DFG decision: Antonia Joussen innocent victim of co-authors’ data manipulations

DFG decision: Antonia Joussen innocent victim of co-authors’ data manipulations

Antonia Joussen, German professor and head of the ophthalmology clinic at the Berlin university hospital Charite, is innocent of research misconduct in any form, despite of all the evidence of data irregularities in her publications which emerged in 2015 on PubPeer (see my detailed report here). This is at least what the German Research Foundation (DFG) decided two weeks ago, despite never disputing the PubPeer evidence and even admitting that some of Joussen’s publications do contain manipulated figures. There however, DFG decided that it was Joussen’s co-authors who secretly manipulated the data without her knowing, while her authorship on these problematic papers was anyway accidental and attributed to her behind her back as well. With such argumentation, even as a senior researcher Joussen was not supposed to ensure the data integrity in her own papers. Continue reading “DFG decision: Antonia Joussen innocent victim of co-authors’ data manipulations”

Kathrin Maedler loses Heisenberg Professorship, found guilty of misconduct by DFG

The German central research funding society DFG has issued a press release about two decisions on research misconduct. The main point concerns the Bremen University diabetes researcher Kathrin Maedler (see my story here) and strips her of the prestigious Heisenberg professorship awarded to her by DFG in 2014, after having found her guilty of misconduct and co-responsible for misrepresentation of research data in 6 publications. Today’s DFG decision stands in contrast to two previous investigations by the Universities of Bremen and Zürich, which acquitted Maedler of all suspicions of misconduct and upheld the validity of all her published research results. This is my Google-translate assisted English translation of the Mädler section of DFG press release.


Scientific misconduct: Decision in two DFG procedures

The General Committee decides to withdraw Heisenberg’s professorship […]

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is once again drawing conclusions from the scientific misconduct by the scientists it funded. In its meeting on 8 December 2016 in Bonn, the main committee of the largest research funding organization and central self-administration organization for science in Germany decided in two cases to implement measures in accordance with the DFG procedural rules for dealing with scientific misconduct. In doing so, it followed the recommendation of the DFG committee to investigate allegations of scientific misconduct. Continue reading “Kathrin Maedler loses Heisenberg Professorship, found guilty of misconduct by DFG”

Kathrin Maedler: persecuted genius or zombie scientist?

Kathrin Maedler: persecuted genius or zombie scientist?

The prize-winning German pharmacologist and diabetes researcher Kathrin Maedler is regularly in the German and international news, either as a celebrated genius about to cure diabetes or as a potential cheater, responsible for masses of duplicated images in her publications. The rectorate of her own University of Bremen absolved their professor of all suspicions of data manipulations, while admitting image duplications and loss of original data. One argument was that all results were successfully reproduced, yet by whom: that the Bremen rectorate prefers not to answer, together with all other relevant questions which would have made this investigation anywhere credible. In the same vein, another investigation at the University of Zürich in Switzerland, where Maedler did her PhD in 2000-2004 under the supervision of Marc Donath, absolved them both of any suspicion of misconduct as well, while refusing to provide any further explanations. Meanwhile, other labs have refuted Maedler’s discoveries, but these publications were dismissed by the University of Bremen as irrelevant. Maedler also had to retract a publication Ardestani et al 2011 from the Journal of Biological Chemistry (which is known to have a rather tough stance on suspected misconduct). Continue reading “Kathrin Maedler: persecuted genius or zombie scientist?”

Can lawyers influence a misconduct investigation? Case of Tina Wenz

Can lawyers influence a misconduct investigation? Case of Tina Wenz

Tina Wenz is a German mitochondria biologist, who was now found guilty of research misconduct in her six publications, authored as postdoc and group leader. The investigation was performed by her former employer, the University of Cologne in Germany, the results were announced in a press release on September 29th 2016. She was instructed to retract all these 6 publications, her former postdoctoral advisor and corresponding author Carlos Moraes from the University of Miami already announced to ask the journals to retract his four common papers with Wenz. Two other papers came from Wenz’ own former lab in Cologne, within the CECAD ageing research centre. Previously, Wenz’ lawyers attempted to squash any kind of identifying reporting about their client; a source indicated that the Cologne investigation had a certain heavy legal edge to it. None of these legal efforts helped, it seems. The university chose to de-anonymise Wenz’ name as well as to release detailed descriptions of research misconduct, a rather singular event in the notoriously secretive German academic environment, where the outcomes of institutional misconduct investigations are reported in public only with all identifying information removed or in fact are sometimes not even known to have ever taken place. In fact, the same University of Cologne keeps rejecting my freedom of information requests about a different investigation they have performed. On June 20th 2016, my inquiry to the University of Cologne about the outcome of that and the Wenz investigation was rejected outright.

Continue reading “Can lawyers influence a misconduct investigation? Case of Tina Wenz”

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”

Big Boys only for Big Dream of Gold OA in Germany

Big Boys only for Big Dream of Gold OA in Germany

Germany is set to transform its academic publishing to Open Access (OA). Gold OA model, where the articles are published in author-pays OA journals, is the obvious favourite, as recently recommended by several major universities and key German research institutions, the Max-Planck and the Helmholtz Societies. But also Green OA is welcome, where papers become openly accessible after an additional payment to the subscription publisher (hybrid model), or are uploaded to institutional depositories after this publisher’s embargo expires. The OA transformation is certainly a very laudable idea, however, a suspicion creeps in, there is possibly little strategy beyond the goal of flipping to OA. The closed-access Berlin12 conference on OA transformation, which took place in December 2015, did not seem to make cost reduction at publishing and subscriptions a priority, and neither changing the way science is published. Research irreproducibility, widespread manipulations and missing data, presently widely ignored or even cynically dismissed by journal editors, are probably expected to go away by themselves once the very same journals go full Open Access.

Yet some scientists are keen to flip not only the subscription model to OA, but also the way science is published, towards transparency and data sharing. The traditional publishing model (whether subscription or OA), where a submitted manuscript disappears into a black hole of obscure editorial dealings, intransparent peer review and hidden conflicts of interests, only to emerge months or years later, with its experimental protocols muddy at best and its research data forever inaccessible- this should become a thing of the past. New models emerge, where the peer review becomes progressively transparent and the research becomes immediately available, for example as pre-prints. Continue reading “Big Boys only for Big Dream of Gold OA in Germany”