Catherine Jessus case: journals hide behind Sorbonne & COPE to avoid retractions

Catherine Jessus case: journals hide behind Sorbonne & COPE to avoid retractions

Some rather jaw-dropping corrections for the French martyr saint of research integrity, Catherine Jessus, head of biology branch at the French CNRS, professor of developmental biology at Sorbonne University in Paris. Jessus is the feared CNRS executive whose case divided French academics and even media into loyal Stalinists and enemies of the people, after Sorbonne whitewashed their professor in a parody of an investigation. The Stalinists being the over 500 signature supporters of Jessus, the enemies of the people to be rooted out are 10 critical authors of a counter-report and the daily newspaper Le Monde. The fresh corrections were now issued by the UK-based non-profit academic publisher The Company of Biologists, in their two journals Development and Journal of Cell Science. Two of these four papers, the worst ones, feature as first author Jessus’ mentee Anthi Karaiskou (now associate professor at Sorbonne University). All these works of science contain such appalling Photoshop manipulations (while the relevant raw data was reliably missing) that the academic publisher had to bend over backwards to invent the reason why they did not retract those. In one case, there wasn’t even a correction. The journal simply issued a strange “publisher’s note”, telling which figures have been rigged and that original data was unavailable.

The argument went: the investigation by the Sorbonne University declared those copy-pasted gel bands to be good scientific practice, and even announced in advance on behalf of the journals that no corrections will be necessary. Based on that investigative report (which, as it was leaked, was written by Jessus’ personal ally and subordinate colleague Francis-Andre Wollman, assisted by Jessus herself), namely that manipulated data has no impact on the scientific message of the paper, the two journals resorted to the guidelines by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) which say that a retraction is not appropriate where scientific message is solid. The circle of Pravda-esque idiocy was complete, and here come the three corrections and the bizarre “publisher’s note”, illustrated by the evidence from my site and on PubPeer. Do compare them with what now serves as replacement, the scientific message is not really always the same. Continue reading “Catherine Jessus case: journals hide behind Sorbonne & COPE to avoid retractions”

Jessus critics defiant, reactionary cock-up and Chicken of Dishonour Legion

Jessus critics defiant, reactionary cock-up and Chicken of Dishonour Legion

French science revolution is happening, and the corrupt elites are scared. As the daily Le Monde started brought into the public light the Catherine Jessus affair with its whitewashed data manipulation and the growing academic protest against such institutional endorsement of research misconduct, a counter-revolution put its foot in. A signature list in the worst Stalinist tradition was published, organised by the very elite of French academia (mostly members of Academie de Sciences), and signed by hundreds, mostly professors and CNRS group leaders, including the former CNRS president Alain Fuchs, the one who in 2015 oversaw the secret Olivier Voinnet investigation. The Stalinists demand: to uncover the identities of the 10 anonymous authors of the counter-report, which exposed the corruption and incompetence of the Jessus investigation by the Sorbonne University, and to have them as well as the Le Monde journalist David Larousserie punished. Those demands were endorsed in a secret press release (sic!) by CNRS president Antoine Petit and Sorbonne University president Jean Chambaz.

Other newspapers might have been intimidated against such massive and organised pushback from the elites of society. But the Pravda-esque denunciation of traitors and enemies of the people is unlikely to lead to an intended purge. It appears to have already now backfired badly, and the Stalinists who signed it already started regretting it. Indeed, many names were removed, and the list was closed to further signing, left standing at 503 shameful sycophantic signatures. Another main French daily, Le Figaro, brought its own Jessus-critical article, while Le Monde hit CNRS and Sorbonne University back where it hurts. The newspaper exposed the enormous conflict of interest behind the Jessus investigation and made clear who the man behind that whitewashing farce was and still is: the Sorbonne professor of biochemistry and cell biology, Francis-Andre Wollman, Academie de Sciences member and Knight of the Honour Legion. Wollman was defending Jessus and attacking her critics long before he was tasked with investigating her, and as Le Monde indicated, the investigative report was written by or at least together with Jessus herself. Finally, Le Monde reported that the Stalinist signature collection was published on a web platform hosted by Wollman and Chambaz. From another source we learned the investigative report lied that the journals involved accepted the explanations and agreed not to do anything: the journal editors actually are still deliberating what to do about the data manipulations in Jessus papers.

Here I publish the English version of the counter-report, together with a statement forwarded to me by its 10 authors, so  that also the international community can see what disreputable deed Wollmann and his CNRS Politburo pulled off and now defend tooth and nail.

Continue reading “Jessus critics defiant, reactionary cock-up and Chicken of Dishonour Legion”

French Biologists: CNRS-Sorbonne investigators “totally incompetent”, data manipulations in Jessus papers “intentionally fraudulent forgeries”

French Biologists: CNRS-Sorbonne investigators “totally incompetent”, data manipulations in Jessus papers “intentionally fraudulent forgeries”

The revolution in French science has begun, and its target is the corrupt elite who betrayed against basic principles of research integrity and conspired to protect one of their own, the CNRS chief biologist Catherine Jessus. French scientists seem to finally have enough of watching fraudsters eat cake and now storm the Bastille.

Much of evidence of data manipulation in papers from Jessus’ lab was originally forwarded to me by my readers and reported on my site, I then posted it also on PubPeer. Under mounting pressure from her peers, Jessus started to correct some of her papers, and eventually her employer CNRS, Europe-largest network of research institutes, decided to switch to attack mode of defence. Sorbonne University in Paris, where Jessus holds a professorship, delivered an outrageous whitewashing report about Jessus’s data manipulations, which were either declared to be minor errors, or denied outright, or even declared to be actually good scientific practice, all despite absence of original data. The authors of that opus hid their identity, but one was eventually exposed by my sources: Francis-André Wollman, an elite CNRS and Sorbonne biologist. I was personally accused of libellous slander in a CNRS press release, which also announced to persecute those raising misconduct allegations, while urging French researchers to “collective vigilance” against such traitors. CNRS new president Antoine Petit, whose predecessor Anne Peyroche was deposed after my reporting about data manipulations in her own papers, then announced to smoke out anonymous PubPeer commenters using IT tools of deep surveillance.

Yesterday, an Open Letter has been published on the website Sauvons l’Université ! , authored by around 10 unnamed French biologists. It plucks apart the Sorbonne report of Jessus papers and declares:

“We, geneticists, biochemists, cell and molecular biologists, have read this report, have analysed, criticised it point by point and can conclude that all the arguments of the Inquiry Commission are against all common rules of good scientific practice and of the interpretation of results, which form the basis of research integrity. Worse, and that is the reason that led us to react (see our open letter), it encourages image manipulations which are nevertheless recognized as fabrications and falsifications of results”.

Continue reading “French Biologists: CNRS-Sorbonne investigators “totally incompetent”, data manipulations in Jessus papers “intentionally fraudulent forgeries””

Jessus investigator identity leaked, CNRS President to expose whistleblowers

Jessus investigator identity leaked, CNRS President to expose whistleblowers

An update to the ongoing cartoon Stalinism propaganda and purge activities at the EU largest research institution, the French CNRS, in the wake of the affair around manipulated data of CNRS chief biologist Catherine Jessus, according to their press release an innocent “victim” of my “slanderous” and “unscientific” blogging.  First of all, a reliable source forwarded to me information from inside CNRS who one of the anonymous investigators was: Francis-André Wollman, CNRS researcher and professor at Jessus’s university UPMC (now Sorbonne University) in Paris. Wollmann is plant cell biologist, specialising in chloroplasts, the technology of western blot is standard in his lab. He did not reply to my emails, also the CNRS and Sorbonne University press speakers chose not to deny his role as anonymous Jessus investigator. The experts namely declared western blot manipulation to be good scientific practice, and lashed out at those who have a problem with copy-pasted gel bands (read here).

Then, the new CNRS President Antoine Petit, who replaced interim president Anne Peyroche (deposed after my reporting about data manipulations in her papers) proved to be not really a reformer, quite the opposite. Petit approved the new definition of what research misconduct in biology is, following cues from Sorbonne University and its president Jean Chambaz (who is cell biologist, specialising on intestinal metabolism and thus also a western blot expert), as well as Wollman and other Jessus investigators. New Sorbonne and CNRS Party doctrine is that data manipulation is definitely not research misconduct, but criticising that data manipulation is.

This is how Petit responded to the Jessus affair in public so far:

  • Called myself and other PubPeer commenters “arseholes” (in French connards) at his first meeting with the section heads of CNRS (one of whom is Jessus)
  • Claimed that PubPeer evidence and my reporting was an accusation of misconduct directed personally at Jessus and Peyroche (a lie, check my articles here and here), in this radio interview.
  • Described documented and now validated data integrity concerns raised against publications by Jessus and Peyroche as equivalent to false accusations of pederasty (then corrected to paedophilia), in same radio interview.
  • Announced to use IT surveillance technology to identify anonymous PubPeer commenters after their evidence was exposed as “wrong” (as it was in case of Jessus), in same radio interview.

Continue reading “Jessus investigator identity leaked, CNRS President to expose whistleblowers”

Pravda of Jessus report, CNRS Politburo scared of own people

Pravda of Jessus report, CNRS Politburo scared of own people

Following my recent article about attempts to fix data irregularities in the papers by CNRS’ chief biologist and director of l’Institut des sciences biologiques (INSB) Catherine Jessus, this state-owned French research institution, the biggest in Europe, now went full Pravda. Just as the notorious propaganda newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Pravda means Truth in Russian), CNRS press release of February 21st about the Jessus misconduct investigation combines lies, disinformation, and thinly veiled threats and calls for mass denunciation of traitors. The foreign enemy of French science is clearly identified: myself, the slanderous blogger.

All that would be mildly entertaining, were it not for the main victim of that investigative report: research integrity. We learn from that Soviet-style propaganda piece that Jessus took responsibility for almost all of the data manipulations in her papers, in fact even more data integrity problems emerged during the investigation, in figures previously not flagged either on my site or on PubPeer. Jessus was tasked by the commission to analyse her own incriminated figures herself, and to report her findings to her investigators. These professors of the l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC, now Sorbonne University) who wisely chose to hide their identities (while decrying same with PubPeer commenters, sic!) had then the cheek to actually endorse the practice of data manipulations, in a public document, most astonishingly that of gel band duplications across different gel images, “for reasons of visual symmetry”. In other instances of cloned gel bands, the investigators spoke of scientifically-irrelevant “assembly errors” of western blots. No, not of separate antibody panels. Of individual gel images. They do not believe in monolithic photographs of an experimental gel, but prefer those as a digital puzzle or a collage, to be assembled from various bits and pieces in Photoshop, where a scientist sometimes inadvertently slips and uses the same gel band or bit of background twice.

Masquerading  research misconduct as good scientific practice is a form of scientific misconduct in itself. It doesn’t matter if these so-called experts really believed into the greater good of data manipulations, or strategically trolled the scientific community under cover of anonymity to save Jessus from herself, or were professionally unqualified to judge on the matters of biological science. Their decision not to see any misconduct despite ascertained evidence, while appropriating the entire blame onto those who blew the whistle, was borderline criminal, considering the circumstances. These dishonest UPMC investigators should be dragged out of their anonymity and publicly shamed and disciplined for the damage they just did to the reputation of French science. Continue reading “Pravda of Jessus report, CNRS Politburo scared of own people”

CNRS: chief biologist Catherine Jessus “victim of slanderous campaign” by blogger

CNRS: chief biologist Catherine Jessus  “victim of slanderous campaign” by blogger

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 CNRSan 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 suspectedpolitical 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.

Continue reading “CNRS: chief biologist Catherine Jessus “victim of slanderous campaign” by blogger”

Anne Peyroche removed as interim CNRS President as her publications are “questioned”

Anne Peyroche removed as interim CNRS President as her publications are “questioned”

Things are happening at the French state’s network of research institutes, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Their interim president, Anne Peyroche, was now removed prematurely from her position due to evidence of data manipulations in her papers on PubPeer, which I helped uncover. As all credit goes to PubPeer (run chiefly by two CNRS researchers), the announcement unfortunately makes no reference to my call for a minor revolution at CNRS, where these data manipulations were presented to wider public. The official letter which I obtained, is below, both in English translation and its French original.

Another problematic CNRS chief scientist, Catherine Jessus, who as director of l’Institut des sciences biologiques (INSB) is the head biologist at CNRS, was acquitted in November 2017 by a secret investigation at l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) despite all that long list of suspected data manipulations found in her papers (which I originally presented in this article). As Peyroche faces disciplinary investigation by her employer, the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA), nothing of that kind seems to threaten Jessus. Instead, those CNRS researchers who dare to protest against her  research integrity shortcomings are being threatened and terrorized, by a furious Jessus herself and her supporters at the top of CNRS.

Finally, a particularly data manipulations-ridden Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes (IBMP) in Strasbourg, former home of the legendary Olivier Voinnet (whom Jessus once investigated for doing those same naughty things she might have just a sbadly engaged herself in) has issued a Code for Ethics and Responsible research, which warns potential perpetrators:

IBMP defines scientific misconduct as:

The selective manipulation, fabrication or falsification of scientific data.

Thing is, IBMP director Laurence Maréchal-Drouard with her PhD student and now tenured lab member Thalia Salinas recently went to PubPeer to admit exactly this kind of misconduct, after I published evidence of data manipulations in Drouard’s many publications and Salinas’ doctorate thesis. Continue reading “Anne Peyroche removed as interim CNRS President as her publications are “questioned””