Frontiers, the Switzerland-based publishing company run by EPFL professor and brain simulant Henry Markram and his wife Kamila and owned by the German giant Holtzbrinck and some investors, describes itself as “a community-rooted, open-access academic publisher”, and as such it boasts a ~71,000 head strong “virtual editorial office” which is bigger than the number of all Frontiers articles published since its inception in 2007 (~65,000). This communal character however doesn’t mean that the editorial board the size of a large town is invited to have any actual influence over editorial policies at Frontiers (which fits into one open-space office in Lausanne). In fact, the following 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 into the “rigorous” Frontiers peer review process (allegedly “enhanced with artificial intelligence”) where rejection becomes quite unlikely, and reviewers are sometimes reminded of their duty to be constructive. Continue reading “Editor sacked over rejection rate: “not inline with Frontiers core principles””
UPDATED. My earlier reporting about image irregularities in the papers by CNRS’ chief biologist and director of l’Institut des sciences biologiques (INSB) Catherine Jessus had some interesting effects, including two Corrigenda I discuss below. Evidence of data manipulation in several Jessus’ co-authored papers on cell cycle progression in Xenopus oocytes was collected by my readers, which I then posted on PubPeer. There, it was soon supplemented with additional evidence from other PubPeer users. CNRS now publicly accused me of “slanderous campaign” against Jessus, declared gel band duplications to be either technical incidents or in fact scientifically well justified and called its scientists to “collective vigilance” against people like myself (see below).
While CNRS, an institution of of 32,000 research employees and annual budget of €3.2 Billion, was busy suppressing the Jessus affair (allegedly on orders from the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation), something even bigger exploded: evidence of data manipulation appeared in the papers of the then-interim President of CNRS, Anne Peyroche, which then led to her removal and institutional investigation which could result in sacking. My own role in reporting data manipulations in Peyroche papers, initially dismissed as so-called compression artefacts by PubPeer moderation, was then acknowledged by Le Monde. The French national newspaper also brought the well-hidden Jessus case into the spotlight:
“It’s also on PubPeer that Catherine Jessus, head of research in biology at CNRS, was incriminated – she did not consider it appropriate to answer on the site”.
Unlike the unlucky CNRS interim president, behind whose devastating PubPeer postings Retraction Watch suspected “political motivations in trying to take Peyroche down“, the powerful CNRS’ chief biologist apparently doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Jessus was whitewashed in a secret investigation by l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), which professorship she holds. UPMC experts found only minor errors in 3 Jessus publications, and dismissed all other evidence.
Two Jessus papers have now been corrected, a key co-author on those is Aude Dupre, Jessus former PhD student and presently staff scientist at UPMC. Another coauthor is Olivier Haccard, “Directeur de Recherche” at CNRS I2BC in Paris. These papers from 2017 and 2015 were relatively simple cases, where no gel band duplications were spotted. One could even have explained those away as honest mistakes of negligence. But Jessus’ corrections of these two recent papers are not that straightforward, and do little to dismiss suspicions of her lab’s lack of research integrity.
On July 29th 2016, Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) retracted a cardiology paper from 2009 for data manipulations. Only some days later, on August 20th 2016, the corresponding authors Sathyamangla Naga Prasad and Sadashiva Karnik (both from the same Department of Molecular Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US, submit that same paper, under same title, with only some changes, to PLOS One. All authors remained the same, only two mysteriously fell off the paper: George Calin and his former mentor Carlo Croce. The latter is a notorious cancer researcher from Ohio State University, PubPeer star accused of misconduct and author on 7 retracted papers (according to the new Retraction Watch database). Croce even made it into New York Times, which he now sues, together with his critic David Sanders. (some more details here).
It makes sense why Prasad and Karlin decided to play it safe and throw their toxic Ohio colleague Croce and his loyal former lab member Calin off their paper. They even replaced a fake western blot which caused the JBC retraction. This refurbished PLOS One paper was accepted on January 5th 2017 and published on March 22nd 2017. Now also the handling editor at PLOS has now a lot of explaining to do: Sudhiranjan Gupta, from Texas A&M University. A man who understood Prasad’s and Karnik’s dilemma, because also Gupta has his own record of gel band duplications on PubPeer, all of these incidentally with his former boss at Cleveland Clinic, Subha Sen, who in turn is co-author on both the retracted Prasad et al JBC 2009 and the new Prasad et al PLOS One 2017.
Using the free online plagiarism tool at Draftable.com, I was able to establish an extensive textual overlap, the files are available here and here. The well-known sleuth Claire Francis established figure re-use, which I document below.
We all have been there: you read a paper and wonder: how did this ever pass peer review? Who were these incompetent peer reviewers? The following email exchange gives some insights into the farcical quagmire which the traditional peer review process is. It took place between the Editor-in-Chief of an Elsevier subscription journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice and a professor of physics and astronomy, who was invited to peer review a clinical trial study on gestational diabetes, his expertise assumed from some obscure “keywords”. Apparently any academic can be spontaneously invited to act as Elsevier reviewers, actual expertise doesn’t matter.
In the end, the indignant editor Antonio Ceriello, Italian research clinician with an h-index of 80, appeared to be threatening the physics professor with legal consequences from his own lawyer and Elsevier’s legal department, should he not cease complaining about these editorial practices of recruiting inappropriate reviewers.
The Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden is quite busy these days with the affair around their fake professor Ashutosh Tiwari, trying to figure out what actually happened inside their own Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM). How could a person with some very shady claims to a doctorate, a publication list consisting mostly of papers in his own private predatory journal, titles and awards from his own fake research institutions and predatory conferences fool the system for years in this way? How could he get the prestigious Marie-Curie fellowship, which in turn delivered him a habilitation degree of Docent at LiU and grant money from Swedish public? In this regard, how could he have just last year been awarded funding from the Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet (VR) if he wasn’t even employed at LiU or anywhere else since early 2015?
The answer is: with bold chutzpah and even bolder support from certain Swedish professors. First and foremost, from his mentor, the LiU bioelectronics professor Anthony “Tony” Turner, who conveniently accepted a large number of Tiwari-coauthored papers in his Elsevier journal Bionsensors and Bioelectronics, and played a key role in Tiwari being awarded the Marie-Curie fellowship and the docent degree. Others helped along, a recommendation letter from a Malmö biochemistry professor proves a particularly bizarre piece of evidence of how Tiwari’s fraud was interpreted as superhuman genius achievements. Continue reading “How scam artist Ashutosh Tiwari played Linköping University”
My earlier article about the fake Linköping University professor Ashutosh Tiwari and his scam of predatory conferences and journals, made quite a splash. Swedish Linköping University (LiU) now opened an investigation into research misconduct and other “improprieties” of their past employee Tiwari. The investigation is likely to include his past patron, bioelectronics professor Anthony “Tony” Turner, whose Christmas message to the research community I relay below, followed by the LiU announcement. Since Turner is also Editor-in-Chief on an Elsevier journal Bionsensors and Bioelectronics, his message quotes a statement from Elsevier, which describes yours truly as a “toxic individual”, with whom Elsevier advises their academic editors to keep contact ” to the absolute minimum”.
On top, Tiwari himself sent a bizarre round email which I also quote below. His empire of fake research institutes and predatory publisher VBRI Press as well as his predatory conference outlet IAAM (International Association of Advanced Materials), all located in a small rented office in the vicinity of LiU, are apparently crumbling. Websites of Tiwari’s businesses get scrubbed, videos of the duped participants of his scam conferences get pulled off YouTube. I received meanwhile an English-language report of a misconduct investigation LiU performed on Tiwari’s activities in October 2015, terminated without conclusion simply because he was not officially employed at LiU at that time anymore. Only that Tiwari didn’t really leave after his contract expired in March 2015. He stayed at Turner’s Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM), according to Turner himself until June 2017, while witnesses reported the fake professor still having his office, as well as a research group of graduate students long after he was supposed to have left LiU. Where, as witnesses told me, Tiwari made them surrender all their research data to him, even if it was produced outside LiU. Tiwari then published the data under his own name, even when he had no input whatsoever in that research. In fact, these students quickly noticed how little clue the fake professor had of the science he was supposed to be a great expert in.
Others reported that Tiwari engaged in plagiarism, by translating foreign language papers of other authors and publishing them in English as his own. Finally, Tiwari allegedly told to his students that his own PhD research at the University of Allahabad took mere three months and that his father paid for his doctorate diploma, which Tiwari then used to obtain a Marie Curie fellowship in 2011 and a “docent” (habilitation) degree at LiU, together with a lecturer position in 2013. All thanks to his patron Turner, whose journal Bionsensors and Bioelectronics published a large number of very shady papers by Tiwari and his Allahabad partner and probably the laziest of all cheaters, Prashant Sharma (see this report). Continue reading “Christmas messages from Professor Turner, his ex-protégé under investigation Tiwari, and Elsevier”
In Spain, there seems to be a tradition of reacting to emerging evidence of data manipulation with handing out prestigious awards to authors of these papers. This is how we were all taught that all the PubPeer evidence matters nothing whatsoever, as Pura Munoz-Canoves, Maria Pia Cosma and Manel Esteller were celebrated with prizes and grants for their research achievements (read here , here and here). Now there is a new popular academic hero in Spain, Carlos López-Otín, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oviedo, and EMBO member. Lopez-Otin was now awarded a 2017 Mentoring Award, presented to him by Sir Philip Campbell, on behalf of his journal Nature, which Editor-in-Chief Sir Philip has been for the last 22 years.
The journal Nature remains the highest authority in science, this Mentoring Award is Sir Philip’s parting present to the Nature-reading scientific community, as he is being promoted inside Springer Nature’s publishing hierarchy. It is in this way a statement of what Nature and its publisher think of research integrity. Lopez-Otin’s evidence record on PubPeer is telling enough, however most of the evidence of digitally manipulated gel images there was posted around 2-3 months ago, by the pseudonymous Claire Francis. Maybe the evidence appeared too late, and the award decision couldn’t be stopped anymore. Which would explain why Nature deleted their own tweet announcing the mentorship awards after I replied to it with PubPeer evidence on Lopez-Otin’s papers. According to another Nature website, which was for some reason also deleted, the closing date for nominations was Monday 31 July 2017. So I share some examples below, all are from papers where Lopez-Otin is last and corresponding author.