Lill space-time-blot anomaly in Marburg

Lill space-time-blot anomaly in Marburg

The biochemistry research lab of professor Roland Lill at the Philipps University Marburg in Germany is a place where space, time and western blot continuum collapses into an anomalous singularity, where paradoxes abound, but only one fact remains certain:  there was never any data manipulation in the lab of this senator of the German Research Council (DFG). Only misunderstandings (here) and solid science, with sometimes unorthodox figure assembly methods (here).

One of those anomalies is the recent correction by Lill and his former PhD student Heike Lange (now tenured CNRS researcher at The Olivier Voinnet Institute for Research Integrity in Plant Sciences (IBMP) in Strasbourg, France, published in the prestigious journal PNAS in March 2018. A western blot was found to contain duplicated, triplicated and mirrored bands, and was replaced with a version of same gel, its irregularities fixed. What exactly the new old figure shows, is not clear. The Ombudsman of Marburg University insists that no digital image versions of the western blot exist, only some almost two decade old thermo-paper printouts which were shared only with PNAS. Neither can those archive documents be scanned or photographed, as it will probably either destroy them, or alter the results they show. A PNAS editor however admitted to me that the correction actually shows a pdf file which the authors Lill and Lange supplied by email, a gel image which again seems to be different from the original thermoprinter records. Yet also this digital pdf file cannot be shared, probably because otherwise the time-space continuum will collapse and our universe, or at least the Marburg lab of DFG Senator Lill might end up teleported back into the year 1999, when the prints were made. And anyway, all two decade old experiments were faithfully reproduced by the Lill lab just now, using exactly same reagents. Those results however are also apparently not for sharing.

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Princess Sabine, her Ombudsman chaperone and a frog

Princess Sabine, her Ombudsman chaperone and a frog

If you wish to report data irregularities, especially a recurrent pattern thereof, one is well adviced not to write to the scientist behind those published papers, but to the institutional Ombudsman. This is also what is recommended by the US Office for Research Integrity (ORI, here) and by two real-life whistleblowers from Sweden:

“Collect evidence, but don’t contact the accused with questions if you are certain that they fabricated data, because they may then hide their tracks. Identify the appropriate authority where misconduct should be reported; this could be at your own or the accused’s institution”.

My own experience with reporting evidence to institutional Ombudspersons is mixed. Some do not reply at all (one of those has actually shady data in his own papers), some eventually write something non-saying back, some do take the issue seriously. A German university Ombudsman quickly put right a professor and dean of her department, and issued an apology on her behalf, after she attacked me for disagreeing with her on the academic merits of predatory conferences and medals issued by the false Linköping University professor Ashutosh Tiwari.

The Ombudsman of the University of Osnabrück in northern Germany, when alerted to PubPeer evidence of some strange image duplications in papers by an Osnabrück plant scientist, acted differently. The Ombudsman, a law professor, indirectly threatened me with a libel lawsuit, and refused to process the notification. The next day, the plant scientist admitted duplications on PubPeer, one paper has been already extensively corrected. Continue reading “Princess Sabine, her Ombudsman chaperone and a frog”

Expert witness Macchiarini to help Berlin court sentence criminal journalist

Expert witness Macchiarini to help Berlin court sentence criminal journalist

The stem cell pioneering surgeon Paolo Macchiarini is back in court now. No, he is not the accused this time. He is an unbiased, independent expert witness invited by his student and acolyte Philipp Jungebluth to help him sue me in Berlin. There are two court injunctions against me, one was already partially lifted, while another was upheld in full, and the main issue are Macchiarini’s trachea transplants in Italy described in an unpublished manuscript. I cannot say much more without facing a €250,000 fine or a 6 months prison term.

Macchiarini recently saw the Swedish state prosecutor drop charges against him because another misconduct-tainted Swedish trachea transplanter, Michael Olausson, served as secret expert for prosecution. At least, no journalists faced court sentencing in Sweden for exposing trachea transplant scandals. It is different in Germany, where constitutional press freedom counts little if someone doesn’t like your reporting, which is why medical scandals in Germany are so rare. The ruinous court trials Macchiarini-associates Jungebluth and Heike & Thorsten Walles imposed on me seem to have scared German media into near-complete silence on the trachea transplant affair. What about the central role of Germany, especially Macchiarini’s and Jungebluth’s university Hannover Medical School (MHH) and their recent cover up of the trachea transplants? Definitely no public interest there, even if Macchiarini’s only remaining (adjunct) professor title was bestowed by MHH. My appeal hearing for both Jungebluth injunctions is at the Berlin Kammergericht court on May 24th. It is public, feel free to come. Maybe even Prof Macchiarini pops in?

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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”

Jungebluth injunction hearing, another court travesty

Yesterday, November 23rd 2017, I travelled 600 km to Berlin to stand my second injunction trial, instigated by Philipp Jungebluth, former student and acolyte of the scandal surgeon. The first injunction was achieved by Jungebluth based on his claim to be world-famous, renowned researcher and clinician, who helped save the lives of patients like Andemariam Beyene and Hannah Warren with plastic tracheas and published about this in The Lancet (a paper which is now up for retraction due to his and Macchiarini’s proven misconduct). The second injunction was pushed against my article about an unpublished manuscript of Macchiarini’s and Jungebluth’s, from which I have quoted and interpreted with reference to the quotes. That injunction was founded now on the opposite: Jungebluth denies to have had anything at all to do with any of Macchiarini’s trachea transplants, aside of a very general academic, but never ever any clinical, contribution.

The hearing yesterday was a proper farce. It began with the judge asking Jungebluth’s lawyer why he didn’t forbid me to say his client had anything at all to do with Claudia Castillo’s transplant as well (read more here, also about Jungebluth’s role). The court and indicated it would be more than happy to oblige Jungebluth and his lawyer if they were interested. Soon it became rather obvious that the main judge and his two colleagues have never read my English-language article before passing the injunction against it, that they are more confident in their knowledge of English language than they should be, and that they have no understanding whatsoever on the practices of how a biomedical research paper is written. Yet they believe that their power position allows them to make such decisions and disperse punishments nevertheless.

The main issue was the authors’ contributions statement “P.J. assisted in clinical transplantations and preclinical experiments and helped to write the report” which went with the unpublished manuscript describing 9 cadaveric trachea transplants in human patients and some rat experiments. Jungebluth and his lawyer never denied the existence of that manuscript or my quotes from it. But now guess how the judges understood the statement “P.J. assisted in clinical transplantations“?

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Human Brain Project interview with Thomas Lippert: Simulating brain in computer is like simulating weather

Human Brain Project interview with Thomas Lippert: Simulating brain in computer is like simulating weather

Following is my email interview with Thomas Lippert, professor and director of the Institute for Advanced Simulation and the Jülich Supercomputing Centre at the Forschungszentrum Jülich in the west of Germany, located somewhere between the cities of Cologne and Aachen. Lippert’s FZ Jülich is a central partner at the Human Brain Project (HBP), the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship mega-consortium which is funded with €1 Billion, half of which coming from the European Union.  Lippert heads the Subproject (SP) 7 at the HBP, named High-Performance Analytics and Computing Platform, tasked with providing the high-performance computational power in order to help the HBP megaproject simulate the human brain and its diseases.

I previously wrote some critical articles about HBP, about the hubris of its founding father Henry Markram, the bizarre way EU positively evaluated the performance of HBP without actually evaluating it, and also about the purpose of HBP and Flagship projects in general. Incidentally, the last article’s cover photo showed Lippert at a HBP conference. We got into a discussion over Twitter during HBP’s recent Open Day show in Glasgow, where Lippert kindly agreed to answer my questions about the purpose and orientation of HBP.

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DFG Senator Roland Lill explains how to do science properly

DFG Senator Roland Lill explains how to do science properly

My earlier article about strange image irregularities in the publications of the German mitochondria researcher Roland Lill seem to have motivated this pre-emeritus biochemistry professor of the University of Marburg to come to PubPeer and address the issues. While in his earlier statements he simply waved off all concerns of western blot band duplications, this time and with other papers he admitted those, while presenting the original Western Blot scans. Together with the first author on two such papers, Janneke Balk, Lill explained why copy-pasting western blot bands, sometimes on top of other gel images, had nothing at all sinister in it, but used to be somewhat of a normal research practice 10-15 years ago. And in some cases, gel bands can naturally duplicate themselves.

Any advice on research integrity from the side of a Senator of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina is certainly most valuable, this is why I will present here his explanations, so the younger generation of scientists can learn about correct figure preparation, including the proper use of gel band copy-paste function. The past evidence was forwarded to me by a reader of my site.  I will also offer Professor Lill and you for debate another example from his past publication, where a western blot was duplicated in different context. This was forwarded me from yet another reader of my site.  Continue reading “DFG Senator Roland Lill explains how to do science properly”