Schneider Shorts

Schneider Shorts 4.11.2022 – Don’t call me a Gentleman

Schneider Shorts 4.11.2022 - with a russian spy in Norway, an antisemite in Marseille, an antivax editor retired, various grumpy, disappointed and contrarian scientists, conflicts of interests which count and which don't, a collection of whole, partial and withdrawn retractions, and a papermill sleuth celebrating himself.

Schneider Shorts of 4 November 2022 – with a russian spy in Norway, an antisemite in Marseille, an antivax editor retired, various grumpy, disappointed and contrarian scientists, conflicts of interests which count and which don’t, a collection of whole, partial and withdrawn retractions, and a papermill sleuth celebrating himself.


Table of Discontent

Science Elites

Scholarly Publishing

Retraction Watchdogging

News in Tweets


Science Elites

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

You may have heard about recent russian espionage scandals in Norway. There were several.

Here is one such case, reported by the russian emigree website The Insider on 28 October 2022 (translated):

“Today, a court in Norway charged an employee of the Arctic University of Tromsø with espionage and released his full name. The spy turned out to be Mikhail V Mikushin, who was born on August 19, 1978. He posed as Brazilian citizen José Assis Giammaria, born in 1984, and in recent years has worked successfully at the Norwegian University of Tromsø. The Insider and Bellingcat were able to confirm Mikushin’s affiliation with the GRU, and at the same time studied his biography, concluding that the “professor” did everything to fail.”

The Insider and Bellingcat were able to obtain a photo from Mikushin’s driver’s license, which made it possible to confirm that Mikushin and Professor Giammaria are the same person:” Image: The Insider

Mikhail Mikushin was trained as spy at the Military Diplomatic Academy (VDA) by the russian military’s secret service GRU. His foreign language speciality was Portuguese. And then he was smuggled into NATO states as scientist to work on… defence programs against russia:

“For some time, Mikushin was engaged in “research” work in Canada and in 2019 even published an article justifying the need for new military bases in the Arctic. In 2021, Mikushin arrived in Norway for a research program at the University of Tromsø, which included, among other things, the study of “hybrid threats”. But his turbulent activity was not limited to Norway. For example, just a month ago he took part in a training in Vilnius organized with the support of the EU and dedicated to the “hybrid war”.

One of the topics of the training was, for example, “how to respond in the event of sabotage at the Nord Stream gas pipeline” – and indeed, a very relevant topic for the Kremlin:”

Now deleted institutional profile

On 25 October 2022, the scholar of the Arctic University’s “Centre for Peace Studies”, Mikushin alias “Jose Assis Giammaria” was arrested by the Norway police. He used to be member of two large research groups: The Grey Zone and War an Peace Dynamics. There may be other hidden russian agents remaining in these two groups, although it looks like Mariia Kobzeva is not even hiding. Her university profile proudly lists her policy papers as Saint-Petersburg State University faculty member, on the topic of russian strategic interests vis-a-vis China, published in the russian (!) journals National Interests: Priorities and Security and Bulletin of the Diplomatic Mission of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Now this is a genius double-bluff cover, much better than that of Mikushin.


Murdoch takes no action

You may recall a weird case of blatant omission of conflicts of interests by the scientists behind the diet consulting company Melico.
In brief, the Imperial College professors Elaine Holmes and Gary Frost decided not to declare the existence of their business in several research papers which did nothing else but advertise for Melico’s product. The Imperial College London declared to me that yes, they did right and it is nobody’s business.

Imperial Piss-Take

“Having reviewed the Conflict of Interest disclosures made by Professor Frost, Professor Holmes and Dr Garcia-Perez, and having also reviewed additional information concerning their company, Melico, […] the College is satisfied that they have no undisclosed or unmanageable conflicts of interests” – Arts Bachelor (Honours)

So I contacted the Murdoch University in Australia, where Holmes and Frost hold other professorships because Holmes’ boyfriend, co-author and Melico business partner Jeremy Nicholson happens to be Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Health Sciences.

Naturally, Murdoch University simply refused to reply to my notification of suspected research misconduct so they don’t have to bother rejecting it.

But Australia has local state authorities on research integrity, so I contacted the “Minor Misconduct” department of the Government of Western Australia. They replied, informed me that a link to my article is not admissible as evidence, refused to tell me if omission of financial COI is subject to misconduct investigation at all, and later on, they sent me this “private and confidential” letter:

“The Commission has assessed the information you provided and has not formed a reasonable suspicion that minor misconduct has occurred. As such, the Commission has decided to take no action in accordance with section 45M(e) of the CCM Act.”

Of course. In Oz, no form of research fraud is illegal. Go on, make your jokes about Australia’s colonisation history. Now I wonder if Murdoch people will sue me as they did with the whistleblower, Gerd Schroeder-Turk, who uncovered a student admission scam:

” [Murdoch University is] suing him for damages over his public commentary during the ABC program. The university said he cost the university revenue after a drop in international student enrolments, according to the ABC…
The university has also continued to “press for particulars of the identity of the journalists to whom the statements … were made, and the dates on which those statements were made”, according to a procedural judgment in August.”


Antivax editor removed

Elsevier has removed the antivaxxer-buddy Jose Domingo as Editor-in-Chief of Food and Chemical Toxicology over this scandal:

Elsevier pandemic profiteering, again

“a scientific journal is not a social network, not even a newspaper. People reading papers in FCT are expected to be scientists with a good basis to distinguish between trash and science.” EiC Jose Luis Domingo on new paper by Peter McCullough

Now Jennifer Margulis, friend of the antivaxxer Stephanie Seneff (one of the authors of the antivax paper Domingo published and defended), wrote an article for the far-right Epoch Times decrying Domingo’s persecution. According to Margulis:

“This research was co-authored by a team of preeminent scientists, including Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. Peter McCullough, an internationally known cardiologist who has published over a hundred peer-reviewed articles during his 40-year career; and Dr. Anthony Kyriakopoulos, a Greek clinical microbiologist, medical doctor, and researcher who has a Ph.D. in medical and molecular microbiology”

In reality, four dangerous scientifically illiterate quacks whose only “qualifications” are their antivax conspiracy theories and general far-right worldview. Here is about one of them, Peter McCullough:

Margulis also shared Domingo’s letter on her blog, where she also explained that the 71-year-old “found himself being attacked, insulted, and vilified by a faction of pro-vaccine fanatics“:

“Dear Drs Stephanie Seneff, Greg Nigh, Anthony Kyrikapoulos, and Peter McCullough:

A few months ago, your paper entitled “Innate immune suppression by SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccinations: The role of G-quadruplexes, exosomes, and MicroRNAs” was accepted for publication. It was published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, for which I was then Editor-in-Chief.

Previously, I had published an editorial calling for papers on the potential adverse effects (with special emphasis in toxicological effects) on the new vaccines for COVID-19.

As I assumed that this was (and it still is) a very sensitive social and scientific topic, I was very careful with the review process of your submission, using 5 reviewers (an unusual number) to make the final decision (Accept).

As a scientist that I am first and foremost, I do not regret having published your Review, but unfortunately since then it has been a headache for me. My name has been object of the harshest criticism including strong language on the Internet.

I have also received unpleasant e-mails of activists pro-vaccination requesting the immediate retraction of your paper, and asking for my resignation as Editor-in-Chief.

I have been ever cataloged as a murderer of potential victims of COVID-19 by having published your paper.

Since I am an experienced person, I invited some of those critics to submit a Letter to the Editor questioning your Review.

However, the submitted Letter was so scientifically poor that, after two rounds of revision, it was rejected.

Since then, the criticisms to my person increased. Even in Wikipedia my page and that of the Journal were negatively modified by the activists pro-vaccination.

This has had a clear repercussion on my role as Editor-in-Chief of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

My current agreement should finish in December 31, 2023, but I requested to extend it one more year in order to reach some pending objectives. The response was NO. The reason: because my time was over after 8 years as EIC of the Journal.

Taking into account that the limit established is 10 years, I am sure which are the real causes to show me the door of exit in the Journal.

In the past, I had also problems in the Journal related with Monsanto, and now, it seems that the BigPharma companies have also done their task. This paper, “Scientific Integrity Requires Publishing Rebuttals and Retracting Problematic Papers,” published on October 26, has been my end.

The “kind suggestions” of the Publisher and her Boss on my Editorial, and particularly the rejected Letter related with your paper, have accelerated my exit of the Journal.

I have resigned. Now, the new EiC will have as priority to “regulate” what can and what cannot be published in Food Chem Toxicol.

*I have an important request to you. Please inform to your colleagues and your social networks and on the Internet what has happened to me for maintaining my scientific independence and not giving in to the claims of the Heads of the journal “Food and Chemical toxicology” who “kindly suggested” publishing the LTE that I rejected [based on the opinions of independent peer-reviewers and my own assessment that it was not scientifically sound.] That is the policy of that Journal. Needless to say more. With the difussion of this, you may help to know the handling and conniving between certain scientific journals and corporate interests.*

Thanks in advance.

Sincerely,
Dr. Jose L. Domingo
Distinguished Professor (Emeritus) of Toxicology and Environmental Health
Universitat Rovira i Virgili, School of Medicine
Sant Llorens 21, 43201 Reus, SPAIN”

Good riddance, Jose. Enjoy your retirement. Note that the Seneff et al 2022 paper is so far not in danger of being retracted because Elsevier is mindful of its business model.

This is the criticism which Domingo and bunch of other antivaxxers decided was scientifically not good enough for his journal (as opposed to Seneff’s and McCullough’s antivax drivel):

Jérôme Barrière , Fabrice Frank , Lonni Besançon , Alexander Samuel , Véronique Saada , Eric Billy , Abraham Al-Ahmad , Barbara Seitz-Polski , Jacques Robert Scientific Integrity Requires Publishing Rebuttals and Retracting Problematic Papers Stem Cell Reviews and Reports (2022) doi: 10.1007/s12015-022-10465-2 

Margulis says the authors are “establishment industry-sponsored scientists” because voices in her head probably tell her that the ubiquitous Jewish Lizard Capital must be behind all this.

In Epoch Times, we are threatened with more upcoming Seneff-McCullough antivaxxery:

“”I am honored to be collaborating with an expert team of researchers who are passionate about the goal of unraveling the toxic effects of the SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines,” Seneff, with whom Jennifer has published two Epoch Times articles, told us via email. “This same team has written another paper that has been accepted for publication and will appear shortly in a peer-reviewed journal, and we are working on several more papers that are either under review or soon to be
submitted.”

They are being silenced, you see. Hence even more peer-reviewed papers.


Independent experiments

We remain on the topic of harassed scientists. Meet Valerie M. Weaver, UC San Francisco professor, director of the Center for Bioengineering and Tissue Regeneration and of the Bay Area Center for Physical Sciences and Oncology.

Julie C. Friedland , Johnathon N. Lakins , Marcelo G. Kazanietz , Jonathan Chernoff , David Boettiger, Valerie M. Weaver alpha6beta4 integrin activates Rac-dependent p21-activated kinase 1 to drive NF-kappaB-dependent resistance to apoptosis in 3D mammary acini Journal of Cell Science (2007) doi: 10.1242/jcs.03484 

“Elisabeth M Bik: “Figures 2b and 4b:
Horizontal lines of the same color highlight lanes that look very similar between these two figures.
Figures 6C and S3A, a finding by ImageTwin.
The PID/Control panel in Figure 6C appears to overlap with the NFkB p65/Control panel in Figure S3A
.”

Weaver however swiftly debunked the allegation with the argument of authority:

These are from completely independent experiments My group would never reuse images or blots

The images are of course identical.

L Damiano , K M Stewart , N Cohet , J K Mouw , J N Lakins , J Debnath , D Reisman , J A Nickerson , A N Imbalzano, V M Weaver Oncogenic targeting of BRM drives malignancy through C/EBPβ-dependent induction of α5 integrin Oncogene (2014) doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.220

Elisabeth M Bik: “Concern about Figures 2, 5, 6, and 7. Boxes of the same color highlight panels that look quite similar. The labels suggests that some of those represent different experiments.”

Weaver’s expert verdict on PubPeer:

Independent experiments NOT duplicated images

Here, it was either totally independent experiments, or research fraud:

Laralynne Przybyla , Johnathon N. Lakins , Valerie M. Weaver Tissue Mechanics Orchestrate Wnt-Dependent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Differentiation Cell stem cell (2016) doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2016.06.018 

More independent experiments by Weaver, all found by Bik:

 

Karen D Cowden Dahl , Sarah E Robertson , Valerie M Weaver , M Celeste Simon Hypoxia-inducible factor regulates alphavbeta3 integrin cell surface expression Molecular Biology of the Cell (2005) doi: 10.1091/mbc.e04-12-1082
Jose I. Lopez , Inkyung Kang , Weon-Kyoo You, Donald M. McDonald, Valerie M. Weaver In situforce mapping of mammary gland transformation Integrative biology (2011) doi: 10.1039/c1ib00043h 
Fernando Salvador , Alberto Martin, Celia López-Menéndez , Gema Moreno-Bueno , Vanesa Santos , Alberto Vázquez-Naharro , Patricia G. Santamaria , Saleta Morales , Pierre R. Dubus , Laura Muinelo-Romay , Rafael López-López , Jason C. Tung , Valerie M. Weaver, Francisco Portillo , Amparo Can Lysyl Oxidase–like Protein LOXL2 Promotes Lung Metastasis of Breast Cancer Cancer research (2017) doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.can-16-3152
Tze-Sian Chan , Chung-Chi Hsu , Vincent C. Pai , Wen-Ying Liao , Shenq-Shyang Huang , Kok-Tong Tan , Chia-Jui Yen , Shu-Ching Hsu , Wei-Yu Chen , Yan-Shen Shan , Chi-Rong Li , Michael T. Lee , Kuan-Ying Jiang , Jui-Mei Chu , Gi-Shih Lien , Valerie M. Weaver, Kelvin K. Tsai Metronomic chemotherapy prevents therapy-induced stromal activation and induction of tumor-initiating cells The Journal of Experimental Medicine (2016) – doi: 10.1084/jem.20151665

Totally independent stuff, you see.

Yekaterina A. Miroshnikova , Janna K. Mouw , J. Matthew Barnes , Michael W. Pickup , Johnathan N. Lakins , Youngmi Kim , Khadjia Lobo , Anders I. Persson , Gerald F. Reis , Tracy R. McKnight , Eric C. Holland, Joanna J. Phillips , Valerie M. Weaver Tissue mechanics promote IDH1-dependent HIF1α–tenascin C feedback to regulate glioblastoma aggression Nature Cell Biology (2016) doi: 10.1038/ncb3429

There is more on PubPeer.

Weaver did not reply to other Pubpeer threads or to my email.

“Stop making a fool out of me
Why don’t you come on over Valerie?
Valerie? Valerie? Valerie?”


Scholarly Publishing

Get Shorty

Every 5 years, the editorial board of the society-run Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) is replaced when the leadership duty is assigned to a different US university. The previous turn was with the Johns Hopkins University which is why the journal was run by the fraud-peddling Nobel Prize winner Gregg Semenza and by Arturo Casadevall, a self-appointed champion of research integrity who is unable to acknowledge the massive fraud in his own papers.

The Redemption of Arturo Casadevall

Arturo Casadevall is probably the most recognized expert for research integrity, author of many peer reviewed papers on that topic. But now his own publications on microbiology and immunity are under scrutiny.

So now the journal is run by the Northwestern University, and the new chief editor is the Northeastern professor of genetics and cardiology Elizabeth McNally. Who on 1 November 2022 issued this editorial:

Elizabeth M. McNally Conflicting interests: when whistleblowers profit from allegations of scientific misconduct Journal of Clinical Investigation (2022) doi: 10.1172/JCI166176

It referenced the case of Cassava Sciences, a fraudulent yet billion dollar-heavy US biotech peddling a phony Alzheimer’s drug. Cassava’s preclinical and clinical fraud was exposed by scientists who bought short stock, so they could earn money when Cassava value fell. These short-sellers were joined by other sleuths like Elisabeth Bik and Matthew Schrag who however never had any conflicts of interests whatsoever except generally disliking fake science.

But McNally is very concerned. In a world where every US biomedical professor earns an extra salary (or two, three, four or even ten extra salaries) shilling consulting for the pharma industry while diligently hiding this income from the public, she is very worried about the conflicts of interests of… the whistleblowers. The JCI chief editor writes:

“What is a journal to do? The JCI will always take seriously any allegations of misconduct or misrepresentation, but we will take the time needed to conduct a proper and thorough investigation. Going forward, whistleblowers, just like authors, editors, and referees, will be asked to inform us of recent, ongoing, and potential conflicts of interest. Financial conflicts of interest will be considered and weighed in any follow-up investigative actions and especially in any communication to the whistleblowers. We may independently seek to verify whistleblowers’ potential conflicts. We will limit what information we share with whistleblowers, since advanced notice of news reports positions short sellers to take advantage of shifts in stock prices. There is a time sensitivity to short selling, so we feel the best approach for any journal is to be deliberate and cautious, and to exert due diligence in investigating any allegations of scientific misconduct or data/image manipulation.

Last, if the Journal uncovers allegations made for the purposes of stock manipulation, with evidence of misinformation, the JCI may elect to express its concern to the US Securities and Exchange Commission or the Department of Justice.”

Basically, this means in practice:

  • All anonymously submitted evidence will be dismissed right away because JCI editors don’t know what short stocks an anonymous sleuth like Clare Francis, Cheshire and others might have
  • All signed submitted evidence (e.g., from yours truly) referencing anonymous PubPeer comments will be dismissed right away because JCI editors don’t know what short stocks these PubPeer commenters might be hiding
  • All other signed submitted evidence (i.e., from institutional whistleblowers) will be dismissed because all notifying co-workers, lab members, collaborators etc will have some kind of a conflict of interest, like a personal “grudge” or being deprived of income by the accused fraudster

Basically, McNally announced to reject ALL notifications of data forgery. I confronted McNally with this supposition, but she did not reply. She probably thinks I must own short stock of something.

Oh, and the new editorial reiterates:

“The JCI has been at the forefront in trying to detect image manipulation in its manuscripts. For more than a decade, the JCI has required full uncut gel and blot images as part of the submission process. Beginning in 2021, the JCI was among the first to use an artificial intelligence–driven software package to analyze all images prior to accepting a paper”

This software is Proofig, celebrated by McNally before in an earlier editorial, and is owned by the Israeli Dror Koldkin-Gal, husband of the research cheater Ilana Kolodkin-Gal of Weizmann Institute. Dror kind of openly advertises that his business model is to help science cheaters to avoid getting in trouble like his wife did.


Frontiers in Disappointment

A blog post by three European researchers (Serge Horbach, Michael Ochsner and Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner) who knew what a trash publisher Frontiers is, but decided to make their own experiences anyway.

“Our worries began with the organisation of the peer review process itself. Frontiers forces users into a relatively rigid workflow that foresees contacting a large number of potential reviewers for submissions. Reviewers are selected by an internal artificial intelligence algorithm on the basis of keywords automatically attributed by the algorithm based on the content of the submitted manuscript and matched with a database of potential reviewers, a technique somewhat similar to the one used for reviewer databases of other big publishers. While the importance of the keywords for the match can be manually adjusted, the fit between submissions and the actually required domain expertise to review them is often less than perfect. This would not be a problem were the process of contacting reviewers fully under the control of the editors. […] As it turns out, the editorial management system is so rigidly set up, that even Frontiers’ own staff does not always have the ability to adjust key settings.”

It is OK to have no clue in the field, all you have to do is to deliver a speedy review:

“Another concern we had is the pacing of the review and publication process. Frontiers aims to avoid unnecessary delays in the reviewing of submissions, a goal we wholeheartedly subscribe to. Yet the intended workflow is such that reviewers have only seven days to complete their reports as a default…”

Frontiers: a danger for public health?

Frontiers is a somewhat unconventional open access publisher, which likes to have it both ways: playing scientific elite while accepting almost anything from paying customers. My regular contributor Smut Clyde will tell you below how some anti-vaccine scare-mongers managed to sneak in some rather dangerous works thanks to Frontiers’ unofficial “we don’t judge, we just…

This is nice:

“A third element of the rigidly organised review process we found to be a mixed blessing concerns the level of editorial control that editors maintain. In fact, editors are encouraged to accept manuscripts as soon as they receive two recommendations for publication by reviewers (regardless of how many other reviewers recommend rejection). This holds for all review rounds. Especially in combination with the factors mentioned above, i.e. potentially unqualified reviewers being invited and high requirements on review speed, this potentially creates additional challenges to the quality of the editorial process.”

Hahahaha, I warned you all 7 years ago.

Is Frontiers a potential predatory publisher?

The Lausanne-based publishing house Frontiers, founded by the neuroscientists Henry and Kamila Markram, has been added to the Beall’s List of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers. Was this decision justified? I wish to share here some of my recent investigations.

Wait, it gets much better!

“As referred to before, a learning experience of a questionable sort was our attempt to publish an editorial that reflected on these issues. We naturally intended to include our editorial in the very special issue we edited. However, upon submission of our draft we received a message informing us that our text was not in accordance with the guidelines of Frontiers. They insisted that the text could not be published unless we took out the two paragraphs of rather critical reflections on Frontiers’ editorial process. […]

When the issue could not be resolved through correspondence, we ultimately scheduled a zoom call with Frontiers’ Chief Executive Editor (CEE).”

Now this CEE, Frederick Fenter, is a nasty troll. Even I was occasionally shocked about the lows of his character. Not just towards me, the guy got Jeffrey Beall sacked.

Beall-listed Frontiers empire strikes back

The Swiss publishing business Frontiers was placed by the US librarian Jeffrey Beall on his well-known and hotly disputed list as “potential, possible or probable predatory publisher”. Frontiers however was not prepared to take this lying down. The publisher’s Executive Editor Frederick Fenter first tried it nicely. Shortly before Christmas 2015, he flew to visit Beall at…

How did our friends’ negotiations with Fenter work out?

“Subsequently, we were promised that the CEE would come up with a suggested solution to the situation in the week following our call. After four months and six reminders, we have still not heard back from Frontiers. That is why we decided to publish our editorial as a preprint (in line with Frontiers’ own preprint policies) and publish this blog post to inform the scientific community about our process.”

This is their preprint, which failed to make into their Frontiers collectionChange and Innovation in Manuscript Peer Review: The Effects on the Research Process“.

Editor sacked over rejection rate: “not inline with Frontiers core principles”

Frontiers describes itself as “a community-rooted, open-access academic publisher”, and boasts a ~71,000 head strong “virtual editorial office”. This guest post by Regina-Michaela Wittich, a former senior editor of a Frontiers journal, narrates how she was sacked by Frontiers because she rejected too many papers for being of insufficient scientific quality, instead of sending them…

It’s like animal rights activists joining to work in slaughterhouse for free so they can eventually submit a petition. Which gets rejected, go back to work or get out.


NEJM correction

You might recall from earlier Friday Shorts the Swedish affair of the surgeon and business man Rickard Branemark featuring a failed bionic arm prothesis and the cover-up, originally reported by Forkning & Framsteg. Now a reader informs me that the Swedish magazine brought an update:

“A group of researchers in Gothenburg described four amputee patients who were allowed to test a thought-controlled robotic arm with built-in sensation. Their report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in April 2020. The researchers wrote: “No serious adverse events, infections, bleeding or discontinuation of use of the prosthesis occurred as a result of adverse events caused by the implants.” That wording is now gone , as a result of a review in Forskning & Framsteg in September this year.

Now the readers of the New England Journal of Medicine will also the truth know . Mattias Hallberg, called patient 4 in the study, suffered blood poisoning. Christmas weekend 2018, he was hospitalized and subsequently received treatment with strong antibiotics for two months. After a new infection the following year, he received a three-month course of antibiotics. In addition, his implanted electrodes that would control the prosthesis were removed. All of this appears in the corrected NEJM article . […]

But the study’s lead author, Max Ortiz Catalan, still believes that he did the right thing when he did not tell about Mattias Hallberg’s complications.”

The NEJM correction was published on 1 November 2022. Two universities, Chalmers and Gothenburg, reported Branemark for research misconduct:

“At the same time, a review of the NEJM article is underway at the Board for Investigation of Misconduct in Research (Npof). […] it may take until March next year before the committee makes a decision on whether the researchers have violated good research practice.

Among those examined is the doctor Rickard Brånemark, co-founder of the company Integrum, which develops the robotic arm in question. The company is valued at over half a billion kroner and the single largest owner is Rickard Brånemark ( 33.6 percent of the capital value ).”


Retraction Watchdogging

DON’T CALL ME A GENTLEMAN

Retraction Watch recently announced the mass retractions at an Elsevier journal:

“Elsevier is retracting 500 papers from a journal dedicated to conference proceedings because “the peer-review process was confirmed to fall beneath the high standards expected,” Retraction Watch has learned.

As we reported a month ago, “data thug” James Heathers “found at least 1,500 off-topic papers, many with abstracts containing ‘tortured phrases’ that may have been written by translation or paraphrasing software, and a few with titles that had been previously advertised with author positions for sale online.” 

Shortly thereafter, Elsevier told us they were beginning an investigation of the title, Materials Today: Proceedings. Yesterday, they said the retractions were beginning.”

Everyone stood in awe. James Heathers, the much-celebrated inventor of “Just says IN MICE” Twitter account, uncovered a huge fraud case and had Elsevier retract all these 500 fake papers in just one month. Wow.

There is just a tiny, microscopic snag to this version.

In July 2021, Elsevier’s Managing Director for Journals, Philippe Terheggen, wrote to Alexander Magazinov, Guillaume Cabanac and Cyril Labbé to congratulate them on their recent preprint about “tortured phrases” and to offer a collaboration.

Magazinov replied right away:

“…could you please have a look at the matters below?

1) Regular papers at Microprocessors and Microsystems.

We have certain evidence that the problem of generated papers is not exclusively related to Special Issues. We found regular papers with typical problematic characteristics, two of them (doi: 10.1016/j.micpro.2020.103769,  doi: 10.1016/j.micpro.2020.103761) are analyzed as cases in our preprint. The analysis of editorial assessment timelines suggests that their number may be around 50 (we found 49 regular papers accepted in less than 30 days in vol. 80-83).

2) The editorial processes in another Elsevier journal, “Materials Today: Proceedings”.

We observed an unusual concentration of tortured phrases in that journal too. One particular example is posted on PubPeer –https://pubpeer.com/publications/85F33C12A413955F01DE3B1657BAD5 – and a Dimensions search https://app.dimensions.ai/discover/publication?search_mode=content&search_text=%22surface%20unpleasantness%22&search_type=kws&search_field=full_search&_ga=2.152511935.786216996.1626931378-933295792.1594044338&or_facet_source_title=jour.1052494 reveals 37 publications in this journal already with a single tortured phrase (“surface unpleasantness” instead of “surface roughness”).”

In August 2021, Elsevier’s Director Journal Services, Catriona Fennel replied to Magazinov to confirm a plagiarism problem with the papers in Microprocessors and Microsystems special issues. For Materials Today: Proceedings, she said that Elsevier already was running an active investigation of several conference proceedings which they suspected may have never taken place (even virtually) and that the peer review process was faked.

To top it off, Smut Clyde summarised the findings of Magazinov, Cabanac and Labbe in this article from May 2022:

A rule-based structure of three pigs

Smut Clyde came to check how the Elsevier journal Microprocessors & Microsystems so far handled its “problems caused by dishonest guest editors and reviewers”.

Basically, yes Heathers did a fine job finding even more fake papers in Materials Today: Proceedings, but it was definitely not him who initiated that rapid Elsevier investigation and caused these hundreds of retractions all by himself. Unless you prefer an explanation featuring time travel devices, like flux capacitor or warp speed.

On Twitter, Heathers celebrated his incredible achievement and thanked Retraction Watch:

“Things I like about this: * that was fast – and the process CAN be fast in cases where everything is this silly and egregious. Much different to the usual pulling teeth. * retractions and not dumb expressions of concern or any other effete silliness. […]

Things I don’t like about this: * absolutely no attempt to contact me whatsoever. Didn’t get an email, didn’t get a postcard, didn’t get a hello in the lane outside, or asked for advice, or a free hat, or a brief DM to say ‘THANK YOU FOR DOING OUR JOB FOR US’.

(At the risk of being boring, this is why this work doesn’t get done. Not even the thinnest possible reputational award is conferred. I don’t give even a fraction of a shit, of course, but many others need to value their time in Demonstrable Things They Did. No rep, no work.) […]

* no more information is available, and certainly none is publicised. No-one would know anything if the @RetractionWatch crew hadn’t been looking out. I wouldn’t have known myself.

In closing, I have derived no pleasure whatsoever from this sorry ongoing episode, and all it has done is strengthen my resolve to be even more difficult and fractious in future. DON’T CALL ME A GENTLEMAN”

We won’t call you a gentleman indeed. Magazinov and I tried to suggest to Heathers to at least share the credit, to no avail. He refused all communication with me, and towards Magazinov he still seemed to insist the credit was all his, expecting that Elsevier will confirm:

I was not aware of the above investigations – I know most of those people personally, but we don’t talk about every single thing. I was looking for something else on a tip when I found the motherload

Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch did seem (towards Magazinov) to mull the idea of an update to credit him and others, maybe cautious not to admit Retraction Watch having went wrong, which already happened once and should never happen again. And in any case, the Retraction Watch website wasn’t working for days.

But eventually, this update appeared on Retraction Watch:

“Update, 0400 UTC, 11/4/22: We have learned that Elsevier had begun investigating papers in Materials Today: Proceedings in 2021. On August 20 of that year, in response to an email from sleuth Alexander Magazinov on behalf of himself and others, Elsevier’s Catriona Fennell wrote:

In confidence, we also have an active investigation of several conferences/proceedings published in Materials Today Proceedings, where we have evidence that the peer review process was faked. We suspect some conferences may have never taken place (even virtually) and we are currently gathering evidence to support that suspicions. We have not started manual checking the content of papers yet on an individual article level. […]


Speedy Retraction

Retraction just 3 weeks after publisher notification, for a fraudulent paper from neurology scholars in China and Pakistan:

Arooj Mohsin Alvi , Fawad Ali Shah , Asmaa Jan Muhammad , Jinxing Feng, Shupeng Li 1,3,4, Oxadiazole Compound A3 Provides Robust Protection Against PTZ-Induced Neuroinflammation and Oxidative Stress by Regulating Nrf2-Pathway Journal of Inflammation Research (2021) doi: 10.2147/jir.s333451

Tulipa fosteriana: “One image in Fig. 5d of this paper ( lower panel in the comparison below) share an area with one image in Fig. 6 of the authors’ another paper, while representing different experimental groups

The publisher Dove Press (part of Taylor & Francis) was informed on 3 October 2022. On 27 October, the paper was retracted and the notifier informed by the publisher’s research integrity manager. This was the retraction notice:

“The Editor and Publisher of Journal of Inflammation Research wish to retract the published article. Concerns were raised regarding the alleged duplication of images within the article with those from another article published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Carveol Attenuates Seizure Severity and Neuroinflammation in Pentylenetetrazole-Kindled Epileptic Rats by Regulating the Nrf2 Signaling Pathway, Alvi et al, 2021 (https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/9966663). Both articles have authors in common. Specifically,

  • Figure 6, panel Cortex, Saline appears to have been duplicated with Figure 5, panel Cortex, Diaz from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 6, panel Cortex, Diaz+PTZ appears to have been duplicated with Figure 5, panel Cortex, Car-20 from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 7C, panel Cortex, Diaz+PTZ appears to have been duplicated with Figure 7 (TNF-alpha), panel Cortex, CA1, ATRA+PTZ from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 7C, panel Cortex, PTZ appears to have been duplicated with Figure 7 (p-NF-κB), panel Cortex, Saline from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 7C, panel Hippocampus, Diaz+PTZ appears to have been duplicated with Figure 7 (p-NF-κB), panel Cortex, CA1, PTZ from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 7D, panel Cortex, A3-30+PTZ appears to have been duplicated with Figure 6, panel Cortex, ATRA+PTZ+Car from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 8D, Cortex, PTZ appears to have been duplicated with Figure 8, panel Cortex, ATRA+PTZ+Car from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 8D, Hippocampus, ATRA+PTZ+A3 appears to have been duplicated with Figure 8, Hippocampus, CA1, PTZ from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 8D, Hippocampus, ATRA+PTZ appears to have been duplicated with Figure 8, Hippocampus, CA1, ATRA+PTZ from Alvi et al, 2021.
  • Figure 8E, Cortex, ATRA+PTZ+A3 appears to have been duplicated with Figure 7 (p-NF-κB), Cortex, ATRA+PTZ from Alvi et al, 2021.

The authors responded to our queries but were unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for the alleged image duplication. The Editor requested for the article to be retracted and the authors agreed with this decision.”

Yet the other paper which used same images, was published by Hindawi (part of Wiley) and it remains untouched, probably forever.

Arooj Mohsin Alvi , Lina Tariq Al Kury , Abdullah Alattar , Ikram Ullah , Asmaa Jan Muhammad , Reem Alshaman , Fawad Ali Shah , Arif Ullah Khan , Jinxing Feng , Shupeng Li Carveol Attenuates Seizure Severity and Neuroinflammation in Pentylenetetrazole-Kindled Epileptic Rats by Regulating the Nrf2 Signaling Pathway Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity (2021) doi: 10.1155/2021/9966663 


Elsevier helps russia

Elsevier discovered a new venue of being evil: helping russian papermill fraudsters avoid public shaming.

A paper was retracted in June 2022:

Tlekshi Yessimgaliyeva , Aigul Ageleuova , Aigul Beisenbayeva , Kulaisha Zhansugurova , Ainur Zhorabekova Forming diagnostic competence of psychology teachers in a university setting Thinking Skills and Creativity (2020) doi: 10.1016/j.tsc.2020.100708

This was the retraction notice published on 22 June 2022, similar to other papermill-related retraction notices in the same journal:

“This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors-in-Chief.

After a thorough investigation, the Editors have concluded that the acceptance of this article was based upon the positive advice of one unreliable reviewer report. The report was submitted from an email account which was provided to the journal as a suggested reviewer during the submission of the article. The reviewer account did not respond to the journal request to confirm the reviewer identity, and the Editors decided to retract the article.

This manipulation of the peer-review process represents a clear violation of the fundamentals of peer review, our publishing policies, and publishing ethics standards. Apologies are offered to the readers of the journal that this deception was not detected during the submission process.”

Now something strange happened, as Smut Clyde noticed:

The Retraction Note has changed without notice into a Withdrawal, and now reads

This article has been withdrawn at the request of the author(s) and/or editor. The Publisher apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.

Let’s see if Elsevier fixes all already published russian retractions this way. The papermill was initially discovered by Anna Abalkina:

Like this one, it urgently needs fixing, towards a brief “withdrawn at the request of the author(s)“!

Shubei Qiao , Olga Tapalova , Liliya Nasyrova , Ilona Tarasova , Daria Kozlovskaya Role of art programs in young children’s social-emotional learning Thinking Skills and Creativity (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.tsc.2021.100858


Reputation remains unaffected

South China Morning Post reports:

“A top Hong Kong microbiologist has retracted seven research papers published between eight to 18 years ago after image errors were discovered, but he insisted the mistakes did not affect research conclusions and had nothing to do with his work on severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) or the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yuen Kwok-yung, 66, a chair professor of infectious diseases at the department of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and who discovered Sars, told the Post on Wednesday he had made a “supervisory oversight”. “

This is how heroically Yuen acted:

““After being alerted about the similarity of the images used, I immediately used a forensic image software to examine the images and I found some of them strikingly similar to the others,” Yuen said. “I believe some of the images had been mistakenly mixed up by my research team colleagues so I immediately called for the retraction of the research papers.

“The error in each paper might have been accidentally and unintentionally introduced by one of the co-authors 8 to 18 years ago,” he said.”

Here are the retracted papers, in each case the publisher American Society for Micobiology (ASM) credits Yuen as the honest self-investigator.

Lau et al 2010, retraction here
Woo et al 2004, retraction here
Woo et al 2014, retraction here
Chu et al 2004, retraction not published yet
Siu et al 2014, retraction here. Coauthor Dong-Yan Jin commented in August 2022: “I agree that they look similar. However, apparently they might not be identical.

In reality, Elisabeth Bik exposed his fraud years ago, and when she tried to report it, it fell on deaf ears. Bik tweeted:

Several years ago, ASM @ASMicrobiology told me and @RetractionWatch that they would not investigate papers older than six years. But, it seems they now are. This is a good change for the readers of these papers. […]

Two of these papers were reported to ASM in December 2014, almost 8 years ago. Of note, ASM did not send me an update about these retractions. That is sad, since I have worked with several of their Editors in Chief and staff members on how to deal with image duplications.

SCMP quotes a Hong Kong University official stating that “corresponding authors received an official reprimand for their mistakes” and that the university “will also be imposing sanctions on the responsible authors.

“Yuen said the faculty had later carried out an investigation and decided he had made a “supervisory oversight”, adding that, from now on, his team would screen all their publications with advanced image software.

Yuen, who has published about 1,100 articles over 35 years, said he felt upset about the mistakes, but that he did not think they would affect his reputation.”

The authors wish to reiterate that these fraud findings and retractions in no way affect their careers and reputations.


Partial fraud

EMBO Press again does one of their weird “partial retractions”, a cake-eating and cake-having approach towards older fake papers by notorious European research fraudsters.

Alessandro Fraldi , Fabio Annunziata , Alessia Lombardi , Hermann-Josef Kaiser , Diego Luis Medina , Carmine Spampanato , Anthony Olind Fedele , Roman Polishchuk , Nicolina Cristina Sorrentino , Kai Simons , Andrea Ballabio Lysosomal fusion and SNARE function are impaired by cholesterol accumulation in lysosomal storage disorders The EMBO Journal (2010) doi: 10.1038/emboj.2010.237 

This is EMBO Journal‘s Partial Retraction from 2 November 2022:

Journal statement

The journal contacted the authors in February 2022 about potential image insertions and duplications in Fig 4A and 4E. In the absence of source data, the authors are retracting Fig 4A, the lower panel of Fig 4E (LAMP1 immunoblot), and the following statements in the text that rely on these data:

“Quantitative analysis showed that the percentage of Flotillin-1 associated with DRMs was increased in LSD endolysosomal membranes (Figure 4A), indicating an increased amount of cholesterol-enriched regions in these membrane samples.”

“LAMP1 also displayed a similar distribution profile in WT and LSD cells (Figure 4E)”.

Author statement

The authors could not verify the aberrations in panel A of Fig 4 and the lower immunoblot (LAMP1) of 4E because the original source data are no longer available (12 years after publication, which is beyond the institute’s 10-year data retention policy).

The authors wish to clarify that the main conclusions of the paper are not affected by the retraction of Figure panels 4A and 4E for the following reasons:

  1. Figure panel 4A supports the observation that there are increased cholesterol-enhanced regions in LSD samples. This finding is also supported by data provided in figs 4B, 4C and 4D.
  2. Figure panel 4E: The LAMP1 blot in Fig 4E shows that the distribution of protein normally excluded from DRMs is not altered between Wt and LSD samples. This result is also supported by the upper blot in this panel (Transferrin receptor).

The authors apologize for these errors and agree with this corrigendum; no response could be obtained from AL.

The Neapolitan cheater Andrea Ballabio, director of the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine (TIGEM) and professor at the Federico II University of Naples, has around 20 papers on PubPeer flagged for falsified data. His coauthors on that fake science include Maria Pia Cosma and David Sabatini.

Basically, Ballabio is as trustworthy as his faculty colleague Alfredo Fusco offering you a €150 bill. Oh crap, of course Ballabio also published fake papers with Fusco, e.g.:

Giovanna Maria Pierantoni , Alessandro Bulfone , Francesca Pentimalli , Monica Fedele , Rodolfo Iuliano , Massimo Santoro , Lorenzo Chiariotti , Andrea Ballabio , Alfredo Fusco The homeodomain-interacting protein kinase 2 gene is expressed late in embryogenesis and preferentially in retina, muscle, and neural tissues Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (2002) doi: 10.1006/bbrc.2001.6310

Incidentally, I now re-discovered my own PubPeer comment from 2017 which was never approved because… well, because I am Satan.

Andrea Ballabio is EMBO member, which is a position of serious honour in European science. This society publishes EMBO J. http://people.embo.org/profile/andrea-ballabio Other EMBO members are Olivier Voinnet and Maria Pia Cosma, whose papers were fixed with corrections or “partial retractions”, where offending figures were removed. I wonder if we will see one of those in this case.”

I am a f***ing prophet.


News in Tweets

  • Elisabeth Bik has an op-ed in New York Times! “Most of my fellow detectives remain anonymous, operating under pseudonyms such as Smut Clyde or Cheshire. Criticizing other scientists’ work is often not well received, and concerns about negative career consequences can prevent scientists from speaking out. Image problems I have reported under my full name have resulted in hateful messages, angry videos on social media sites and two lawsuit threats. The Times attempted to contact the lead scientists of the retracted papers with images reprinted in this essay. Only one responded; the others did not write back or declined to comment. The author who responded, Thomas J. Webster, said publishing the images had been an honest mistake.”
  • Nothing special, just the antisemite Eric Chabriere taking a short break from harassing Elisabeth Bik to incite a Nazi mob to attack his Jewish colleague Nathan Peiffer-Smadja, whom Chabriere accuses of having crucified the chloroquine quack Christian Perronne (whom Chabriere equals to Jesus Christ): “The Perronemania continues. A brave hero. They martyred him, they made him a saint. Yet the story has been known for 2000 years Thank you Nathan”“. No consequences at all for this disgusting brown turd of IHU Marseille. Forgive me for not being a fan of France.

France’s Ugly Brown Derriere

“legions d’honneurs, prix, promotion…. Le champ du cygne de ce système politico médical qui n’a plus le choix que de se soutenir mutuellement. Patience, en d’autre temps, on a donné des médailles aux derniers combatants. On connait la fin” – Capitaine Eric Chabriere.

  • Research fraudster Ming-hui Zou fell up the career stairs. In China, you need to achieve 15 retractions to qualify for the job of a university president. Zou also lied about being a member of US National Academy of Medicine, while in reality the membership is open only to fraudsters like Anil Sood who haven’t yet retracted their fake papers.
  • Virologist Jesse Bloom (who also supports the lab leak origin theory of COVID-19) warns in the New York Times: “In my view, there is no justification for intentionally making potential pandemic viruses more transmissible. The consequences of an accident could be too horrific, and such engineered viruses are not needed for vaccines anyway. […] The French statesman Georges Clemenceau said, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” When it comes to regulating high-risk research on potential pandemic viruses, we similarly need a transparent and independent approach that involves virologists and the broader public that both funds and is affected by their work.

  • Thread by Elisabeth Bik on how Spandidos upgraded a correction to a retraction: “In the newly provided Figure 7, panel B was replaced with a new panel. However, two groups of cells in the new panel B now overlapped with the original panel F. The corrected figure raised even more concerns than the original!
  • More retractions:
  • Raffaella Belvedere on her fake paper and her fake “raw data”: “I apologize that the image still appears duplicated but I only put the image directly generated by LAS 4000 which usually reports pixeled areas for the background above all when the protein chamilumiscent signal is not so strong. […] In no way the intent has been to raise concerns about the numerous technical controls we have perfomed in this work.”

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7 comments on “Schneider Shorts 4.11.2022 – Don’t call me a Gentleman

  1. smut.clyde

    “He used to be member of two large research groups: The Grey Zone”

    The Grey Zone comes up a lot as a pukefunnel for Putin’s disinfomation.

    Like

    • Klaas van Dijk

      hi Leonid,

      Rogier Louwen lists “Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands” as single affilation of a preprint which was published on 26 October 2022 at https://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4248632 Sources like https://potkaars.nl/blog/2022/10/15/rogier-louwen-ontslag-op-staande-voet-na-kritiek-op-vaccinaties-en-een-gesprek-in-potkaars state that Louwen was sacked. Yound-earth creationist Pieter Borger is also one of the authors of this peculiar preprint. Any idea about the opinion of Erasmus MC, and of the other affilations, some of them in Germany, about their responsibility in regard to this preprint.

      It seems that there are also ethical issues (“Ethics statement. Samples for routine molecular diagnostics were taken upon informed consent and due to governmental legal directive in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic testing strategy, issued and archived by the referring Clinics. Anonymized samples were processed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki ( https://www.wma.net/what-we-do/medicalethics/declaration-of-helsinki/ ).”).

      Any idea about the backgrounds of the entity BioCoS?

      “Funding statement. RL has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement no. 883441, project STAMINA (Demonstration of intelligent decision support for pandemic crisis prediction and management within and across European borders). All other authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. // Competing interest declaration. RL, Erasmus MC and BioCoS, has signed a joint ownership agreement related to SARS-CoV-2 detection methods. All other authors declare: no support from any organization for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.”

      Like

  2. Zou was said to take the position of the president of a big hospital, rather than the president of the university with which the hospital is affiliated..

    Like

  3. Jacques Robert

    Thank you, dear Leonid!
    So: I’m a fanatic and an activist in Domingo’s eyes! Really comical indeed… blaming others for one’s own baseness is so common… Poor guy is on the verge of (crocodile) tears while I’m laughing so much I almost pissed myself, especially when I read that he thinks he’s one of the most cited authors in the world! We got rid of this fraudster, liar and hypocrite, but the big work remains to be done: getting the article by Seneff et al. retracted.
    Please, Leonid: consider that not all French scientists are like Jessus, Peyroche, Raoult, Chabrière, Perronne and some others: we’re a group consisting of the last survivors of the small isolated village who place scientific integrity at the top of our values…
    And, please, go on sanitizing science from all quacks and charlatans! Your work should be recognized as being of public utility and subsidized by the European Union.
    All the best!

    Like

    • Dear Jacques
      Of course France has many good scientists. Problem is, they have no power and get in trouble when they speak up. The Jessus affair proved it.
      Fraud and crime is followed by no punishment. Look at Raoult.
      Even Kroemer is untouchable in France, and he is German.

      Like

  4. magazinovalex

    A blog post by three European researchers (Serge Horbach, Michael Ochsner and Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner) who knew what a trash publisher Frontiers is, but decided to make their own experiences anyway.

    The blog post is at leidenmadtrics! Which is a really funny place!

    https://www.leidenmadtrics.nl/articles/bona-fide-journals-creating-a-predatory-free-academic-publishing-environment
    https://www.leidenmadtrics.nl/articles/priority-2030-the-new-excellence-initiative-from-russia

    Like

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