another retracted paper by Shah with Bhandari, it was completely deleted because “these issues were brought to the editors’ attention before the final version of record for the article was published“:

Dilip Shah, Karmyodh Sandhu , Pragnya Das, Zubair H. Aghai , Sture Andersson, Gloria Pryhuber, Vineet Bhandari “miR-184 mediates hyperoxia-induced injury by targeting cell death and angiogenesis signalling pathways in the developing lung, European Respiratory Journal (2021) doi: 10.1183/13993003.01789-2019

The retraction notice mentioned:

“The authors acknowledge that the anomalies compromise the scientific integrity of the paper. All the authors have agreed to the decision to retract this paper; they apologise to the journal and its readers.”

But this prestigious society journal is apparently not in a hurry to act on another fake Shah paper:

Dilip Shah, Claudio Torres, Vineet Bhandari Adiponectin deficiency induces mitochondrial dysfunction and promotes endothelial activation and pulmonary vascular injury The FASEB Journal (2019) doi: 10.1096/fj.201901123r

Maybe the middle author Claudio Torres, associate professor at Drexel, also thinks these conclusions remain unaffected.

Shah is most likely unemployed, and for sure out of science and academia. The paediatrician Bhandari left Drexel after not even 5 years to move away to a different state and to a teaching hospital where he is unlikely to be doing any research again.

But the Jefferson University professors Ross Summer and his protege Freddy Romero are not even mentioned in the Retraction Watch article. Just two brown-skinned foreigners.

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6 comments on “The authors continue to stand behind Dilip Shah’s conclusions

  1. Reminds me of South Africa’s Apartheid system: separate rooms for “white”, “coloured” and “black” people. As far as I remember, Japanese people were classified as “white”, Chinese as “coloured”. There appears to be something similar in todays science, protecting Augustine M. Choi by giving him “white” status.


  2. Vineet Bhadari’s Pubpeer record:

    Vinnet Bhandari and Jack Elias’s Pubpeer record: –

    Jack Elias’s Pubpeer record:

    Jack A Elias:

    “Jack A. Elias, MD, is Brown University’s seventh dean of medicine and biological sciences and its first senior vice president for health affairs.”

    “Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Chair of the Department of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, and Physician-in-Chief at Yale New Haven Hospital.”

    Bio fits the Vineet Bhandari and Jack Elias Pubpeer record publications.

    “Jack Elias to transition to senior health advisor at Brown, will leave role as medical school dean”


  3. Very nice about Bhandari, but I thought RW made clear that white American academic elites are off limits?


  4. alfricabos

    I don’t understand something. What is the need for providing original high resolution scanned images for blots when the published material is so obviously fake that it hurts my eyes? Just retract all the paper(s) with blatantly manipulated images and let’s move on.


  5. No doubt Dr Bhandari left St. Christopher’s. Did management think they could cover up incompetence with fraud?


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