Much of French media and academia, and certainly also the international plant science community now debates a hot conspiracy theory: what if Olivier Voinnet is actually innocent, a visionary genius who fell prey to a conspiracy of fraudulent colleagues and scheming bureaucrats? I discuss here the widespread dishonesty and data manipulation among Voinnet’s co-authors and peers. Is French research culture to blame?
Following my reporting, the cancer researcher Carlos López-Otín abandoned his ERC-funded 36-member-strong “Degradome” lab at the University of Oviedo in Spain and moved in with his collaborator in Paris, France, Guido Kroemer. Yet Lopez-Otin’s data integrity issues seem as poppycock compared to what Kroemer and his life partner Laurence Zitvogel dished out to the scientific community.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a cancer research unit in France, IARC. Some papers from there contain impressive manipulations. The works of art are authored by Massimo Tommasino and his former junior colleague there Uzma Hasan, now tenured group leader at INSERM. Some of this research took place at the Schering-Plough Research Institute which was taken over by German pharma giant Merck.
The newspaper l’Express reported that Academie de Sciences commissioned an investigative report about the papers of former CNRS interim president Anne Peyroche, and that CNRS and the French Ministry of Research tried to suppress it. Peyroche herself could not be heard, because she is hospitalised since the affair started. So her co-authors took that as opportunity to blame Peyroche for every fake figure. Meanwhile, duplicated data was found even in Research Minister’s Frederique Vidal’s paper.
Two sets of events for Women in STEM: the theoretical physicist Alessandro Strumia, soon likely ex-CERN affiliated, decried feminist conspiracies and the discrimination against males like himself, in a workshop talk on gender. Right after, the Nobel Prize for physics was finally after 55 years given to a woman. Thing is: one of the other recipients, Gerard Mourou, made it clear in a 2013 video what the roles of males and females in physics are.
This is a story of a plant scientist in France, Steffen Reinbothe. He and his sister Christiane used to hold academic positions in Germany, but now they both returned to France, to Grenoble. The move might have had to do with a dossier from 2009, made by a former lab member and circulated among peers.
Whatever concerns any peers might have had: Steffen and Christiane Reinbothe could rely on the “contributed” track at PNAS.
Olivier Voinnet, responsible for probably the biggest fraud scandal in plant sciences, is back in the news. His present employer ETH Zürich has now concluded, in collaboration with CNRS, their second investigation into data manipulations in Voinnet papers. The ETH professor was declared innocent of any data manipulations, in the past, present and even future.
The Olivier Voinnet affair is now a distant past. Despite new evidence of manipulated data still popping up, journals drew a line. Especially the elite journal Nature Genetics, which may or may not have to do with their Editor-in-Chief Myles Axton having some strange data in his paper.
Jaw-dropping corrections issued for the French martyr saint of research integrity, Catherine Jessus, head of biology branch at the French CNRS. All these works of science contained such appalling Photoshop manipulations that the academic publisher had to bend over backwards and hide behind COPE guidelines to invent a reason against retractions.
As Le Monde brought into public light the Catherine Jessus affair with its whitewashed data manipulation and the growing academic protest, 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 a former CNRS president. Their demands, endorsed in a secret press release by current CNRS president and Sorbonne University president: punishment for 10 anonymous authors of the Jessus counter-report and for a Le Monde journalist.