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”

How Elsevier finds its peer reviewers

How Elsevier finds its peer reviewers

We all have been there: you read a paper and wonder: how did this ever pass peer review? Who were these incompetent peer reviewers? The following email exchange gives some insights into the farcical quagmire which the traditional peer review process is. It took place between the Editor-in-Chief of an Elsevier subscription  journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice and a professor of physics and astronomy, who was invited to peer review a clinical trial study on gestational diabetes, his expertise assumed from some  obscure “keywords”. Apparently any academic can be spontaneously invited to act as Elsevier reviewers, actual expertise doesn’t matter.

In the end, the indignant editor Antonio Ceriello, Italian research clinician with an h-index of 80, appeared to be threatening the physics professor with legal consequences from his own lawyer and Elsevier’s legal department, should he not cease complaining about these editorial practices of recruiting inappropriate reviewers.

Continue reading “How Elsevier finds its peer reviewers”

How scam artist Ashutosh Tiwari played Linköping University

How scam artist Ashutosh Tiwari played Linköping University

The Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden is quite busy these days with the affair around their fake professor Ashutosh Tiwari, trying to figure out what actually happened inside their own Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM). How could a person with some very shady claims to a doctorate, a publication list consisting mostly of papers in his own private predatory journal, titles and awards from his own fake research institutions and predatory conferences fool the system for years in this way? How could he get the prestigious Marie-Curie fellowship, which in turn delivered him a habilitation degree of Docent at LiU and grant money from Swedish public? In this regard, how could he have just last year been awarded funding from the Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet (VR) if he wasn’t even employed at LiU or anywhere else since early 2015?

The answer is: with bold chutzpah and even bolder support from certain Swedish professors. First and foremost, from his mentor, the LiU bioelectronics professor Anthony “Tony” Turner, who conveniently accepted a large number of Tiwari-coauthored papers in his Elsevier journal Bionsensors and Bioelectronics, and played a key role in Tiwari being awarded the Marie-Curie fellowship and the docent degree. Others helped along, a recommendation letter from a Malmö biochemistry professor proves a particularly bizarre piece of evidence of how Tiwari’s fraud was interpreted as superhuman genius achievements. Continue reading “How scam artist Ashutosh Tiwari played Linköping University”

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”

The rise and fall of an antivax paper, by Smut Clyde

The rise and fall of an antivax paper, by Smut Clyde

For the publisher Elsevier, antivax papers are apparently only a problem when they are too heavily manipulated. It took their journal 12 years to retract the notorious paper by Andrew Wakefield, because of data irregularities (details here and here). But the damage was done, an worldwide antivax movement was born, which keeps spreading bizarre and irrational paranoia that vaccines would cause autism in children (most recently supported by the disastrous US president Donald Trump, in tweets and in actual governmental policy). Vaccination rates dropped worldwide, and consequently deadly diseases considered long eradicated are making a comeback. But scholarly publishers and their journals bear here a heavy responsibility, by repeatedly publishing antivax papers and providing the anti-vax movement with the scientific legitimacy.

This was exactly what Elsevier did just now, again. Their Journal of Inorganic Chemistry published a paper by notorious antivax researchers Christopher Shaw, ophthalmology professor in the University of British Columbia, and his postdoc Lucija Tomljenovic. Both scientists enjoy full support of their Canadian university, despite that, together with another antivaxer, Yehuda Schoenfeld, they once had to retract a paper on the alleged neurotoxicity of aluminium adjuvant in vaccines, from the Elsevier journal Vaccine. The authors then simply republished the retracted masterpiece again in another journal, Immunologic Research, published by Springer.

The newly published Shaw paper in Journal of Inorganic Chemistry is again about alleged neurotoxicity of aluminium (or as authors prefer to call it, “aluminum”) , with a bold claim that it would cause autism in mice, as detected by some biomarkers authors saw as appropriate:

Continue reading “The rise and fall of an antivax paper, by Smut Clyde”

The smelly compost heap of plant-based nanoparticles

A gang of Indian nanotechnology scientists, allegedly from Annamalai University in India, placed in 2014-2015 several papers in different journals, all of them about nanoparticle synthesis using extracts from various local plants. Most papers went into the journal Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy, published by Elsevier. The publications were harshly criticised on PubPeer for their poor science, but also for suspected data manipulations (electron microscopy images, photographs of bacteria dishes and X-ray diffraction measurements were reused across different unrelated papers, see PubPeer examples below).

Five nanotechnology papers at Elsevier are now about to be retracted, at least four of them from Spectrochimica Acta Part A. The concerns about research quality and data integrity may have been however less decisive here. The faculties of the Annamalai University carry no mention of any of these authors as their members, all of the provided corresponding email addresses are from Gmail. A publishing scam, possibly including fraudulent peer review, is the likely reason why these papers are being retracted now. Continue reading “The smelly compost heap of plant-based nanoparticles”

With Voinnet and Cosma cover-up, Cell now admits to have no editorial integrity whatsoever

With Voinnet and Cosma cover-up, Cell now admits to have no editorial integrity whatsoever

The elite journal Cell issued editorial notices in regard to 3 papers by the Swiss-based French plant scientist Olivier Voinnet (found guilty of research misconduct in many papers) and one by the Spain-based Italian cell biologist Maria Pia Cosma (some information about her papers here). The journal Molecular Cell (which editorial offices are not entirely independent from Cell) issued same note for a different Cosma paper.

Despite obvious data manipulations, the journal decided not to do even as little as a correction. This is in full agreement with a previous declaration by the Cell Editor-in-Chief Emilie Marcus, who announced one year ago to be tolerating data manipulations in her journal, provided the science described is “wow” and “cool” (see details in my satire article here). Indeed, as a branch of the private business Elsevier, Cell is free to publish whatever they wish, even explicit fraud, lies and fakery. It is however the duty of all scientists, funding agencies and the subscription-paying university libraries to decide if what Cell publishes is actually any good science under such policies.  Even if it reads“wow”.

I will simply list the four editorial notices below, accompanied with some corresponding images off PubPeer. Naturally, none of that author-provided evidence (i.e., where it existed in the first place) which Cell found so convincing, is shared with us nosy readers. Make your own judgement, the notices speak for themselves. Continue reading “With Voinnet and Cosma cover-up, Cell now admits to have no editorial integrity whatsoever”