Schneider Shorts of 3 March 2023 – Lab leak theory of COVID-19 escapes peer review, sadist professor in Germany (almost) exposed, various takes on the usefulness of academic friendship, with a stem cell breakthrough, Lancet and COPE bashed, and finally, why single men smell so nice.
Table of Discontent
- Lab Leak most likely – DOE and FBI did own investigations, without permission
- Monster exposed, almost – German professor coerced Asian student to BDSM
- Amazing Amenta – why Italian fraudster’s fake papers are safe
- Top Italian Scientist – thanks to friends in Iran
- Nobel Blessing – Nobelist Konstantin Novoselov can’t have enough papers
- COPE fail – Peter Wilmshurst on failure of institutions in Macchiarini affair
- Electric charging and discharging inside the animal body – papermill humour!
- Stem cells fix broken hearts – Mesoblast’s new breakthrough!
- Stand out more and signal dominance – why single men smell so nice
News in Tweets
Lab Leak most likely
The US Department of Energy (DOE) and FBI both decided that COVID-19 probably originated from a leak in a virology lab in Wuhan. A total break with all the practices and values which science stands for (peer review, editorial gate-keeping, money, buddy networks, intimidation of critics, etc). Wasn’t the so-called lab leak theory repeatedly discredited by the joint China-Peter Daszak self-investigation, in several peer-reviewed studies, opinion papers and editorials in The Lancet, Nature, Science, and in tweets by Kristian Andersen and Angela Rasmussen? Isn’t everyone still discussing the lab leak theory a despicable sinophobic science-denialist, worse than antivaxxers and flat-earthers combined?
The Lab Leak Theory
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.
Look what the Wall Street Journal reported on 26 February 2023:
“The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.
The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office.
The new report highlights how different parts of the intelligence community have arrived at disparate judgments about the pandemic’s origin. The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.
The Energy Department’s conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.
The Energy Department made its judgment with “low confidence,” according to people who have read the classified report.
The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with “moderate confidence” and still holds to this view.”
A follow-up WSJ article from 28 February referenced FBI:
“FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that the Covid pandemic was probably the result of a laboratory leak in China, providing the first public confirmation of the bureau’s classified judgment of how the virus that led to the deaths of nearly seven million people worldwide first emerged.
“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Mr. Wray told Fox News. “Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab.”
Mr. Wray added that the Chinese government has been trying to “thwart and obfuscate” the investigation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, other parts of the U.S. government and foreign partners have been carrying out into the origin of the pandemic, but that the bureau’s work continues. “
Truth is, many expert scientists agree that COVID-19 most probably originated as a lab leak in Wuhan. They just don’t dare discussing it in public to avoid getting blacklisted by elite journals and making mortal enemies among certain extremely loud and aggressive peers (who viciously defend their gain-of-function grants and their own dealings with China). The informational uncertainty by now has switched from zoonosis vs lab leak debate to whether the SARS-CoV2 virus from Yunan bat caves was merely cultured in a lab before it accidentally escaped, or whether it was prior to that manipulated to become more pathogenic, and if so, in which way exactly.
Viral by Alina Chan & Matt Ridley – Book review
Alina Chan’s book with Matt Ridley on the Origins of COVID-19 is finally out. It is a very informative read!
Monster exposed, almost
The German newspaper Zeit reported in June 2022 a story of a Vietnam-born student at the University of Göttingen who was sexually harassed and beaten by her professor with an Asian BDSM fetish. The abuser is even named, or so it at least appears: Sebastian Schmidt, described as a former director of the Department of Forest Zoology and Forest protection and the Büsgen Institute. The story of abuse is several years old. The fact that it came out only last year is not at all a triumph of investigative journalism. When the abuse took place, the media kept silent, afraid of libel lawsuits. In fact, the media is still afraid.
From the Zeit article, translated:
“In the early evening she entered Schmidt’s office through the secretariat, she recalls today, to discuss her work, actually a normal appointment. Then she casually mentioned that she was there failed to sign up for a mandatory seminar at the Foundation to register who financed her scholarship. Then he got angry and said: “In order for us to continue working together, I must punish you.” Then he locked the door to his office.
He took the bamboo cane from his office table who had always lain there, and ordered her to undress. As If she refused, he hit her bottom with the bamboo stick hit, 15 times, she thinks she remembers clearly. She didn’t fight back, did not yell for help. Duyen [not her real name, -LS] says today: “It clapped so loudly, I was sure someone would hear that.” But no one came to help. After that Schmidt escorted her out of the room.
That evening she was frozen, says Duyen “I couldn’t talk to anyone about what happened, not even to my husband.” When she met her supervisor in the following days in the institute, Schmidt behaved as if nothing had happened. He was friendly and approachable, as always. Back then, she hopes that it was a slip, tries not to think about it anymore. But only two weeks later, when she came a few minutes late to an evening to a work meeting, he hit her again, says Duyen. Again Schmidt locked the door, again he said: “I have to see you punished”, again he took the approximately one meter long bamboo stick, 15 strokes again.
The following year, Duyen says, Schmidt had her hit at least once a month. First with the bamboo stick on the backside, which was covered by the pants, later with the bamboo stick on the bare calves, so she had to pull up her pants. Once he forced her to pull down her pants and slapped her with his hand on her bare behind. He threatened her that he would otherwise end the collaboration. Schmidt always hit with a lot of force, says Duyen, painfully and humiliating. His justification for this was supposed mistakes that he had to punish: an experiment not carried out carefully, 15 blows; inaccurate minutes of a session, 15 strokes. Every time he has them then hugged him, once he said: “You should give me that to thank. I’m doing this for you.””
In 2015, Duyen got pregnant and asked Schmidt not to hit her as not to endanger the pregnancy. Schmidt replied: “If I can’t hit you anymore, I can I won’t be close to you.” Only in 2018 did Schmidt’s abuse became a police matter. Because there were other victims:
“In November 2016, Duyen was breastfeeding her baby next to her colleague when she Duyen asks if Schmidt sometimes touches her too. The colleague tells her that the professor licked her ear several times. Allegedly, um detect possible cancer. He touched her breasts and grabbed the butt, you repeated with the palm of your hand on a breast beaten, also to punish them. […]
On June 12th In 2017, the two women met [university -LS] President Ulrike Beisiegel, two days later, Schmidt is put on leave and has to vacate his office. At a Internal meetings of the institute other women report that Schmidt molested and beat them.
Schmidt always sniffed her, says one. He locked her up and threatened her with beatings, says another. A third tells of how the professor regularly grabbed her chest and buttocks. They all say that Schmidt constantly pushed boundaries.”
Schmidt eventually found himself in court:
“The trial against Schmidt will begin in January 2022 at the Goettingen Regional Court. He is charged with 21 felonies, among others for particularly serious cases of coercion, deprivation of liberty and sexual harassment. A slim man with long curls appears in court, his wife sits in the audience. In the following weeks, five women as interviewed witnesses. While they report on the attacks, the professor nods sometimes and smiles pensively. He take notes with a pen. He will later deny most of the allegations. […]
In early April, Schmidt is found guilty of having committed dangerous bodily harm in office, deprivation of liberty and coercion. Sexual harassment could not be clearly determined, says the judge. Schmidt is sentenced to eleven months imprisonment on probation. He retains his civil servant status because the sentence is less than one year. The prosecutor goes in Revision, she demands a higher penalty. The case is now with Federal Court of Justice. […]
To this day, Schmidt receives his full official salary, about 8000 euros gross per month, the university’s disciplinary proceedings against him are still ongoing. Only if these are successful can he be fired. Although he has been on leave, he wrote in the past three years at least two technical papers as a representative of the Georg-August University of Göttingen and attended at least one conference, in Portugal. His colleagues abroad do not seem to know anything about his conviction. One writes when asked: “He always has the highest level of professionalism proven and traded to the highest ethical standards.””
This all happened years ago and I am sure the victims wrote to many journalists, pleading for help. Nobody found their suffering newsworthy. In Germany, media usually reports about academic abusers without naming them (e.g., a case in Cologne), simply not to get sued. Only when the court trial ended did it become newsworthy.
Now these journos arrive several years too late and want you to celebrate them as heroes who rescued students from the clutches of their violent tormentors. But was the perpetrator really named by the brave Zeit journalists? Reasonable question.
I have a surprise for you. There is no Sebastian Schmidt, the internet, even the archived versions, is totally devoid of any traces of any former professor in Göttingen by this name, not at the Department of Forest Zoology and Forest protection at the Büsgen Institute, not anywhere else. Zeit lied to us that it was the abuser’s real name.
There are however numerous records of the institute’s former director Stefan Schütz (here, here, here, here or here), who on his profile photo looks exactly as the Zeit article describes “Schmidt”. Schmidt never existed, but Schütz’ records at the institute server and elsewhere are mostly erased, but the internet doesn’t forget. Here for example is a backup of his lab from 2009.
Even now that the perpetrator is convicted in court the journalists still don’t name him. They even “forgot” to mention that “Sebastian Schmidt” was a made-up name. Meanwhile, the real monster behind the Zeit scoop is free to prey on his victims – all he has to do is to leave academia or move abroad.
Finally, the Zeit article mentions:
“In Göttingen there is even another blatant case: A biology professor invited a student to the forest to do some kind of field test in 2017. There he has ejaculated before her eyes on a piece of meat. He later explained in court that it was a private experiment been trying to find out if human DNA can be extracted from the maggots that settle on the meat. He got eight months for it on probation.”
That other guy obviously is still working as professor at the University of Göttingen. But, dear students, you will only find out who he is once he gets his penis out in front of you.
The new director of Schütz’ department, Andreas Schuldt, did not reply to my email.
Aneurus Inconstans continues digging up Italian fraud. From the previous story, another massive cheater slowly emerged: the amazing Francesco Amenta, with almost 50 papers on PubPeer now. Amenta is pharmacology professor at the University of Camerino, and the former mentor of another massive cheater, Maurizio Sabbatini.
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
I won’t be discussing Amenta’s massive fraud record in detail, there are just too many papers. It is the strategy of Italian academic fraudsters: publish countless scientifically inane and totally fake papers in low-ranking yet allegedly respectable journals, because in Italy it is the amount of your publications which decides about promotions and grants. Get rich with public money in the process, install your family members in academic jobs as well, publish more fake trash, until your retirement, and then install you children to take over your chair.
Amenta informs us in his CV from 2021 that he published over 500 papers and is otherwise great (translated):
“It should be noted that in the latest evaluation of the Top Italian Scientists (December 2020) it was found, in the field of neuroscience, the 248th Italian researcher and the 1st of the University of Camerino.“
In Camerino, Amenta teaches a MSc course in Aesthetic Medicine, I presume he simply teaches students to generate aesthetic figures with Photoshop. As he taught Sabbatini.
Alberto Ricci , Elena Bronzetti , Francesco Mannino , Fiorenzo Mignini , Carolina Morosetti , Seyed K. Tayebati , Francesco Amenta Dopamine receptors in human platelets Naunyn-Schmiedeberg s Archives of Pharmacology (2001) doi: 10.1007/s002100000339
The German journal Naunyn-Schmiedeberg’s Archives of Pharmacology later fell prey to Chinese papermills, and after those were banished, it started to publish fraud from Egyptian papermills. Read here:
An attractive and “natural” target for fraudsters
“In the various excellent texts on paper mills the question is discussed why Naunyn-Schmiedebergs Archives of Pharmacology has become a target for fake papers. I oppose the assumption that we simply want to fill pages with pseudo-scientific content. We actually look for quality and good science.” – Prof Dr Roland Seifert, Editor-in-Chief
But we actually spoke about Amenta. Here is more:
Francesco Amenta , Paolo Barili , Elena Bronzetti , Laura Felici , Fiorenzo Mignini , Alberto Ricci LOCALIZATION OF DOPAMINE RECEPTOR SUBTYPES IN SYSTEMIC ARTERIES Clinical and Experimental Hypertension (2000) doi: 10.1081/ceh-100100077
These small-region duplications inside of immunohistochemistry images most likely arose when the authors needed some illustrations for their made-up drivel, had none of their own, then stole them from other people’s publications, but had to erase their original labels and markings.
But you may have wondered, why did I select to present to you Amenta’s papers in the Taylor & Francis journal Clinical and Experimental Hypertension? Well, that is because its Editor-in-Chief is Mustafa F. Lokhandwala, who since 1992 and until his retirement in 2019 used to be the Dean and executive Vice-Dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Houston, Texas. He became so rich that in 2021 he and his wife established an endowed professorship for the newly appointed chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Health Outcomes and Policy at his old faculty.
Lokhandwala is a bigwig with lots of money, and he obviously has better things to do than replying to Aneurus’ emails. But there are other reasons for him not to do anything about Amenta’s papers. Because Lokhandwala is an old collaborator of Amenta, check the former’s CV. They even organised a conference together in Camerino in 1996.
Here is a beautiful example of Amenta’s and Lokhandwala’s collaboration:
Alberto Ricci , Francesco Amenta , Elena Bronzetti , Laura Felici , Tahir Hussain , Mustafa F. Lokhandwala Age-related changes of dopamine receptor protein immunoreactivity in the rat mesenteric vascular tree Mechanisms of Ageing and Development (2002) doi: 10.1016/s0047-6374(01)00361-x
“The two images share a common origin (see boxes of same color), and later digitally modified.”
Oh wow, this is really insolent fraud. But worry not! Even though Amenta has 4 more fake papers in Mechanisms of Ageing and Development (I wrote before Amenta’s and Sabbatini’s papers in that journal, have a look), he shall not fear any retractions there either. The Editor-in-Chief Efstathios Gonos, professor at the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens, loves to talk tough about research integrity while tolerating the worst kinds of fraud possible, including from Chinese papermills (at another journal he runs). Read about Gonos’ editorial activities here:
The impossible Toni Camins
They are professors of molecular biology and they don’t know how microscopy or western blots are supposed to work. But it passed peer review!
The scientific sea of miR- and exosome-related knowledge
“Whole cohorts of peer-reviewers have been trained to view all these mannerist stylings as what western blots should look like. […] It will be a challenge to convince them otherwise.” – Smut Clyde.
And the German associate editor of Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, the University of Cologne professor Björn Schumacher, reacted as following when I tried to convince him to act on the Amenta and Sabbatini fraud: he warned me not to reproduce anything from his emails to me, and hinted to sue me if I do.
Schumacher doesn’t reply to my emails anymore, as a serious professor he is busy virtue-signalling on Twitter:
Top Italian Scientist
Meet the Italian graphene researcher Antonio Di Bartolomeo, professor of physics at the University of Salerno. From his CV, we learn that he is “Listed in the World Top Scientists 2019-2020 ranking by PlosBiology and Top Italian Scientist for Physics 2021 ranking by topitalianscientists.org“, and an avid fan of MDPI where he acts as editor, including for special issues.
What the CV doesn’t say, is that a number of Di Bartolomeo’s papers contain fake data because they quite likely originate from Iranian papermills. Here is his PubPeer record, and here are examples:
Mohammad Bagher Askari , Parisa Salarizadeh, Majid Seifi , Mohammad Hassan Ramezan Zadeh , Antonio Di Bartolomeo ZnFe2O4 nanorods on reduced graphene oxide as advanced supercapacitor electrodes Journal of Alloys and Compounds (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.jallcom.2020.158497
That referenced other paper was this, published in the papermill-infested Elsevier journal Ceramics International, and it has its own problems:
Mohammad Bagher Askari , Parisa Salarizadeh, Antonio Di Bartolomeo , Mohammad Hassan Ramezan Zadeh , Hadi Beitollahi , Somayeh Tajik Hierarchical nanostructures of MgCo2O4 on reduced graphene oxide as a high-performance catalyst for methanol electro-oxidation Ceramics International (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.ceramint.2021.02.182
There is more on PubPeer:
It should be mentioned that Di Bartolomeo’s Iranian collaborator Mohammad Bagher Askari has his own PubPeer record of fake science. And here are them both publishing together with the a certain Turkish colleague Fatih Şen, whose lab at the University of Dumlupinar is nothing but a massive papermill of its own! Of course the result is also fake, it recycles spectra from the Ceramics International paper discussed above:
Mohammad Bagher Askari , Parisa Salarizadeh , Antonio Di Bartolomeo, Fatih Şen Enhanced electrochemical performance of MnNi2O4/rGO nanocomposite as pseudocapacitor electrode material and methanol electro-oxidation catalyst Nanotechnology (2021) doi: 10.1088/1361-6528/abfded
Don’t mess with Fatih Sen
Fake nanotechnology is always fun, but it does get extreme here. Word of advice: if you are in Turkey, better don’t point fingers at Professor Fatih Sen’s research. Things get broken easily.
Also: Di Bartolomeo even managed to publish with the mega-fraudster Thomas Webster, plus the known Iranian papermiller Nabil Rabiee (Ghadiri et al 2020)!
Thomas Webster to save the world with COVID-19 nanoparticles
The world is in the grip of COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands dead, infection rates explode, nations in lockdown. Perfect timing for troll scientists to offer their bullshit cures. Like Thomas Webster of Northeastern University.
Di Bartolomeo didn’t reply to my emails.
We remain on the topic of graphene.
Look at this papermill product, in a Springer Nature journal, impact factor TWENTY SEVEN.
Fanghua Li , Yiwei Li , K. S. Novoselov , Feng Liang , Jiashen Meng , Shih-Hsin Ho , Tong Zhao , Hui Zhou , Awais Ahmad , Yinlong Zhu , Liangxing Hu , Dongxiao Ji , Litao Jia , Rui Liu , Seeram Ramakrishna , Xingcai Zhang Bioresource Upgrade for Sustainable Energy, Environment, and Biomedicine Nano-Micro Letters (2023) doi: 10.1007/s40820-022-00993-4
Among its authors are the established papermillers Awais Ahmad (University of Cordoba, Spain) and Seeram Ramakrishna (National University of Singapore). Ahmad is a protege of the King of Papermillers, Rafael Luque (also at Cordoba), and has over 30 PubPeer entires, many with his teacher and flagged for irrelevant citations (both from his own papers and to his own papers), nonsense results or fake spectra.
The Highly Cited Researchers of Clarivate
“here is my advice to Clarivate: better get lost. ” – Alexander Magazinov
The incredible collaborations of Renaissance men and women
Nick Wise and Alexander Magazinov on the authorships-for-sale market on social media. Merely $700 for the 7th position on some paper way outside your expertise!
Some were already retracted:
- Din et al 2019, retraction notice: “The article was submitted to be part of a guest-edited issue. An investigation by the publisher found a number of articles, including this one, with a number of concerns, including but not limited to compromised editorial handling and peer review process, inappropriate or irrelevant references or not being in scope of the journal or guest-edited issue.”
- Din et al 2020, retraction notice: “This article was submitted to be part of a guest-edited issue. An investigation concluded that the editorial process of this guest-edited issue was compromised by a third party and that the peer review process has been manipulated. […] Awais Ahmad has not responded to correspondence regarding this retraction.“
I, Rajender Varma, Highly Cited Researcher
“I could not comprehend the situation where a university picks up on individuals with an extraordinary and sterling performance and basically destroy one of the top European institutions. ” – Raj Varma
Ramakrishna also has a PubPeer record, he published papermill fraud with papermill celebrities like Luque, Navid Rabiee, Mohammad Arjmand and Rajender S Varma. Also Ramakrishna was caught with nonsense citations and fake data. Like this:
Basically, a bunch of papermill fraudsters managed to sneak a fake paper into an elite journal. The other authors mostly have Chinese names, but their affiliations go to Harvard and MIT next to Chinese and Singapore universities.
Where is that graphene I promised, you ask? Well, there is a certain co-author standing out like a sore thumb.
The Nobel Prize winner, Sir Konstantin Novoselov, professor at the University of Manchester in UK and the National University of Singapore, the latter affiliation might explain how he ended on that paper. The russian-born physicist Novoselov received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 “for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene“, the prize was shared with his fellow russian, Sir Andre Geim. The latter then began to frequent predatory conferences of Florian Kongoli, an award named after Geim was established there (read here).
And Sir Kostya Novoselov apparently went for papermills. He didn’t reply to my email.
Peter Wilmshurst wrote a long blog post on the occasion of Lancet‘s recent Expression of Concern for two papers by Paolo Macchiarini and his gang:
- Paolo Macchiarini , Philipp Jungebluth , Tetsuhiko Go , M Adelaide Asnaghi , Louisa E Rees , Tristan A Cogan , Amanda Dodson , Jaume Martorell , Silvia Bellini , Pier Paolo Parnigotto , Sally C Dickinson , Anthony P Hollander , Sara Mantero , Maria Teresa Conconi , Martin A Birchall Clinical transplantation of a tissue-engineered airway The Lancet (2008) doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(08)61598-6
- Alessandro Gonfiotti , Massimo O Jaus , Daniel Barale , Silvia Baiguera , Camilla Comin , Federico Lavorini , Giovanni Fontana , Oriol Sibila , Giovanni Rombolà , Philipp Jungebluth , Paolo Macchiarini The first tissue-engineered airway transplantation: 5-year follow-up results The Lancet (2014) doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(13)62033-4
Both papers concern the very first trachea transplant which Macchiarini performed in Barcelona in 2008. You can read about this case here:
This is the English original of my story for Hipertextual, first published in Spanish on 27.10.2016. What did we learn from the trachea transplant scandal around the miracle surgeon and stem cell pioneer Paolo Macchiarini, who used to conduct his human experiments in Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden and Russia? That despite the stem cell fairy magic, all his…
Macchiarini’s trachea transplant patients: the full list
This article lists all known (including those not officially declared) patients of the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who received from him a cadaveric or plastic trachea. It will be updated whenever I receive any new evidence.
Wilmshurst’s article describes in detail this and other trachea transplants which Macchiarini and his British colleague Martin Birchall performed, nearly all lethal. But Wilmshurst focusses on the institutional responsibilities, for example that of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE):
“The Lancet’s belated expression of concern states “The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has discussed these concerns at length again and their view, as an expert body in publication ethics, is that these two unretracted articles should, at a minimum, have received an Expression of Concern given the severity of the concerns raised and the length of time during which the concerns have persisted.”
The Lancet has done the “minimum” that COPE believed was required. Doing the “minimum” that you think you will get away with is not adequate. The only morally acceptable course is to retract both fraudulent papers. It appears that Horton has learnt no lessons from refusing to retract the fraudulent publication by Andrew Wakefield that was published in the Lancet exactly 25 years ago on 28th February 1998. […]
COPE should not have advised that publication of an expression of concern is an option in this case. Because both papers are fraudulent, COPE should have insisted that the Lancet retract them and that the notice of retraction should state that the reason for retraction is that claims in both papers were falsified.
COPE should have also told the Lancet to publish an apology for the attempts by Horton and colleagues to cover up the publication fraud for several years. There is an argument for the Lancet to apologise for failure to do due diligence when it rapidly accepted the original 2008 paper that made such ground-breaking claims.
Furthermore, COPE should inform all journals that have published articles by Macchiarini and his colleagues that they should arrange for the claims in the articles to be checked for accuracy in order to determine whether the articles they published require an expression of concern or retraction.
I believe that during the last five years the officers of COPE have been too concerned about upsetting Horton, the editor of one of medicine’s most influential journals, and the Lancet’s owner, Elsevier, which contributes enormously to COPE’s funds,13 that they have been unwilling to call out unethical editorial conduct.”
Wilmshurst himself used to be one of the founding members of COPE, but his membership was urgently terminated when he complained about Lancet‘s refusal to retract the fraudulent Macchiarini et al paper. Read here:
Peter Wilmshurst vs Macchiarini cult at The Lancet
The 2008 Lancet paper of Paolo Macchiarini and Martin Birchall about the world first trachea transplant might end up retracted. Until recently, the journal’s editor Richard Horton used to ignore and suppress “non peer-reviewed” evidence, but due to combined pressure of activism, media and politics, things started to move.
Wilmshurst’s article concludes:
The Macchiarini affair is much, much worse than what “official” “expert” sources lazily tell you. For example, Macchiarini was kicked out in Barcelona not just because he faked the results in Lancet, but because he continued with trachea transplants despite being specifically forbidden to do so. In fact, I have proof of at least one woman he killed this way (not that anyone seems to care, pah, another murder in Barcelona). A witness whom Macchiarini tried to bully into a trachea transplant, mentioned yet another victim who died after a tracheat tranplant, but there’s no independent proof for that event, and nobody listens to this Macchiarini victim anyway. Read here:
“Me llamo Paloma Cabeza Jiménez”: Macchiarini victim speaks out
Paloma was supposed to the second trachea transplant patient of Paolo Macchiarini’s in Barcelona, in summer 2008. The scandal surgeon gave her a fake diagnosis of a lethal tracheal cancer which she never had, and also “accidentally” mislocated her stent during a enforced bronchoscopy. All to coerce his patient to agree to a trachea transpalnt.…
Electric charging and discharging inside the animal body
Time for some lighter stuff. Papermill humour!
And not just somewhere, but in the Journal of Energy Storage, until recently edited by the German professor Dirk-Uwe Sauer. Who was removed by Springer Nature because he found himself unable to stop accepting papermill trash.
Maybe stop accepting submissions, Herr Prof Dr Sauer?
Who needs science if you can have a 75 paper strong special edition by Afrand and Karimi? A guest post by Alexander Magazinov.
It was from a special issue “Recent Advances in Battery Thermal Management”, edited by the papermill fraudsters Nader Karimi, Mohammad Arjmand, Cong Qi and Masoud Afrand:
Xinrui Qi , Jianmei Wang , Grzegorz Królczyk , Paolo Gardoni , Zhixiong Li Sustainability analysis of a hybrid renewable power system with battery storage for islands application Journal of Energy Storage (2022) doi: 10.1016/j.est.2022.104682
The citations go to Afrand, Karimi, and other papermilling fraudsters. The “author” Zhixiong Li then explained:
When prompted to show “a specific Google query / specific Google queries with such a curious output“, Li showed a Google search result for “ANN solar thermal energy storage”, predictably without any of the cited papers or authors. But this is not the main joke. Magazinov noticed:
The Vickers Curse!
When I’m citing you, will you answer too?
What do moth pheromones on one side have to do with cancer research, petrochemistry, materials science, e-commerce, psychology, forestry and gynaecology on the other? They are separated by just one citation!
Li explained that as well. Ready?
Stem cells fix broken hearts
A press release by the Texas Heart Institute celebrates a stem cell breakthrough:
“Physician-scientists at The Texas Heart Institute announced today the results of the largest cell therapy trial to date in patients with chronic heart failure due to low ejection fraction. The therapy benefited patients by improving the heart’s pumping ability, as measured by ejection fraction, and reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke, especially in patients who have high levels of inflammation. Also, a strong signal was found in the reduction of cardiovascular death in patients treated with cells. The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Investigators in this landmark clinical trial have shown that a special immunomodulatory cell-type called MPC (mesenchymal precursor cells) developed by Mesoblast Inc., has the potential for the first time to address a major contributor to heart failure—inflammation.”
This is the phase 3 clinical trial DREAM-HF (“Double-Blind Randomized Assessment of Clinical Events With Allogeneic Mesenchymal Precursor Cells in Heart Failure”, NCT02032004), and this is the paper:
Emerson C. Perin , Kenneth M. Borow , Timothy D. Henry , Farrell O. Mendelsohn , Leslie W. Miller , Elizabeth Swiggum , Eric D. Adler , David H. Chang , R. David Fish , Alain Bouchard , Margaret Jenkins , Alex Yaroshinsky , Jack Hayes , Olga Rutman , Christopher W. James , Eric Rose , Silviu Itescu , Barry Greenberg Randomized Trial of Targeted Transendocardial Mesenchymal Precursor Cell Therapy in Patients With Heart Failure Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2023) doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2022.11.061
We are informed about the authors’ conflicts of interests:
The company Mesoblast sells the mesenchymal precursor cells (MPC) used in the trial, and the press release informs:
“The results of DREAM-HF are an important step in understanding how cell therapy provides benefits in patients with chronic heart failure due to poor pump function. The cells appear to work by reducing inflammation, increasing microvascular flow, and strengthening heart muscle. Locally, in the heart, the MPCs can protect cardiac muscle cells from dying and can improve blood flow and energetics. In large blood vessels throughout the body, the reduced inflammation resulting from the activation of MPCs may decrease plaque instability, which is what leads to heart attacks and strokes. The cells seem to have a systemic immune modulatory and anti-inflammatory effect,” noted the study’s lead author, Dr. Emerson C. Perin, MD, Ph.D., FACC, Medical Director at The Texas Heart Institute.”
It all sounds very convincing and hopeful in the press release. Except that in the actual paper the authors basically admit their trial failed:
Mesoblast previously tried to sell those MPC for COVID-19, in partnership with the pharma giant Novartis. And failed spectacularly in phase 3 clinical trial.
See this press release from September 2021:
“Mesoblast has been put on blast by the FDA yet again after the agency requested another trial for its failed, Novartis-backed COVID-19 respiratory treatment.[…]
The treatment failed last December in a phase 3 study in 222 ventilator-dependent COVID-19 patients with moderate to severe ARDS and was halted early for showing no signs of reducing death in patients over the age of 65.”
Novartis dropped Mesoblast like a hot potato right after, as a December 2021 press release reported, and the start-up’s once soaring stocks crumbled. Afterwards, Mesoblast was sued by its investors in USA and in Australia in a series of class action lawsuits:
“Mesoblast is already facing multiple class action lawsuits in the US after being accused overseas of making false or misleading statements to investors, as well as failing to disclose material adverse facts about Remestemcel-L.
Phi Finney McDonald said in documents sent to investors the claim will allege that Mesoblast misrepresented the efficacy and potential benefit of treating patients with Remestemcel-L; misrepresented the significance of trial results; did not disclose to the market material information, including the deficiencies in study design and statistics presented.”
I should point out here that the DREAM-HF phase 3 clinical trial for heart failure, which started in 2014 and completed in 2020, was also sponsored by Mesoblast. It was supposed to have 1730 participants but ended up with 566. The post-operative observation period was shortened from 5 or 6 years to “6 months minimum”, with 12 months the latest time point instead of 60 months scheduled previously. The MPC there are called Rexlemestrocel-L and not Remestemcel-L, but I am not sure they are that different.
Finally, I should mention that the former director of regenerative medicine at the Texas Heart Institute was the regenerative medicine quack Doris Taylor, a close friend of Paolo Macchiarini. Taylor’s speciality was to claim she can grow living beating human hearts in her lab from decellurised scaffolds seeded with, well, mesenchymal precursor cells. But in 2020, she quietly departed, also from her adjunct professorship at Texas A&M University. Taylor now works in consulting and owns a startup selling “your personalized heart” – Organomet Bio.
And if you are interested in curing broken hearts with stem cells:
Requiem for Celixir
How the Nobel Prize winner Sir Martin Evans and the lying crook Ajan Reginald almost succeeded, were it not for Patricia Murray.
Stand out more and signal dominance
A somewhat older Frontiers paper was send to me by a reader. It was so scientifically advanced, disruptive, earth-shattering and ground-breaking that it made news worldwide back in 2019.
Here for example in Newsweek:
“A study by researchers from Australia’s Macquarie University and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology asked 82 heterosexual women to assess the body odors of six male participants. They found that single men were rated as having stronger body odor than those in relationships.
“Stronger body odor might help you stand out more. It might signal dominance,” Mehmet Mahmut, one of the study’s authors, told Newsweek.
The scientists were unable to conclude exactly why this difference exists, but they do have some theories: “Testosterone is associated with mate-seeking behaviors,” Mahmut said. “We know from previous research that higher testosterone is linked to stronger body odor…Potentially single men do have higher levels of testosterone.” […]
“Men who are in relationships tend to have lower levels of testosterone, but we don’t know when that transition occurs…There is no longitudinal research in hormone studies,” Mahmut said.”
Here is this peer-reviewed wisdom:
Mehmet K. Mahmut , Richard J. Stevenson Do Single Men Smell and Look Different to Partnered Men? Frontiers in Psychology (2019) doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00261
It was not just the body odour: “single men’s faces were rated as more masculine than partnered men’s faces.”
Of course the two male authors offer evolutionary biology gems like:
The authors also discuss the alternative explanation that single men don’t bathe.
News in Tweets
- Ars Technica: “The Food and Drug Administration official who allegedly had an inappropriately cozy relationship with the maker of the controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm is stepping down from his role, effective immediately, according to numerous media reports. Billy Dunn, head of the FDA’s neuroscience office, has been with the agency for around 18 years, during which he was involved in several high-profile drug approvals. But he gained notoriety in the wake of the shocking 2021 approval of Aduhelm, a drug that has not been shown to be effective against Alzheimer’s and carries risks of serious brain swelling.” What everyone forgets to mention that it was same Dunn who just some weeks ago also approved Biogen’s other Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab (read here). Because this new Biogen drug has not yet been proven as trash, we are to pretend its recent FDA approval and Dunn’s departure are totally unconnected.
- In 2007, the microbiologist Arturo Casadevall, Johns Hopkins University professor and Champion of Research Integrity, postulated in Dadachova et al 2007 that “ionizing radiation could change the electronic properties of melanin and might enhance the growth of melanized microorganisms.” The idea of radiation-eating fungus was born, and keeps fascinating people despite the strange absence of any follow-up research confirming Casadevall’s groundbreaking discovery. Even Casadevall buried it, just as he buried the evidence of fake data in his other papers. One of his Johns Hopkins colleagues (Radamés J.B. Cordero) sent some fungi to the International Space Station in November 2019, in February 2020 he promised the results of their radiation-protective performance to be “available within the next few months.” We haven’t heard of that since. Smut Clyde blogged about that radiation-metabolizing melanin stuff in 2011: “Another study in the same feckin’ paper found that the same mold’s growth was also encouraged by ultraviolet, visible and infrared wavelengths. No-one could possibly have predicted that warmth would encourage metabolism.”
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.
- Richard Fleming, aka “Dr who?”, a bizarre nutcase quack, covidiot, pathological liar, former porn actor and carrier of many imaginary diploma, tried to lift his debarment as medical doctor. And failed: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the Agency) is denying Dr. Richard M. Fleming’s (Dr. Fleming’s) request for a hearing and denying his application for termination of debarment under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). Dr. Fleming has failed to file information and analyses sufficient to create a basis for a hearing concerning this action.“
Cheshire vs Dr who?
If you follow Cheshire on Twitter, you surely heard him referencing a certain “Dr who?”. The following guest post exposes a very toxic fraudster and covidiot.
- CNRS president Antoine Petit now replied to Dorothy Bishop and her Open Letter to CNRS: “I am very surprised that you did not think it necessary to contact the CNRS before publishing this open letter. You are obviously not familiar, or at least very unfamiliar, with CNRS policy and procedures regarding scientific integrity. The CNRS deals with these essential issues without any complacency, but tries to be fair and to ensure that the sanctions are proportional to the misconduct committed, while respecting the rules of the French civil service. Your letter mixes generalities about the so-called actions of scientific institutions with paragraphs that apply, perhaps, to the CNRS. If you wish to know how scientific misconduct is handled at the CNRS, I invite you to contact our scientific integrity officer, Rémy Mosseri ” But we know how Petit and Mosseri solve fraud cases. See that of Laurence Drouard‘s papers!
The Strasbourg Swamp
You know Voinnet, but now meet other great life scientists of Strasbourg: Drouard, Loeffler, Boutillier, Mr and Mrs Egly, and many others.
- A great tool to detect papermills.
- That’s COPE for you. Peter Wilmshurst kicked out as member, a papermill company (Medjaden) welcomed.
- Nick Wise: “Did the editor not question why ~30 references were added at revision stage? Or notice that they were irrelevant?“
- Caught with a badly fake figure in El-Attar et al 2022, Bassma H. Elwakil explains: “note that 10% editing is acceptable as long as we didn’t modify the significant features“, and then provides the source of this rule: “From one international editor Overall, this is an acceptable rule (no significant change was made as elaborated above) of publishing pictures you can revise them if you dont know about them to be helpful for others who can see these comments.” Maybe it’s a secret MDPI rule?
- US neuroscientist Gary Dunbar retracts a paper on 24 February 2023, Maiti et al 2018: “The Editor has retracted this article at the corresponding author’s request. After publication, concerns were raised regarding similarities in the presented data. […] The authors checked their data and identified additional errors“. Previously Dunbar forced several of his first authors to publicly apologise on PubPeer for falsifying data, one by one for each fake paper (read here).
- Also the neuroscientist Domenico Pratico at Temple University had to retract a paper, his forth now with hopefully many more retractions to come. Retraction, also from 24 February 2023, for Giannopoulos & Praticò 2018: “The Handling Editor and Publisher have retracted this article because it shows extensive overlap with two articles that were simultaneously under consideration in other journals [1, 2]. Additionally, concerns have been raised regarding a number of figures, […] The Editor-in-Chief has recused themselves from involvement in this retraction due to a potential conflict of interest. Therefore, the decision was taken jointly by an appointed Handling Editor and the Publisher.Domenico Praticò does not agree to this retraction.” The recused EiC Benedict Albensi previously claimed to be a victim of “targeted harassment” by Cheshire (read here).
Research misconduct: Theory & Pratico
A whistleblower tried to report fraud in Domenico Pratico’s papers via proper channels, and hit a wall everywhere.
- I don’t know about you, but I can actually imagine a better Guardian of Research Ethics than the misogynous eugenicist Stuart Ritchie. But the wealthy white folks love him, he is one of them. Celebrated in The Economist now.
Edinburgh psychologists announce in Nature Communications genes for being rich. A Christmas Carol.
- I use: “Your papers on PubPeer”.
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I would be curious to know how they figured out the degree of fakeness of that MDPI paper. This could be an exciting new field of research on its own.
Seems that it took several balloons for this leak U-turn from total and aggressive denial to almost accept and the so glorified peer review science does not matter. Maybe it matters a little bit if your reviewers do not bathe regularly.
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