Dean acting outside his competence and the illusion of Freedom of Information in Germany

The Berlin head ophthalmologist Antonia Joussen once set her lawyer upon me, demanding up to €80000 in damages for my reporting on concerns about data integrity in her publications, which were raised on PubPeer in early 2015. Several papers were corrected and the problematic data presentation was acknowledged by Joussen, who is being currently investigated by the German research Society DFG for suspicions of research misconduct.

In her lawyer’s letter from June 23rd 2016, I was instructed to submit myself to a certain letter issued by the Dean of the medical faculty of the University of Düsseldorf, which allegedly cleared Joussen of all allegations (Joussen used to hold a professorship there for several years before moving on to become head of the ophthalmology clinic at the Berlin University Hospital Charité). The problem was: I was not allowed to see that Dean’s letter. The University of Düsseldorf instead engaged a high-street lawyer firm Buse Heberer Fromm (literally high-street, of the famous Düsseldorf luxury lane Königsallee) to ward off my inquiries. At the end, though I was never given the document, I learned something interesting, and not only about the total and utter uselessness of the German Freedom of Information (FOI) laws where university are concerned. Continue reading “Dean acting outside his competence and the illusion of Freedom of Information in Germany”

Berlin clinic head Joussen investigated by DFG, while 3 universities ignore FOI requests

Antonia Joussen, head of ophthalmology clinic at the Berlin university hospital Charité, had to correct several of her publications due to concerns for data integrity raised on PubPeer in early 2015 (my original report here). She also set a lawyer on me for reporting about these same concerns, and demanded up to €80,000 damage compensation (details see here). Joussen’s lawyer claimed that his client was fully exonerated by the Charité and the University of Düsseldorf where she used to head the ophthalmology clinic before. The lawyer (who commanded me to pay him over €2000 fee immediately and prohibited to make his letter public) also mentioned that the “incriminations” were forwarded to the German funding and investigative agency DFG, though he neglected to mention how the DFG responded.

Now, the DFG informed me on July 11th 2016 that:

„Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) initiated an investigation against Professor Dr. Antonia Joussen due to suspicion of scientific misconduct. The investigation is ongoing, no statements can be currently made about its conclusion and its possible results. As a matter of principle, DFG does not comment on ongoing investigations”.

Continue reading “Berlin clinic head Joussen investigated by DFG, while 3 universities ignore FOI requests”

Berlin head ophthalmologist Joussen deploys lawyer to silence my reporting, demands from me €80,000 damages

I received a lawyer’s letter, where I am instructed to delete my report about the Berlin head ophthalmologist Antonia Joussen and to pay her legal costs of over €2000, with more damage claims to come. It was the June 2nd report on my site “Research data integrity: words and deeds of Berlin’s head ophthalmologist  which provoked this reaction.

In brief, on behalf of Joussen the lawyer Johannes Eisenberg (who specialises in criminal law) denies band duplications, but acknowledges the criticised instances of gel splicing, while insisting this was an acceptable practice in academic publishing.  He repeatedly refers to investigations by Joussen’s current employer the Berlin University Hospital Charité, who apparently exonerated Joussen just days (literally) after the concerns about her publications appeared on PubPeer in February 2015. On March 31st 2015 same Charité informed me that they decided not to declare their stand regarding Joussen’s criticised publications (evidence below). The Charité spokesperson instructed me to contact her previous employers, the universities of Cologne and Düsseldorf, who then refused sharing any information with me (in fact, the University of Düsseldorf research integrity ombudsman Ulrich Noack twice refused to reply to my emails). Now, Joussen’s lawyer abstains from naming which office or which “responsible employee” of the Charité had been performing these ultra-rapid investigations. Neither was any evidence or details of their image integrity analysis even mentioned. Continue reading “Berlin head ophthalmologist Joussen deploys lawyer to silence my reporting, demands from me €80,000 damages”

Research data integrity: words and deeds of Berlin’s head ophthalmologist

Note: the following post provoked a lawyer’s letter on behalf of Antonia Joussen, demanding its removal and a personal damage compensation of up to €80,000. Read the letter here.

Antonia Joussen is head of the Department of Ophthalmology at one of the most renowned German university clinics, the Charité in Berlin; prior to this, she led the ophthalmology clinic at the University of Düsseldorf. Her CV lists numerous awards and professorship appointments, more than 200 publications with her co-authorships are listed on PubMed.

In 2015, accusations of data manipulation were raised against several of these publications on PubPeer, namely against those few containing cell biology images. After the editors were notified, and institutional investigation took place, only one paper was corrected, one received an editorial note of concern, others were seemingly forgotten. Precariously, in two cases image integrity suspicions were neglected where Joussen was not only responsible as the key author, but also as the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of the journal where these papers were published. All this evidence originally surfaced and was reported to journals and institutions well over a year ago. Not really much has came out of it since. Apparently, science had better things to do than self-correcting. Continue reading “Research data integrity: words and deeds of Berlin’s head ophthalmologist”