Schneider Shorts of 7 October 2022 – three long shorts about British dead scientists tainted with fraud charges, a zombie scientist hosted in Texas, copyright issues and unaffected conclusions in The Netherlands, plus a geoengineering genius, a cheater’s first retraction, dirty old man’s lawsuits, and new NIH money for the makers of COVID-19!
Table of Discontent
- Dead scientists – poisoned legacy of Graeme Carnegie and Lady Tricia
- Zombie Scientist – Eric Berglund has friends in Texas
- Copyright issues – how elite-mentored Tokameh Mahmoudi avoided retractions
- Geoengineering Genius – Stephen Salter’s Duck and Sink to save the planet
Another case where the legacy of deceased scientists is tainted by fraud found in their papers. I previously reported about the cancer researchers Ofer Lider of Weizmann Institute in Israel and Margarita Lorenzo of Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. Both died early from cancer, the scientific legacy of both likely poisoned by their dishonest mentees and colleagues.
This is a new episode of the data manipulation affair around Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel (and another guest post by “Smut Clyde“), with the hope that Israeli researchers and their state officials finally step in and investigate what goes on in this institute, supported by external experts from the academic community. There areContinue Reading
“I do not who is doing this, who is behind this. Papers were not manipulated, please believe me. Someone must want my scientific death. This is scaring Believe me please. I am a modest scientist.”
On 7 April 2010 the Spanish diabetes researcher Margarita Lorenzo died of metastatic melanoma, aged only 51. Two months after her death, Lorenzo’s colleagues submitted a paper to the journal Diabetes. The paper, which studies the mechanisms of obesity and insulin resistance, seems to be full of manipulated western blot data. While Lorenzo was dying of cancer, her colleagues advanced their careers using her reputation, using their own disreputable Photoshop skills.
So here a new bizarre case. Two expressions of concern were issued, in two journals.
Graeme K. Carnegie , Judith E. Sleeman , Nick Morrice , C. James Hastie , Mark W. Peggie , Amanda Philp , Angus I. Lamond , Patricia T. W. Cohen Protein phosphatase 4 interacts with the Survival of Motor Neurons complex and enhances the temporal localisation of snRNPs Journal of Cell Science (2003) doi: 10.1242/jcs.00409
“Background editing of the top Northern blot in Fig. 1 was reported anonymously to the journal. In addition, we identified splices in blots in several other figures. Owing to the period of time that has passed since experiments were conducted, original data are no longer available. However, many full blots for these figures are presented in the PhD thesis of the first author, revealing that most splices were made to excise empty lanes. The blurred blot in Fig. 1 is also present in the thesis, so we cannot determine whether blurring was introduced to obscure non-relevant bands between the two regions of interest.
Both the first and last authors of the paper are deceased; The University of Dundee and authors for whom contact details were available (J.E.S., J.H., A.I.L.) were supportive of the investigation.”
The university of Dundee scientist Graeme Carnegie died in 2014 aged only 40, as the obituary stated:
“It is with heavy hearts that we pass on the sad news that Dr Graeme Carnegie passed away peacefully on the 20th of July 2014, after a brave and prolonged battle with leukaemia. Graeme is remembered with huge affection and pride in Dundee, where he was a PhD student with Tricia Cohen from October 1997 to September 2001 and a friend and colleague to a generation of Dundee scientists and support staff.”
Lady Patricia Cohen, the last author of the above paper, herself died in 2020, aged 76. She was the wife of the eminent British biochemist Sir Philip Cohen (still alive), together they founded the the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit (PRC-PPU) in Dundee. Sir Philip has a string of papers on PubPeer, he was investigated by the University of Dundee without anything improper found. Also the late Lady Tricia has several papers on PubPeer, some were already corrected. Like this one, corrected in 2011 but it might need a new correction:
Martin Voss , James Paterson , Ian R. Kelsall , Cristina Martín-Granados , C. James Hastie , Mark W. Peggie , Patricia T.W. Cohen Ppm1E is an in cellulo AMP-activated protein kinase phosphatase Cellular Signalling (2011) doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2010.08.010
This is also a new find by Clare Francis:
Shonagh Munro , Hugo Ceulemans , Mathieu Bollen , Julie Diplexcito , Patricia T.W. Cohen A novel glycogen-targeting subunit of protein phosphatase 1 that is regulated by insulin and shows differential tissue distribution in humans and rodents FEBS Journal (2005) doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2005.04585.x
Another one of Lady Cohen’s papers received an Expression of Concern post mortem:
Tamás ZEKE , Nick MORRICE , Cristina VÁZQUEZ-MARTIN , Patricia T. W. COHEN Human protein phosphatase 5 dissociates from heat-shock proteins and is proteolytically activated in response to arachidonic acid and the microtubule-depolymerizing drug nocodazole The Biochemical journal (2005) doi: 10.1042/bj20040690
“A reader has contacted the Biochemical Journal Editorial Board to draw attention to a potential concern regarding some of the data Figures in this article. The concerns raised are regarding band similarities in Figure 2B and evidence of gel splicing in this figure, Figure 4, and others. Due to the time elapsed between publication of the article and the concerns being raised, as well as the recent passing of the senior author, Lady Tricia Cohen, it will not be possible to conduct an investigation and source the original data to verify or allay the concerns raised.“
The mess is total. Especially Carnegie’s scientific legacy is poisoned for good, and he can’t defend himself. This is a paper by Carnegie as last author, published a year after his untimely death from leukaemia:
Brian T. Burmeister , Li Wang , Matthew G. Gold , Randal A. Skidgel , John P. O’Bryan, Graeme K. Carnegie Protein Kinase A (PKA) Phosphorylation of Shp2 Protein Inhibits Its Phosphatase Activity and Modulates Ligand Specificity Journal of Biological Chemistry (2015) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m115.642983
Another Carnegie paper, same first author:
Brian T. Burmeister , Domenico M. Taglieri , Li Wang , Graeme K. Carnegie Src homology 2 domain-containing phosphatase 2 (Shp2) is a component of the A-kinase-anchoring protein (AKAP)-Lbc complex and is inhibited by protein kinase A (PKA) under pathological hypertrophic conditions in the heart The Journal of biological chemistry (2012) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m112.385641
It does look like massive fraud. Here another paper with Carnegie’s (and Burmeister’s) name on it:
Matthew J. Spindler, Brian T. Burmeister , Yu Huang , Edward C. Hsiao , Nathan Salomonis , Mark J. Scott , Deepak Srivastava , Graeme K. Carnegie , Bruce R. Conklin AKAP13 Rho-GEF and PKD-binding domain deficient mice develop normally but have an abnormal response to β-adrenergic-induced cardiac hypertrophy PLoS ONE (2013) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062705
A very sad situation. University of Dundee has so far dealt with research misconduct rather consequently, let’s hope they will be able to solve this mess also.
“Ted Hupp and Kathryn Ball may very well feel like kissing David Argyle on both cheeks.”
The young star of microbiology Robert Ryan, rose to great heights only to be publicly shot down, without much of an explanation. Instead, newspapers were tipped-off underhand and internal emails discretely forwarded; the only half-way solid information we have is the evidence of image duplications in his papers as posted on PubPeer. Ryan now left theContinue Reading
From dead scientists to a zombie scientist, someone who was long exposed as a research fraudster yet is still employed in academia. Because of networks.
Meet Eric Berglund, assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern. His institutional profile informs us:
“Dr. Berglund came to UT Southwestern after receiving his PhD from Vanderbilt University where he studied how glucagon action on the liver affects hepatic nucleotide levels as well other aspects of hepatic and whole-body metabolism. This move offered an opportunity to combine Dr. Joel Elmquist’s resources studying central regulation of metabolism and array of genetically modified mice with his expertise studying in vivo physiology.”
There are zombie papers, those are the long-discredited or even misconduct-riddled publications, which somehow avoid retractions and continue contaminating scientific literature. The “Arsenic Life” paper in Science is such a parade example, but also cancer and stem research hide an impressive collection of zombie papers. Zombie scientists are those once renowned researchers, who were caughtContinue Reading
Thing is, Berglund was caught on forging data during his PhD, two of his papers were retracted in 2016.
Eric D. Berglund, Daniel G. Lustig , Richard A. Baheza , Clinton M. Hasenour , Robert S. Lee-Young , E. Patrick Donahue , Sara E. Lynes , Larry L. Swift , Maureen J. Charron , Bruce M. Damon , David H. Wasserman Hepatic glucagon action is essential for exercise-induced reversal of mouse fatty liver Diabetes (2011) doi: 10.2337/db11-0455
Eric D. Berglund , Li Kang , Robert S. Lee-Young , Clinton M. Hasenour , Daniel G. Lustig , Sara E. Lynes , E. Patrick Donahue , Larry L. Swift , Maureen J. Charron , David H. Wasserman Glucagon and lipid interactions in the regulation of hepatic AMPK signaling and expression of PPARalpha and FGF21 transcripts in vivo American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism (2010) doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00263.2010
Eric D. Berglund, Robert S. Lee-Young , Daniel G. Lustig , Sara E. Lynes , E. Patrick Donahue , Raul C. Camacho , M. Elizabeth Meredith , Mark A. Magnuson , Maureen J. Charron , David H. Wasserman Hepatic energy state is regulated by glucagon receptor signaling in mice Journal of Clinical Investigation (2009) doi: 10.1172/jci38650
The two papers from 2010 and 2011 were retracted, the one from 2009 was not. Retraction notices stated:
In these two retractions, Berglund’s PhD mentor, the Vanderbilt professor David Wasserman took the responsibility upon himself. Compare this to the behaviour of most other professors who upon discovering their mentees’ fraud, invest all their energy in arm-wringing and string-pulling to avoid a retraction, even publishing follow-up papers with more fraud to support the past fraud. Like it happened in the exact same field of physiology and diabetes research, also in USA, with Pontus Boström and his mentor Bruce Spiegelman:
Sweden is a tolerant country, which is a very good thing. Unfortunately, sometimes this Swedish tolerance seems ill-advised. Dishonest scientists caught faking data are happily given another chance and fat funding, like the case of the diabetes researcher Pontus Boström shows. This scientist was found to have fabricated data during his PhD studies with lateContinue Reading
And still Berglund found a new job. Here his paper with the above mentioned UT Southwestern professor Elmquist:
Eric D. Berglund , Chen Liu , Jong-Woo Sohn , Tiemin Liu , Mi Hwa Kim , Charlotte E. Lee , Claudia R. Vianna , Kevin W. Williams, Yong Xu , Joel K. Elmquist Serotonin 2C receptors in pro-opiomelanocortin neurons regulate energy and glucose homeostasis Journal of Clinical Investigation (2013) doi: 10.1172/jci70338
As it happens, Berglund’s patron Elmquist is Vice Chair of Research at the Department of Internal Medicine’s. He, Berglund and Joan Conaway, Vice Provost and Dean of Basic Research of UT Southwestern did not reply to my email.
Berglund’s new hosts in Texas found an ingenious way to keep him from publishing more fraud. They just keep him out of doing research, as it seems. There are no papers with Berglund as first or last author since 2016, back with Wasserman. Berlund quite possibly just sits around in his UT Southwestern office (or at home?) and plays videogames or watches TV, while others take him up on their papers (even as corresponding author!) so he can stay employed as faculty member. The helping hands are extended, according to PubMed, by various UT Southwestern internal medicine professors and Elmquist’s subordinates, Jeffrey Zigman, Chen Liu, or Jonathan Graf (who left UTSW, maybe he didn’t deliver enough papers for Berglund to be on).
We remain on the topic of protective networks and retraction avoidance. The Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht is a very important biomedical research centre in the Netherlands. They recently had to deal with a fraud scandal involving their former director (and former Dutch government minister) Ronald Plasterk, an affair uncovered by Elisabeth Bik (who is also Dutch). I wrote about Plasterk’s case here:
Now a recent Bik post on PubPeer drew attention to problems with a paper by Hans Clevers, who is probably the most influential scientist of the Hubrecht Institute.
Tokameh Mahmoudi , Sylvia F. Boj , Pantelis Hatzis , Vivian S. W. Li , Nadia Taouatas , Robert G. J. Vries , Hans Teunissen , Harry Begthel , Jeroen Korving , Shabaz Mohammed , Albert J. R. Heck , Hans Clevers The leukemia-associated Mllt10/Af10-Dot1l are Tcf4/β-catenin coactivators essential for intestinal homeostasis PLoS Biology (2010) doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000539
The data in Figure 6A was previously used in this paper:
Tokameh Mahmoudi , Vivian S W Li , Ser Sue Ng , Nadia Taouatas , Robert G J Vries , Shabaz Mohammed , Albert J Heck , Hans Clevers The kinase TNIK is an essential activator of Wnt target genes The EMBO Journal (2009) doi: 10.1038/emboj.2009.285
It was even worse, but the authors still negotiated a correction:
The 2017 Correction notice described the problem as such:
“Due to the publication of copyrighted material, this article has been republished in order to remove dual published content from the published record. Please see below for full details.
The authors would like to make the following corrections to four of the published figures–Figs 1, 3, 5 and 6. The editors have verified all relevant original data and also confirm that the manuscript’s original conclusions are not affected.”
Just now, in October 2022, Bik found yet another problem, “involving a mirroring“. Apparently, it was already corrected:
I wrote to the authors. Clevers stated:
The first author Tokameh Mahmoudi is now associate professor at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. She explained everything to me:
“Many of the experiments for the EMBO J and PLoS Biology papers were performed in the same time period (some were from the same TCF4 or beta catenin IPs followed by different westerns, or reverse IPs which were performed to confirm the interactions shown). This time period also coincided with my pregnancy and maternity leave and reliance on different colleagues to perform or finish some of the experiments for me. Please consider this an explanation and not an excuse for the obvious mess in putting the figures together from scanning to labelling to assembly, for which I take full responsibility.
Having received all of the scans and based on the original (correct) data, the PLoS Biology editorial team made the decision to correct and republish rather than retract the manuscript. We then put together a new version where all panels contained the original data.“
Another PLOS Biology paper, one with Mahmoudi as last author, from her postdoc period at UC San Francisco with Eric Verdin (head of Buck Institute for Research on Aging) Melanie Ott (head of Gladstone Institute of Virology), was also fixed with a mega-correction in 2015:
Haleh Rafati , Maribel Parra , Shweta Hakre , Yuri Moshkin , Eric Verdin, Tokameh Mahmoudi Repressive LTR nucleosome positioning by the BAF complex is required for HIV latency PLoS Biology (2011) doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001206
“Due to the publication of copyrighted material, this article has been republished in order to remove this content from Fig 4, and from the published record. Please see below for full details.
Mahmoudi, a victim of incompetent colleagues who besmirched her paper during pregnancy and maternity leave, has yet another paper on PubPeer:
Tokameh Mahmoudi , Maribel Parra , Robert G.J. Vries , Steven E. Kauder , C. Peter Verrijzer , Melanie Ott , Eric Verdin The SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex is a cofactor for Tat transactivation of the HIV promoter Journal of Biological Chemistry (2006) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m603336200
Now, a scientist with such a record of problematic corrections would have immense difficulties becoming an ERC-funded associate professor in the Netherlands. Unless maybe someone of an immense power in The Netherlands and EU (say, Clevers?) interfered on her behalf. Think of all those other honest researchers whose applications were rejected to favour Mahmoudi.
Mahmoudi then told me:
“I am in principle not opposed to the idea of retraction. The decision regarding this manuscript was made by the journal, after considering the data and the conclusions.
The ultimate indication of the veracity of our data and conclusions is its independent validation in different models and using different approaches […]
Although the aftermath of the pubpeer call-out and ensuing investigations were a very distressing time for me personally, I do think that the platform and related journalism has served an important purpose in bringing to light the necessity for transparency, open science, and correction of the literature, moving things in the right direction, as seen with promotion of pre-publication open servers, which we now routinely use and the new journal requirements for raw data, etc. “
Conclusions are not affected.
Enough of fake science, let’s have plain silly science. As everyone who ever watched an action film knows, world’s biggest problems are best fixed with the genius superpower of one man.
Enter Stephen Salter, the octogenarian emeritus professor of engineering at the University of Edinburgh and the hero of this Daily Beast story:
““Sea surface temperatures are what drives hurricanes, and I want to put them back to where they used to be or perhaps to even more favorable ones that experts advise,” Stephen Salter, a marine engineer at the University of Edinburgh, told The Daily Beast. Salter is one of the world’s foremost marine engineers and one of the loudest proponents of geoengineering. He was one of the first researchers to propose marine cloud brightening as a tactic to cool global temperatures.
Over the course of his career, he’s invented numerous concepts and devices in order to solve some of the most pressing climate issues of our time. Perhaps his most famous is a machine known as “Salter’s duck.” The device was created during the 1970s energy crisis, and was supposedly capable of converting ocean waves into usable electricity. But after oil prices bounced back in the 1980s, his funding was cut and the device never saw large-scale use.”
“Salter’s duck” sank, just like “Salter’s sink”, patented together with Bill Gates in 2017 after Hurricane Katrina and meant to “weaken or even stop tropical storms and hurricanes“:
Salter never considers the possibility that his inventions failed because they were impracticable (or never worked even), and not because of a humanity’s failure to recognise his genius. Luckily Salter is not the only male genius with a simple high-tech solution to global warming.
“Norway-based marine engineering startup OceanTherm hopes to employ an even more eyebrow-raising solution to cool sea temperatures: bubble curtains.
This would be a system of perforated pipes lowered deep into the ocean. Air would then be pumped through the pipes, creating bubbles. As the bubbles make their way to the surface, they would draw the cold water up. […]
“Our concept focuses on reducing the energy available for the hurricane to maintain or grow in intensity,” Olav Hollingstaeter, the founder and CEO of OceanTherm, told The Daily Beast.”
Despite huge money pumped into geoengineering from billionaire enthusiasts like Bill Gates and the fossil fuel industry worried about their business, the male geniuses still complain:
For more geoengineering male geniuses, read here:
My review of Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book about how scientists seek to save the planet from the damage humanity caused.
News in Tweets
- Peter Daszak and his EcoHealth Alliance are suspected of having been involved into the quite likely accidental lab release of SARS-CoV2 virus which then caused the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Because the pandemic was such great success, the NIH asks Daszak’s team for a sequel. “The grant was awarded September 21 to EcoHealth Alliance, helmed by Peter Daszak, and is titled “Analyzing the potential for future bat coronavirus emergence in Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.” The new grant comes despite an open congressional investigation into the organization, which has two other ongoing NIH grants and a third in negotiation.” (The Intercept)
A lab leak theory of the COVID-19 origins has enough circumstantial evidence and historical basis to support the urgent need for an independent and unbiased investigation. But until recently, scientists dismissed lab leak as a conspiracy theory. In public at least.
Alina Chan’s book with Matt Ridley on the Origins of COVID-19 is finally out. It is a very informative read!
- First retraction for Temple University’s cheating neuroscientist Domenico Pratico. Should be followed by many more. Giannopoulos et al Molecular Psychiatry 2014
Next time you wonder why mouse research does not translate to humans, think of Domenico Pratico work on Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.
- Bullying at UCL. Again.
- Tiger BB8: “today, a graduate student ended his life in Jilin University out of extreme despair. In the note left behind, he stated that his incapable and cheating advisor was responsible for his complete loss of hope.“
- Alexander Samuel is being sued by Didier Raoult, as a local newspaper reports: “Didier Raoult attacks him for having translated and relayed on his blog remarks by the Ukrainian science journalist, Leonid Schneider (also the subject of a complaint), specializing in issues of integrity and ethics in science. […] According to the lawyer of the former director of the IHU of Marseille, Brice Grazziani, four people have been the subject of complaints for defamation. “We could file a hundred complaints a day, especially at the height of the pandemic, when Mr. Raoult was attacked from all sides, he defends. We made the choice to focus on the most serious.“Also Boris Barbour of PubPeer is being sued. Grazzini is paid to defend Raoult’s personal honour by IHU (i.e., public money), which is outrageous even by French standards.
A critical review of a recent book about chloroquine guru Didier Raoult and the many French politicians who let him operate above the law.
- New fraud in an already very fraudulent paper (Stein et al Science 2011) by Stanford’s president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne. Nobody cares.
- Thomas DeCoursey of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago writes in a correspondence in Nature: “I once served as an external expert in a misconduct case for a university. An individual, under pressure to produce particular results to support a predetermined outcome, simply fabricated data. The independent panel concluded that gross misconduct had occurred and strongly advised the university to retract the fraudulent papers. Several years later, however, none of the bogus papers has been retracted. They are still collecting hundreds of citations, and related work continues to attract grants.“
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