Guest post Research integrity

The Name of the Foes

"I am Jorge de Burgos. I believe research should pause in searching for the progress of knowledge. Right now, we don't need more papers, we rather need more knowledge by going through a continuous and sublime recapitulation to figure out what is true and what is fake" - Aneurus Inconstans

Aneurus Inconstans is very annoyed by what goes on in his own home country. In the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and even into the modern times, Italy used to be the place of science and learning. The creativity remained, but it is now employed for fairy-tales and data forgery. From the Sicily to Piedmont, academic chairs are occupied by multi-generational families of nepotistic crooks, good for nothing but embezzling public funds, a literal science mafia. At the same time, qualified and honest Italian scientists must leave the country or science in order to find any job at all. With the examples of biomedical fraud nerworks you will see below, Aneurus wants to make the point that it is enough. If this is the scientific progress, then it must stop.

The Name of the Foes

By Aneurus Inconstans

I prepare to leave on this website my testimony as to the wondrous and terrible manipulations of data I witnessed in the last months, towards the end of the year of Our Lord 2022 and until now. May Leonid grant me the wisdom and grace to be the faithful chronicler of the happenings that took place in remote universities and perpetrated by unscrupulous people in the dark Italian academic system. Universities and people whose names it seems now wise and fair to unveil. May my hand not tremble now that I start…

Umberto Eco’s masterpiece “The Name of the Rose“, of which I have paraphrased the opening above, came back to my memory for a reason. Those who have read the book or seen Annaud’s great film adaptation will probably remember the main antagonist of the story: Jorge de Burgos, one of the oldest and most learned monks in the monastery, a fanatic conservative and strict opponent of progress. His words echo in my head:

Let us return to what was and ever should be the office of this abbey: the preservation of knowledge. ‘Preservation’, I say, not ‘search for’. Because there is no progress in the history of knowledge, merely a continuous and sublime recapitulation!

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with research integrity. Well, given the catastrophic status of academia, I start to believe the Venerable Jorge would have a point nowadays.

Volcanic creativity in Catania

After the Cigarette Mob of Palermo and the Fraud Squad of Messina, our Sicilian tour stops now in Catania for an eruption of sloppy papers forged on the slopes of Mount Etna.

The University of Catania boasts many characters with a volcanic creativity. Pharmacology, pathology, neurology, stem cells, and of course also cancer research are the disciplines in which they engage.

These people don’t do everything all alone, though. They have successfully established a sprawling network of industrial forgery with groups scattered in the province, the region, the Italian peninsula and even abroad.

Italian taxpayers shouldn’t be too much surprised to learn they are lavishing lava-hot salaries to a herd of dunces even in academia, who of course add to the crooks in many other public sectors.

I wish to start with Giovanni Li Volti, professor of biochemistry at the Department of Biomedical and Biotechnological Sciences (BIOMETEC), and also director of CoEHAR, a center of “excellence” that aims to understand the effects of vaping. He is also an expert on “replication studies”. Anonymous PubPeer commenters who started digging into Li Volti’s work are Paratiphia texana and Johanneshowellia crateriorum.

Dr Li Volti co-authored 37 papers flagged on PubPeer as of today. His problematic career already started twenty years ago at the New York Medical College, where he landed during his PhD studies in the lab of none other than Nader Abraham. Yes, exactly that Nader Abraham who boasts 45 enties in PubPeer and 6 retractions with his long-term associate Joseph Shapiro.

Science is a village.

Here a Hypertension paper from that time, about the role of Heme oxygenase (HO) on the increase of prostaglandins in human artery endothelial cell cultures. As you can see below, a HO-2 blot was rescaled vertically and presented as an actin control just a year earlier:

Li Volti G, Seta F, Schwartzman ML, Nasjletti A, Abraham NG Heme oxygenase attenuates angiotensin II-mediated increase in cyclooxygenase-2 activity in human femoral endothelial cells Hypertension (2003) doi: 10.1161/01.HYP.0000049163.23426.66

Once back to his home town university, Li Volti was capable to sign articles as corresponding author even before his PhD graduation, which then took place in 2005.

The following article is first authored by Rosaria Acquaviva (7 papers on PubPeer), nowadays associate professor at the Department of Drug and Health Sciences (DSFS), also in Catania. Other names on this paper will be discussed later.

The article deals with the effects of the sedative-hypnotic agent Propofol. All Western blots are made up:

Acquaviva R, Campisi A, Murabito P, Raciti G, Avola R, Mangiameli S, Musumeci I, Barcellona ML, Vanella A, Li Volti G* Propofol attenuates peroxynitrite-mediated DNA damage and apoptosis in cultured astrocytes: an alternative protective mechanism Anesthesiology (2004) doi: 10.1097/00000542-200412000-00017

Li Volti then spent a year as a postdoc at the University of Brescia in the lab of the late Luigi Rodella, who was not just anybody. Rodella has 15 papers on PubPeer, most of them with very serious issues, of which four are co-authored with Li Volti, six with Abraham, two with Shapiro, and two with Giorgio Zauli. The latter, whom regular For Better Science readers know well, is the former rector of the University of Ferrara, a true heavyweight of science fraud with 42 papers on PubPeer, and one of Leonid’s “best friends”. In fact, he is presently suing the veteran journalist Sylvie Coyaud for Leonid’s writing. Yes, such things are possible in Italy.

La Piovra Ferrarese di Giorgio Zauli

Giorgio Zauli’s rectorship term ends. Will research fraud, media harassment and whistleblower persecution be a thing of the past at the University of Ferrara? Ma dai, basta cazzate.

Here below a vintage production by Zauli, with Rodella in the author list, nothing less than on HIV. The obvious manipulation was found by the image sleuth Clare Francis, who exposed fraud by other people reported in this article.

Zauli G*, Secchiero P, Rodella L, Gibellini D, Mirandola P, Mazzoni M, Milani D, Dowd DR, Capitani S, Vitale M. HIV-1 Tat-mediated inhibition of the tyrosine hydroxylase gene expression in dopaminergic neuronal cells J Biol Chem (2000) doi: 10.1074/jbc.275.6.4159

Going back to Li Volti, his brief stay in Brescia allowed him to establish fruitful collaborations also with Rita Rezzani, professor of human anatomy (16 papers on PubPeer, one retraction with Shapiro), and with Alessandra Stacchiotti (6 papers on PubPeer), associate professor also of human anatomy, but now at the University of Milan.

Here below a Stacchiotti-Li Volti-Rodella-Rezzani pearl about the effects of the plant product schisandrin B (Sch B) on mercury nephrotoxicity:

Stacchiotti A*, Li Volti G, Lavazza A, Schena I, Aleo MF, Rodella LF, Rezzani R. Different role of Schisandrin B on mercury-induced renal damage in vivo and in vitro Toxicology (2011) doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2011.05.005

Hsp25 and GRP75 are the same blot at different brightness. Two bands of Hsp72 share a common origin (note the internal features), and were modified with a brush tool before the copy/pasting.

Now comes a collaborative work between Li Volti and some colleagues in Catania, the full professor of general pathology Lucia Malaguarnera (corresponding author of that paper), and the tenured researcher and first author Michelino Di Rosa (6 papers on PubPeer). The article deals with the immune response modulator prolactin inducing CHIT-1 expression, published in that papermill-infested outlet called Journal of Cellular Biochemistry by Wiley.

You can admire the usual orgy of copy/pasted bands and lanes:

Di Rosa M, Zambito AM, Marsullo AR, Li Volti G, Malaguarnera L* Prolactin induces chitotriosidase expression in human macrophages through PTK, PI3-K, and MAPK pathways J Cell Biochem (2009) doi: 10.1002/jcb.22186

Below another incredible piece of ‘science’ from Catania (without Li Volti) having again Lucia Malaguarnera as corresponding author and in first position. The article is allegedly showing PDTC inducing NF-kB activity which in turn stimulates apoptosis in leukemic cells. This one was uncovered by the science integrity expert Elisabeth Bik:

Malaguarnera L*, Pilastro MR, Vicari L, Dimarco R, Manzella L, Palumbo G, Messina A. Pyrrolidinedithiocarbamate induces apoptosis in human acute myelogenous leukemic cells affecting NF-kappaB activity Cancer Invest (2005) doi: 10.1081/cnv-67147

Back to Li Volti, now comes some very fake transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in a paper about cerebral ischemia. The corresponding author is the now retired professor Federico Cicirata. The author list includes Cicirata’s daughter Valentina, and associate professors at BIOMETEC Agata Zappalà and Gian Marco Leggio. Each image below is supposed to illustrate a different condition. Behold, the havoc:

Li Volti G, Zappalà A, Leggio GM, Mazzola C, Drago F, La Delia F, Serapide MF, Pellitteri R, Giannone I, Spatuzza M, Cicirata V, Cicirata F* Tin chloride enhances parvalbumin-positive interneuron survival by modulating heme metabolism in a model of cerebral ischemia Neurosci Lett (2011) doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2011.01.048

Blue boxes: overlap of micrographs 2D and 2F, which are supposed to illustrate different conditions. Red boxes: overlap of micrographs 2E and 2F, which are supposed to illustrate different conditions. Moreover, elements have been digitally added (yellow arrows). Cyan, green and purple boxes: cloned portions within images 2E and 2F.

Prof Cicirata continued working as a private practitioner in neurology and psychiatry. On his website he proclaims “maximum transparency” while telling about himself: “Author of over 200 scientific articles in prestigious publications“. One can either laugh or cry.

Below is another fabulous Zappalà-Li Volti-Cicirata production on ischemia, with fake TEM and fake blots, brace yourself:

Zappalà A, Li Volti G, Serapide MF, Pellitteri R, Falchi M, La Delia F, Cicirata V, Cicirata F* Expression of pannexin2 protein in healthy and ischemized brain of adult rats Neuroscience (2007) doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.06.028

The next paper, about TG2 expression under different conditions in astroglial cells, gives me the chance to introduce another bunch of crooks in Catania: the now retired professors Roberto Avola (corresponding author, 20 papers on PubPeer) and Angelo Vanella (11 on PubPeer), the associate professor and first author Agata Campisi (20 on PubPeer), and professor Fabio Galvano (10 on PubPeer).

Moreover, on the paper are listed the University of Messina professors Riccardo Ientile (9 on PubPeer), Daniela Caccamo (5 on PubPeer), and the associate prof Monica Currò (5 on PubPeer).

Almost all of them are professors. Truly an exceptional team, that produced this beauty:

Campisi A, Bramanti V, Caccamo D, Li Volti G, Cannavò G, Currò M, Raciti G, Galvano F, Amenta F, Vanella A, Ientile R, Avola R* Effect of growth factors and steroids on transglutaminase activity and expression in primary astroglial cell cultures J Neurosci Res (2008) doi: 10.1002/jnr.21579

Fig. 1 (left): a portion of the micrograph was cloned. Some internal features in the portion have been digitally modified.

Fig.8 (below): controls are the same, which means blots are not continuous. Green boxes show the same band describing different conditions, the neighboring bands differ, meaning the blots are made up.

First blot Figure 8 (bottom): two TG2 bands appear in Figure 4 of Bramanti 2008a, where are described as actin. The neighboring bands differ. The blots are completely made up.

As mentioned, Roberto Avola retired, but maybe there is already an heir to replace him. His daughter Rosanna Avola has 11 papers on PubPeer and two retractions. The most recent retraction is in… an MDPI journal, shown below. Corresponding author is the associate professor Venera Cardile (15 on PubPeer, same two retractions). The blots are heavily edited, the authors didn’t agree with the decision of the editorial board:

Avola R, Graziano ACE, Pannuzzo G, Cardile V* Blue Light Induces Down-Regulation of Aquaporin 1, 3, and 9 in Human Keratinocytes Cells (2018) doi: 10.3390/cells7110197

Below another scam article with Avola Jr. and Cardile, this time the first and corresponding author is professor Giuseppe Musumeci. In second position we find a certain Ali Mobasheri, professor at the University of Oulu, Finland, past president of the Osteoarthritis Research Society International, the guy who signed dozens of dodgy-looking articles, and associate of the German professors Henning Madry and his wife Magali Cucchiarini:

Lots of overlaps between immunostainings supposed to describe different time points (red) or different proteins (blue and yellow):

Musumeci G*, Mobasheri A, Trovato FM, Szychlinska MA, Graziano AC, Lo Furno D, Avola R, Mangano S, Giuffrida R, Cardile V. Biosynthesis of collagen I, II, RUNX2 and lubricin at different time points of chondrogenic differentiation in a 3D in vitro model of human mesenchymal stem cells derived from adipose tissue Acta Histochem (2014) doi: 10.1016/j.acthis.2014.09.008

The next fake paper is a recent production with Avola Jr. & Cardile again, first authored by the Catania associate professor Alessandra Russo, while the corresponding author is the University of Naples associate professor Daniela Rigano. The paper deals with the miraculous properties of arthemisia oils against… cancer cell growth. Can you believe it, dear readers?

Russo A, Bruno M, Avola R, Cardile V, Rigano D* Chamazulene-rich artemisia arborescens essential oils affect the cell growth of human melanoma cells Plants (2020) doi: 10.3390/plants9081000

Figure 5: the same blot has been used to describe Caspase 3BAX and Caspase 9 at the same time. Figure 6: the tubulin control is the same one published a year before by the same group in Figure 6 of Russo et al. 2019, where the cell line used and the treatment performed were different.

The next article is rather special.

The first author is again a Catania professor, Luca Vanella (14 on PubPeer), possibly the son of Angelo. The corresponding author is Campisi. Co-authors are Nader Abraham (again!), the associate professor Ignazio Barbagallo (7 on PubPeer), and the tenured researcher Giuseppina Raciti (16 on PubPeer).

In Fig.3A the same, rescaled blot describes nestin and tubulin III (found by our sleuth colleague Cheshire). Moreover, Fig.2A includes two images that appeared five years earlier in Bronzi et al. 2010, where the fluorescent proteins and the treatments were different.

Vanella L, Raciti G, Barbagallo I, Bonfanti R, Abraham N, Campisi A* Tissue Transglutaminase Expression During Neural Differentiation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets (2016) doi: 10.2174/1871527314666150116111339

Well? What’s special then? Bad scientists constantly reuse data between papers. But actually, there are NO common authors between this paper and Bronzi 2010. The only common feature is the University of Catania affiliation. Some belong to the department BIOMETEC, others to the department DSFS. It seems almost like as if 141 tenured researchers (of which 98 are professors) work as one single giant group. They all add each other onto papers for mutual support and get promoted at regular intervals, by diligently waiting their turn, standing in line as if they were at the supermarket. An ordered system, with low entropy, which moves compactly. Pure genius.

The Cigarette Mob of Palermo

On the gate of Constantinople was written, in a steel plate, the order of the Sultan: “All the males of the Gjomarkaj, generation after generation, from the cradle to the grave, will carry the title of Kapidan”

The next article, about cytoskeletal proteins in glial cells, is a piece of art resembling the fine technique of the Palermo school of Profita & Gjomarkaj. In fact, in addition to some fake blots, you’ll admire a remarkable collage of cells illustrating the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) upon different treatments.

Vincenzo Bramanti saved Ragusa from COVID-19, source: Costruire Salute

The first and corresponding author Vincenzo Bramanti (13 on PubPeer) is, scientifically speaking, very bad and one of the worst. He left Uni Catania and became in 2021 the director of the analytical laboratory of the “Maggiore” Hospital in Ragusa. Poor Ragusans. The author list includes also the Catania associate professors Daniele Tibullo (14 on PubPeer) and Maria Violetta Brundo (6 on PubPeer). The latter is working at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences (DSBGE). Other names in the article will be discussed a little below.

Here you go:

Bramanti V*, Grasso S, Tibullo D, Giallongo C, Pappa R, Brundo MV, Tomassoni D, Viola M, Amenta F, Avola R. Neuroactive molecules and growth factors modulate cytoskeletal protein expression during astroglial cell proliferation and differentiation in culture J Neurosci Res (2016) doi: 10.1002/jnr.23678

Could you believe a person of this kind got such a position of great responsibility in a hospital? Can people with a modicum of wisdom embark on such a foolish manipulation and think they can get away with it?

Comrades in Camerino

The University of Camerino is the fifteenth oldest university in the world, founded in 1336, almost exactly in the year Eco sets the story of ‘The Name of the Rose’. Some toxic academics who work in this university deserve a separate chapter.

The previous paper, the one with the collage work, includes also Camerino scholars: associate professor Daniele Tomassoni (14 on PubPeer) and professor Francesco Amenta (14 on PubPeer). Twenty years ago these two characters teamed up with Maurizio Sabbatini, who is currently associate professor at the University of Eastern Piedmont. Leonid already reported about Sabbatini here, so I’ll be brief.

Dr Sabbatini is one of the few among those reported in this article who ever replied on PubPeer. Somehow I appreciate his reckless aptitude for venturing into impossible explanations, as such statements are irrefutable proof of guilt, almost a confession. Look at this peace of art with large cloned micrograph portions all around, and below you’ll read Sabbatini’s “explanation”:

Sabbatini M, Leonardi A, Testa R, Tomassoni D, Vitaioli L, Amenta F* Effects of dihydropyridine-type Ca2+ antagonists on the renal arterial tree in spontaneously hypertensive rats J Cardiovasc Pharmacol (2002) doi: 10.1097/00005344-200201000-00005

Many microphotograph from stained histological sample are the result of image software processing to improve the contrast and make the details of the organ’s microanatomy more visible. This process can eliminate some differences in microanatomical details by making parts of the organ apparently similar or much more similar than it actually is.

[Prof. Maurizio Sabbatini]


Tomassoni & Amenta then continued on their way, without Sabbatini, and microscopy forgeries remained their passion.

The next article deals with choline effects on hippocampus anatomy. In the authors list are also present the almost ubiquitous Bob Avola, and the University of Perugia professor Lucilla Parnetti.

Tomassoni D, Avola R, Mignini F, Parnetti L, Amenta F* Effect of treatment with choline alphoscerate on hippocampus microanatomy and glial reaction in spontaneously hypertensive rats Brain Res (2006) doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.08.068

It is worth to mention that Dr Parnetti, director of the postgraduate school of neurology at the ‘Santa Maria della Misericordia’ Hospital in Perugia, was reported by her students for misconduct to several disciplinary committees in October 2022. Misconduct that included insults, harassment, humiliation and threats. Anyone surprised that bullying goes hand in hand with bad science?

Below yet another “pearl” by the magic duo Tomassoni & Amenta, the latest by them I exsposed. Its PubPeer thread shows more fake images, here I’ll show you just two:

Tomassoni D, Traini E, Vitaioli L, Amenta F* Morphological and conduction changes in the sciatic nerve of spontaneously hypertensive rats Neurosci Lett (2004) doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2004.03.014

I’m far from being done checking the publication record of Tomassoni & Amenta, as well as for many of the cheaters presented here. But at least for these two scammers I’ll go all the way through, they really deserve special attention.

Source: YouTube video

Francesco Amenta is “a truly a renaissance man and a knowledge powerhouse […] Amenta’s sole focus in life is the creation and dissemination of knowledge“, states the website of the Athena Research Center, an exclusive group of academics led by Amenta, who set up ‘advanced’ training courses at University of Camerino on… telemedicine and telepharmacy. Pity there’s still nothing on telepathy.

Amenta is truly a renaissance man, he also established trainings of cosmetic surgery at his university in collaboration with the Milan-based school ICAMP. And I wonder: does Amenta get extra emoluments from this organisation, in addition to his fat, professor salary he is undeservedly getting since 1992?

More people, more universities, more foes

In addition to Lucia Malaguarnera met above, another person with that name exists in the Sicilian academic universe. Roberta Malaguarnera (6 on PubPeer) was recently promoted asfull professor at the University ‘Kore’ of Enna, and I wonder if she is related to Lucia. A certain resemblance would suggest it, and she studied and worked in Catania in the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (DMCS), where she teamed up with associate professors Francesco Frasca (10 on PubPeer) and Paolo Vigneri (11 on PubPeer), and with the now retired professor Riccardo Vigneri (11 on PubPeer), likely Paolo’s father.

The younger Malaguarnera then moved to New York for a few years, to the lab of James Fagin, at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

She then came back and became tenured at the University ‘Magna Graecia’ of Catanzaro (in the Calabria region) in the lab of professor Antonino Belfiore (10 on PubPeer). The latter than moved to Catania where he is still today.

When Malaguarnera was in Catanzaro, she collaborated with Marcello Maggiolini, professor at the nearby University of Calabria, a guy who boasts 30 PubPeer entries for outrageous stuff. As I’m mentioning Maggiolini, I cannot fail to mention his university fellow Sebastiano Andò, a guy with 50 papers flagged on PubPeer for issues you cannot imagine, dear reader. Ando’s coauthors include the former Karolinska Institutet rector Karin Dahlman-Wright in Sweden and the honorary Italian Ewa Surmacz, member of Antonio Giordano‘s Sbarro Pizza gang at Temple University in USA.

The Karin Dahlman-Wright Show

Karin Dahlman-Wright, Karolinska Institute’s former president, then vice-president, now rector’s counsellor was found guilty of research misconduct, again. This time in 4 papers. And then a Swedish court overturned everything and declared her innocent.

I’ll show you a selection of the most despicable scientific atrocities by this bunch of people. Most of these serial cheaters were exposed by Clare Francis.

Here a Frasca paper:

Malaguarnera R, Mandarino A, Mazzon E, Vella V, Gangemi P, Vancheri C, Vigneri P, Aloisi A, Vigneri R, Frasca F* The p53-homologue p63 may promote thyroid cancer progression Endocr Relat Cancer (2005) doi: 10.1677/erc.1.00968

Here a Vigneri paper:

Malaguarnera R, Vella V, Pandini G, Sanfilippo M, Pezzino V, Vigneri R*, Frasca F. TAp73 alpha increases p53 tumor suppressor activity in thyroid cancer cells via the inhibition of Mdm2-mediated degradation Mol Cancer Res (2008) doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-07-0005

Below is a masterpiece by Malaguarnera during her US stay, a paper on mTORC1 and thyroid cancer, whose PubPeer thread is worth reading because it has it all: fake raw data, implausible explanations by the authors, and in the end a promise by Fagin to correct the then 5-year-old paper which never happened. Of note, Fagin is a guy with his own PubPeer record.

Malaguarnera R, Chen KY, Kim TY, Dominguez JM, Voza F, Ouyang B, Vundavalli SK, Knauf JA, Fagin JA* Switch in signaling control of mTORC1 activity after oncoprotein expression in thyroid cancer cell lines J Clin Endocrinol Metab (2014) doi: 10.1210/jc.2013-3976

Really? You are now claiming that we manipulated total ERK blots? I believe that you are being overzealous and targeting us unfairly. We stand by the pERK and tERK data.

We have already stated that we will confer with the editors of JCEM on the p4EBP1 blots in Fig 3B, as we have not found the original film on experiments that were done in 2007/8. Actually, we have not found any original films from the exposures that were used to make the final figures

Prof James A Fagin

Here a Belfiore paper with Maggiolini:

Genua M, Pandini G, Sisci D, Castoria G, Maggiolini M, Vigneri R, Belfiore A* Role of cyclic AMP response element–binding protein in insulin-like growth factor-I receptor up-regulation by sex steroids in prostate cancer cells Cancer Res (2009) doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-0088

Here an Andò paper with Maggiolini:

Catalano S, Mauro L, Marsico S, Giordano C, Rizza P, Rago V, Montanaro D, Maggiolini M, Panno ML, Andò S* Leptin induces, via ERK1/ERK2 signal, functional activation of estrogen receptor alpha in MCF-7 cells J Biol Chem (2004) doi: 10.1074/jbc.M313191200

Hoya camphorifolia : I was skeptical of Peer2’s insinuations, until I enlarged the pS2 slice of Fig 4A, paid attention to the background, and increased the contrast.

Many other tenured academics and institutions collaborating with these scammers I hadn’t have the time to name. Hundreds of fake papers by these foes haven’t been exposed yet, as nobody is going through them. Dozens of other people, working at those departments I mentioned in this article, are doing exactly the same fraudulent things, and weren’t caught yet. Hundreds of other fake papers by these foes are just showing histograms and tables and cannot be easily checked. Likely nothing ever published by any of these people over the last twenty, or even thirty years, is genuine. It is an ocean of fraud.

I am Jorge de Burgos

The tenured people (PhD students and postdocs excluded) working at BIOMETEC, DSFS and DMCS at the University of Catania number at 193. Anyone I checked so far has a consistent history of scientific misconduct. Those biomedical departments are just three out of seventeen at the University of Catania. The average salary of an academic is 70,000 euro a year before taxes. For 193 people it would mean 13.5 millions have been wasted each year to pay them. Many are tenured for 20-30 years, others are younger. Let’s take into consideration just the last 15 years, the sum goes up to 200+ millions. In Italy, there are 105 universities. Assuming Catania is big with fraud, let’s multiply 200M by 50 only, which makes a total of 10 billions euros wasted just for salaries. And what about the grant money wasted by those crooks, but also by honest researchers who unfortunately have built their studies upon the fake data? And what about the fellowships to PhD students and postdocs, trained to be the next generation of fraudsters? It’s difficult to do the maths right, but let’s assume this is adding up only another two billions. €12 billions wasted just in Italy. What about the rest of the world? How many billions of dollars have been spent on Alzheimer’s research and directed towards studies that relied on the theory of amyloid plaques as the main cause of the disease?

How many rogue researchers from prestigious universities like Stanford, Cornell, MIT, Johns Hopkins, MD Anderson, Mount Sinai, etc, are paid 250, 500, or even 800k dollars a year (like Ronald DePinho)? How many of them have done incalculable damage with their bogus data published in Nature, Science and Cell?

Toppling Giants in Stanford

Everyone is talking about Stanford’s President Marc Tessier-Lavigne now. OK, let’s talk about him, and how Stanford deals with research fraud. And then let’s talk about Thomas Rando.

mTOR: conclusions not affected?

David Sabatini, remember that story? Well, it seems the conclusions were not affected. I take an ill-informed look at the mTOR signalling research field, to understand how photoshopped data gets to be independently verified by other labs.

I am Jorge de Burgos. I believe research should pause in searching for the progress of knowledge. Those billions of dollars flushed down the toilet should be spent to spread the highest level of medical excellence in all those developing countries where it is difficult to survive diarrhea and where people die of appendicitis. In the meantime, the laboratories don’t have to close, quite the contrary. Labs could undertake to reproduce the data published in the past by others. Yes, the great clean-up of scientific filth produced in the last 20 years must begin. In doing so, there will no longer be the pressure to publish something new at all costs, the PhD students will have guaranteed their title, the mad rush to measure the numbers of papers produced will stop and the impact factors will cease to exist. This should go on for about ten years, after which it will be possible to evaluate whether to resume exploring in any direction. Right now, we don’t need more papers, we rather need more knowledge by going through a continuous and sublime recapitulation to figure out what is true and what is fake.


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76 comments on “The Name of the Foes

  1. Ruggero de Maria
    “President, Alliance Against Cancer;
    Director, Institute of Pathology, Catholic University, Rome, Italy”


  2. This seems more real than most Italian biomedical science.

    Ordinary Italians seem quite smart and nice people.
    What powerful negative selection (nepotism) there has been for “science”,


  3. One scenario is that the Italian government might turn to “Italian talent abroad “and bring back these clowns to restore order. They are not the worst for sure.


  4. Jacques Robert

    Wonderful contribution of Jorge de Burgos, alias Aneurus Inconstans! Thank you for such a detailed analysis. I’m not sure it’s better in France where the “hierarchy” behaves as accomplice in crime and is even guilty of scientific fraud, beyond shame (Leonid has written a lot on that).
    Concerning the proposals which open the paper, I find it reasonable to proceed to this “sublime recapitulation” instead of publishing more and more useless papers. Unfortunately, this cannot be implemented… The weight of the establishment, at all levels, prevents any change.


  5. Who would be the equivalent to Jorge de Burgos in Spanish literature?


  6. It is hard to not get a little depressed with the sheer magnitude of research fraud in biomedical science.

    My personal subfield (Exosomes/EVs) is particular rampant with it as it is currently seen as a “hot” field which attracts not only a lot of fraud/papermill activity at the “low prestige” journals/institutions but also established “high prestige” institutions such as MD Anderson are rife with fake research as Leonard and others have admirably demonstrated.

    But I honestly still manage to be shocked at the sheer scope of the problem as this example of just one country, Italy, demonstrates.


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