Edinburgh breaks silence to announce Stancheva retractions

Edinburgh breaks silence to announce Stancheva retractions

In October 2017, I brought an exclusive story of a mysterious sacking at the University of Edinburgh. The molecular biologist and epigenetics researcher Irina Stancheva was removed from her post as senior lecturer at the Scottish university, in total secret, all online traces of her employment rapidly deleted (even a promo video on Vimeo), her freshly obtained graduate school money redistributed to her faculty colleagues. The journal Nucleic Acid Research (NAR) soon after silently removed Stancheva as its Executive Editor. Still, I was able to gather some information, including leaked emails from Stancheva’s Head of Department David Gray (read here), but mysteriously no other media covered the story. Either heavily funded senior lecturers get sacked in Edinburgh on a weekly basis, or the university holds the newspapers in a vice grip in the Stancheva case. All my attempt at freedom of Information (FOI) were rejected by University of Edinburgh. There is a lot to hide: Stancheva is a third generation Edinburgh elite biologist: academic daughter of Professor of Human Genetics Richard Meehan and academic granddaughter of Meehan’s mentor, Professor of Genetics and Nobel Prize candidate Adrian Bird. Both Edinburg professors are co-authors on Stancheva’s papers flagged on PubPeer.

Now, after 8 months of silence, I received out of the blue an email from the same data protection officer who used to deny telling me the time of the day, with a list of Stancheva papers about to be retracted. The list follows below.

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

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

ch 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.

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David Latchman, the reckless Master of Birkbeck

David Latchman, the reckless Master of Birkbeck

This is a story of David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck at University of London, professor of genetics at UCL and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. All this he achieved also by his impressive publishing record, part of which will be discussed below by my regular contributor Smut Clyde. Just part of it, because there are in fact oodles of Latchman co-authored papers discussed on PubPeer for evidence of data manipulation. As Birkbeck and UCL were repeatedly bombarded by whistleblowers, Latchman was (pretend)-investigated on misconduct charges twice. Naturally, neither whitewashing report was released to public. After the first investigation of 2015, we only learned:

“UCL confirms that the conclusion of its investigation is that Professor Latchman has no case to answer in relation to research misconduct”.

Last month, UCL declared that Latchman committed “recklessness” and was “insufficiently attentive” to what his junior researchers used to do in his lab and in his papers, namely the cardiologist Tiziano Scarabelli and the cancer researcher Anastasis Stephanou. The former is presently professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center in USA, while the latter is professor at European University Cyprus. These two were found guilty of having manipulated images in 7 papers. All other Latchman co-authored papers (of the 32 investigated) are perfectly fine, and anyway, as Birkbeck explained:

“The matter does not relate to Professor David Latchman’s leadership of Birkbeck, which has been excellent for the past 15 years.  Furthermore, there is no suggestion by UCL that Professor Latchman had any knowledge of, or involvement in, the image manipulation identified”

This is a typical academic attitude. When a paper is needed to get promotion and funding money, boss claims the main credit. When a paper is exposed as fraudulent, boss never had anything to do with it (see for example this Spanish case).

Retrospectively, both UCL investigation look even more of a farce, as Latchman himself seems to have been instructing the university how to properly investigate others and not him:

“In my view, the investigation should focus on those actually involved in preparing the questionable figures and those directly involved in supervising their production”

Despite at least 5 retractions, Latchman remains in his position as Master of Birkbeck, where he is paid GBP 400k a year, one of the highest rector salaries in UK. Without diminishing the responsibilities of Scarabelli and Stephanou (in fact, Smut Clyde presents much more below), there seems to be a pattern at UCL of finding the exclusive blame with those no longer employed, while their English-bred senior professors turn out utterly blameless. Recent revelations in the Macchiarini trachea transplant affair also suggest that. However, some of problematic Latchman papers have neither Scarabelli nor Stephanou as co-author. Very reckless of UCL not to have investigated those.

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Zauli and University of Ferrara announce libel suit, criminal prosecution against me

Zauli and University of Ferrara announce libel suit, criminal prosecution against me

My report from just a week ago, about the data irregularities in papers from Italian  haematologist and cancer researcher Giorgio Zauli provoked a response of a legal threat, of both criminal and civil prosecution. Zauli is namely rector of the University of Ferrara, and he issued this threat in this official capacity, acting for his Italian university. I was already made aware of Zauli’s threats of suing me from a first-hand source, and my site was indeed accessed by Italian State prosecutor’s office the day after I published my article about Zauli’s flawed cytometry and other problematic data in research papers he mostly co-authored with Ferrara’s Head of Department, Paola Secchiero. This letter from Zauli below, which reached me today per certified mail, is the more bizarre due to the fact the university denied any knowledge of Zauli’s legal threats (see the update here).

In any case, here is the letter, on the headed paper of the University of Ferrara, which even paid the postage. Zauli and his university apparently assume that their research publications and public institutional profiles are personal data, protected by EU privacy regulations. Maybe rector Zauli is confused at to where the Latin-derived word “publications” comes from. It’s from “public” and certainly not from “pubic”, hence definitely not his sphere of personal privacy. Though his publications could profit from some data integrity hygiene. In any case, the Ethics Commission of University of Ferrara will convene on June 1st to decide what to do about the publicly available PubPeer evidence I reported about. The scanned original is here. Please disseminate widely. Continue reading “Zauli and University of Ferrara announce libel suit, criminal prosecution against me”

Cardiff: no misconduct by TCM professor Wen Jiang, report secret

Cardiff: no misconduct by TCM professor Wen Jiang, report secret

Cardiff University is very proud of its collaboration with manufacturer of Traditional Chinese Medicine Yiling Pharmaceuticals, while the money it brings in is largely a private issue between the two business partners. Unfortunately Cardiff’s surgery and tumour biology professor Wen Jiang, Fellow of Royal Society of Medicine, is at the centre of an affair about data manipulation in his papers, and about criticisms of peddling Yiling’s TCM concoction of ginseng, dried fungus, chicken gizzard and crushed cockroach as a Cardiff University-certified cancer cure, all involuntarily sponsored by the Welsh public and charity Cancer Research Wales. This is why the university threw their own damning internal investigative report out of the window, and had three poorly qualified experts declare Jiang innocent of any data manipulation in his cell biology papers. Cardiff University issued then a press release accusing me personally of having slandered Jiang with false allegations of misconduct.

After having mulled another one of my Freedom of Information (FOI) inquiries for a month, this time a request for the investigative report, Cardiff University declared that their whitewashing opus is secret, because:

“the formal investigation has not upheld the allegations of misconduct and to further distribute this report would be an unnecessary invasion of the privacy of the individual involved”.

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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”.

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Flawed cytometry of Rector Giorgio Zauli

Flawed cytometry of Rector Giorgio Zauli

Giorgio Zauli is Italian clinical haematologist and cancer researcher, who used to be director of Burlo Garofolo Pediatric Institute in Trieste, till in 2015 he was appointed Rector of the respected University of Ferrara. In this position he might soon be investigating his own papers, because given the massive evidence uncovered by the pseudonymous data integrity sleuth Clare Francis and others, Zauli seems to become a second Alfredo Fusco, and given his Rector status, probably just as unshakable. In Italy, science and politics are unhealthily interconnected, as demonstrated by the deadly scandal of Paolo Macchiarini in Florence. In any case, the list of gross irregularities in Zauli’s papers on PubPeer grows daily.

Zauli’s impressive publishing record consists of almost 200 first- and last-author papers in prestigious journals and his h-index bears the impressive size of 57. Some of this academic output, largely co-authored by his close associate and head of his department in Ferrara, Paola Secchiero (h-index 41), was achieved by their rather questionable attitude to data integrity. Of course we have the usual: western blots with duplicated gel lanes and bands re-appearing in several figures and papers, standing in for different experiments and even different patients. This article however will focus on Zauli’s flow cytometry studies, and how such data in his publications apparently got manipulated in a way which is supposed to provide deniability should the authors ever be caught.

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