How Emilie Marcus and Cell covered up misconduct at Weizmann

How Emilie Marcus and Cell covered up misconduct at Weizmann

I previously reported about numerous cases of suspected (or even blatantly obvious) data manipulation at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel (here, here and here).  Initially I wrongly assumed that the institute does not investigate misconduct evidence on principle. It turned out they do, but these investigations “are not public” as Michal Neeman, Vice President of the Weizmann Institute, told me in an email.

Below I present the documents from one such investigation from 2012, regarding two papers by the Weizmann cell biologist, apoptosis researcher and keen dancer Atan Gross.  The original report was filed in July 2012 by a peer of Gross, David Vaux, deputy director of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. The Weizmann investigation ended just one month later with data manipulations confirmed, original raw data absent, but with the conclusion that it all was only an “unfortunate decision about presentation of the data” with “no evidence for falsification with an intent to deceive”. The case was closed with the request of two corrections, one to Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), and another one to Cell, with the manipulated data replaced by newly generated Ersatz. While the former journal duly issued a correction, Cell‘s Editor-in-Chief and Cell Press CEO Emilie Marcus declared that she will do nothing at all. Continue reading “How Emilie Marcus and Cell covered up misconduct at Weizmann”

Image reuse, the new low of UCL trachea transplanter Martin Birchall?

Image reuse, the new low of UCL trachea transplanter Martin Birchall?

With his three trachea transplant clinical trials suspended, the British laryngologist and UCL professor Martin Birchall now tries to pull at least the clinical trial RegenVox, which is about the “regenerated” voice-box (larynx) and upper trachea, out of the bog. In order to get an approval to transplant human patients, UCL’s chief trachea transplanter tries to prove in several papers to his funder MRC that the technology is safe in pigs. For this he seems to be reusing data in his recent papers from 2017, to illustrate utterly different experiments, in fact some of this data is at least 7 years old. One wonders if Birchall fibbed the authorities and the scientific community about the novel nature of his results. Was the confused scientist simply salami-publishing and re-interpreting the preclinical data he actually obtained long before he received MRC funding for RegenVox? The evidence of the larynx transplant data reuse across two recent papers and the grant proposal document from 2010 follows below, background on Birchall’s RegenVox and his trachea transplant adventures is here and here.

The UCL laryngologist uses the technology which developed with his former partner, the scandal trachea transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. The method is to strip the cadaveric donor organ of all cells (in a process called decellurisation) and then bring it back to life as recipient’s own organ using the magic of bone marrow cells. In Birchall’s own words, those magic cells recognise the decellurised organ by its shape and know what to do then: Continue reading “Image reuse, the new low of UCL trachea transplanter Martin Birchall?”

Christmas messages from Professor Turner, his ex-protégé under investigation Tiwari, and Elsevier

Christmas messages from Professor Turner, his ex-protégé under investigation Tiwari, and Elsevier

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”

Nature rewards data manipulation with a Mentoring Award

Nature rewards data manipulation with a Mentoring Award

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.

Continue reading “Nature rewards data manipulation with a Mentoring Award”

Karl Lenhard Rudolph barred from DFG funding for 2 years, as supportive peers flock to his conference

Karl Lenhard Rudolph barred from DFG funding for 2 years, as supportive peers flock to his conference

More trouble for the German stem cell and DNA damage researcher Karl Lenhard Rudolph (not to be confused this Christmas season with Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer), after his own Leibniz Society found him guilty of misconduct in 8 papers and forced his resignation as director of the the Fritz-Lippmann-Institute (FLI) in Jena (read here). Before that, FLI he used to head was raided by the police for suspected animal abuse, and forbidden to perform any mouse experiments. Today the central German funding agency DFG issued a press release declaring that Rudolph received a written reprimand for data manipulation in 3 of his recent papers, and was barred from DFG funding for 2 years. As usual in Germany, no investigative reports were released, we know no details or which papers or which data is affected. The DFG assures that Rudolph was only responsible by failing to provide oversight, and that no data was faked anyway, though the previous Leibniz Society investigation determined the loss of original data and lab books.

This is also probably why Rudolph is still welcome at the ISSCR Annual Meeting 2018, to take place on 20-23 June, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia, where he is even listed as Plenary Speaker, for some reason under his very much outdated affiliation of the Hannover Medical School MHH (amazing university btw, read more here). Rudolph also used to be listed as invited speaker at the prestigious Keystone Symposium “Pushing the Limits of Healthspan and Longevity“, to take place also in Hannover, on April 15th -19th, 2018, but then something strange happened and Rudolph’s name was removed from the programme. Never mind, for Rudolph set up his own meeting, at FLI in Jena, and almost everyone who counts is coming to show support. Continue reading “Karl Lenhard Rudolph barred from DFG funding for 2 years, as supportive peers flock to his conference”

Predatory conferences and other scams of false Swedish professor Ashutosh Tiwari

Predatory conferences and other scams of false Swedish professor Ashutosh Tiwari

Previously I reported on my site about the Indian nanotechnology researcher Prashant Sharma, whose collection of blatantly manipulated papers seems to grow daily on PubPeer. The article prompted two scientists from Sweden to contact me about a certain Sharma associate who was only briefly mentioned there: Ashutosh Tiwari, a former employee of the Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden. Tiwari built an entire industry of predatory publishing and conferences, which hosted many among the material science research elite, all from a small rented office in the industrial area of Linköping. Tiwari’s genius trick was to play at the vanity and greed of certain academics: all he had to do to get them to participate at his conferences and to help divert public money via conference fees into his pocket, was to offer a luxurious holiday-style venue (like a cruise ship) and hand them some ridiculous made-up awards, diploma and medals.

As it looks, Tiwari never was professor in Linköping or possibly anywhere else, in fact he arrived at LiU in 2011 as Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellow, assigned to the lab of Professor Anthony Turner, Editor-in-Chief of Biosensors and Bioelectronics, who somehow published a number of fraudulent papers by Tiwari’s associate Sharma and eventually became an invited speaker, co-organiser and even advertiser for Tiwari’s conferences. Even Tiwari’s doctorate is not certain: around 2015, Linköping University was investigating the validity of his PhD degree. Now, LiU finds itself unable to give me a straightforward answer about their scientist’s academic credentials. It is not even clear when Tiwari’s employment at LiU ended: my source says 2015, Turner says in summer 2017.

Yet to the scientific community and even his colleagues working at LiU, Tiwari presented himself since 2011 as “Associate Professor” of Linköping University, at Turner’s Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM). The Sweden-based Indian scam artist, whose scientific career began with data manipulation (as the evidence below proves), was and still is running many businesses:

  • a phony Vinoba  Bhave Research Institute (VBRI) in Allahabad, India (just where Sharma is located, working however at the really existent Indian School of Mines). This Tiwari-led research “institute” invites applications of PhD students and postdocs, but uses fraudulent photos to pretend it actually exists. The institute now has a Swedish branch, the Insitute of Advanced Materials, led by director Tiwari and located in a small rented office in Linköping
  • a predatory publishing outlet VBRI Press, located in the same office in Linköping, which used to be even DOAJ-listed, though its editorial team of young women is fake, with their photos stolen off internet, while VBRI press’ only peer reviewer is Tiwari himself
  • a so-called International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM), also located in the same mailbox in Linköping, which only purpose is to organize predatory conferences, preferably on luxury cruise ships. The conference fees for Advanced Materials World Congress, European Advanced Materials Congress, American Advanced Materials Congress etc flow to the same VBRI mailbox owned only by Tiwari and his wife.

Continue reading “Predatory conferences and other scams of false Swedish professor Ashutosh Tiwari”

Sharma’s bad karma, or is anyone peer reviewing nanotechnology?

Sharma’s bad karma, or is anyone peer reviewing nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is the way to cure cancer and to save humanity of all its problems in general, often using all possible plants and their parts to create nanoparticles. This is what one learns from certain publications which often appear in chemistry journals, where one can be quite sure no biologist was ever invited to peer review those. In fact, one wonders if anyone at all ever peer reviewed them. That is certainly the impression one gets from the evidence gathered by my now regular pseudonymous guest contributor, “Smut Clyde. Below, he will tell us a tale of the photoshopping team around the physicist Prashant Sharma at the Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad, India. There are currently two dozens of Sharma papers flagged on PubPeer, several feature a regular coauthor Rashmi Madhuri, who was apparently threatening hers and Sharma’s critics with “an International cyber complaint and formal police complaint” and “a case of defamation of worth 50,000 $ (per author)”.

Besides already available PubPeer evidence of what looks like the most lazy approach to data photoshopping, Smut Clyde lists a case of a single cell culture microscopy image which found its way in no less but (currently) 8 papers by Sharma et al, in different context. There are also examples of some apparently very insolent cloning of nanoparticles and other stuff inside same image, that bad that one feels ashamed for everyone involved. Certainly for the respected journals.

In those cases, the expert nanotechnology editors and reviewers do not have an excuse to have missed the evidence of gross data manipulation due to being dazzled by heavy biology they are not really experts in. Here, it was obviously duplicated electron microscopy, spectra analyses and chemical reaction kinetics which did not at all look like they represented original experimental data. Maybe they are supposed to stand in as illustration, and the authors promised to send their real research data afterwards, and then forgot.

Except that in one case, Sharma et al did have to fix a publication with a Corrigendum, which apparently shows the same photoshopped collage, but slightly zoomed out. For the esteemed editor-in-chief of ACS Biomaterials and professor at Tufts University School of Engineering, David Kaplan, this was apparently good enough. The irony: this was only caught because the original manuscript version is available on the “pirate” site Sci-Hub, which hosts almost all paywalled scholarly publications. The same site, which ACS (American Chemical Society) just now successfully sued in US court and had several of its internet domains removed, to prevent nosy people from accessing ACS property without paying. All, as ACS declares: “for the benefit of Earth and its people”.

After the evidence against Sharma et al papers began to pop up on PubPeer, a strange thing happened. Massive wave of comments targeting many papers from Sharma’s institutional colleague at Indian School of Mines, Sagar Pal, appeared on PubPeer, which were basically randomly picked figures from Pal’s papers combined with a comment declaring those to be fake. The tone occasionally tried to emulate the jovial descriptions of irregularities found in Sharma et al papers. Yet those accusations were all without exception ridiculously empty and utterly unfounded, and indeed PubPeer removed them soon (possibly after my tweets).  Continue reading “Sharma’s bad karma, or is anyone peer reviewing nanotechnology?”