COPE, the publishers’ Trojan horse, calls to abolish retractions

COPE, the publishers’ Trojan horse, calls to abolish retractions

Four private scientists without any agenda whatsoever published a research result preprint on the portal BioRxiv. The “new results” reported in the article are actually new ideas which are just as good as any research results, because they are supposed to bring the field of scholarly communication forward. The question is, where to, and why should anyone go there. Because the idea is to abolish the only tool science now has at hand to punish research misconduct: retractions. Fraudulent papers are to receive instead an amendment, which will notify those particularly inclined readers that research data or ethics approval (for clinical studies) might have been falsified or missing. Those proposing to remove the only punitive measure available in scholarly publishing are in fact the very people who are supposed to be overseeing the editorial integrity. The goats whom science welcomed as gardeners now dropped the pretence and declared their true vision for the garden. Continue reading “COPE, the publishers’ Trojan horse, calls to abolish retractions”

Retraction, and another looming misconduct finding for Macchiarini and Jungebluth

Retraction, and another looming misconduct finding for Macchiarini and Jungebluth

The misconduct-tainted paper on oesophagus transplants in rats (Sjöqvist et al 2014) by the fallen star of regenerative medicine Paolo Macchiarini is finally retracted by the journal Nature Communications. This happens after Swedish investigations found the authors (primarily the scandal thorax surgeon and his right-hand man Philipp Jungebluth) guilty of data manipulation and research misconduct in September 2016 and after the Karolinska Institutet (KI) shortly before Christmas publicly demanded a retraction (see my report here). Today’s retraction is a major setback for Macchiarini, since his current employment and funding at the Federal University of Kazan (KFU) in Russia depend on his experiments with oesophageal transplants in primates (see my reports here and here). That Russian project was in turn only possible because of Macchiarini’s allegedly successful experiments in rats, published in a prestige journal with “Nature” in its title. This paper’s retraction is therefore probably only the beginning of a whole looming avalanche of bad news for Macchiarini and his acolyte Jungebluth (who currently sues me in court). An expert review of their publication Jungebluth et al 2015 declares the findings of misconduct, ethics breach and patient abuse. The report however has yet to be confirmed by a commission at the Swedish Central Ethics Review Board (CEPN) and then formulated as an official decree by the KI. I publish the expert reviewer report below. Continue reading “Retraction, and another looming misconduct finding for Macchiarini and Jungebluth”

Macchiarini, Jungebluth guilty of research fraud, KI demands retraction of Nature Communications paper

Macchiarini, Jungebluth guilty of research fraud, KI demands retraction of Nature Communications paper

The scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, now professor at Federal University of Kazan in Russia, is preparing to experiment on monkeys using plastic oesophagus. He proclaims previous success in rats, yet today’s decision of his former employer, the Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm declared that very paper as fraudulent and found Macchiarini and his acolyte Philipp Jungebluth guilty of research misconduct. An earlier decision of the Swedish Central Ethical Review Board (CEPN, read decision here) came on September 6th 2016 to a similar conclusion, with one minor difference. Back then, all senior authors were found “guilty of scientific misconduct”, thus also including Macchiarini’s American collaborator Doris Taylor (who in 2014 almost made him a professor at her University of Texas). Now, all authors except of Macchiarini and Jungebluth have been virtually absolved, while the junior co-authors, the graduate student Sebastian Sjöqvist and the assistant professor Mei Ling Lim received an admonition.

KI now demands the retraction of this 2014 Nature Communications paper:

Sebastian Sjöqvist, Philipp Jungebluth, Mei Ling Lim, Johannes C. Haag, Ylva Gustafsson, Greg Lemon, Silvia Baiguera, Miguel Angel Burguillos, Costantino Del Gaudio, Antonio Beltrán Rodríguez, Alexander Sotnichenko, Karolina Kublickiene, Henrik Ullman, Heike Kielstein, Peter Damberg, Alessandra Bianco, Rainer Heuchel, Ying Zhao, Domenico Ribatti, Cristián Ibarra, Bertrand Joseph, Doris A. Taylor & Paolo Macchiarini

Experimental orthotopic transplantation of a tissue-engineered oesophagus in rats Continue reading “Macchiarini, Jungebluth guilty of research fraud, KI demands retraction of Nature Communications paper”

Karolinska in denial, by Johan Thyberg

Karolinska in denial, by Johan Thyberg

This is a guest post by Johan Thyberg, a 1947-born Swedish biologist and a well-known activist against science fraud. His 2009 published book “Scientific Fraud or Legal Scandal?” meticulously narrates several fraud scandals in Swedish science, one of which I referred to when introducing a guest post of another concerned Swedish academic. Until his academic retirement, Thyberg used to be professor for cell and molecular biology at Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, the showplace of probably the biggest medicine scandal of recent times, that of the trachea transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. Continue reading “Karolinska in denial, by Johan Thyberg”

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?”

The Voinnet investigator and the tricky issue of conflict of interests

The Voinnet investigator and the tricky issue of conflict of interests

Great scientists never have any conflicts of interests, and in the case of the investigation of the research misconduct by the plant scientist Olivier Voinnet, led by his Swiss employer ETH Zürich, this was also apparently the case. Voinnet was found guilty of misconduct and admitted image manipulations in many papers. Yet his science remained largely unquestioned, and even original data behind the most outrageously manipulated figures was said to have been available in many cases. The ETH investigation recommended 6 retractions, one of which was even avoided thanks to the concerns the journal Science had towards that paper’s junior authors (Voinnet’s current retraction count stands at 8 papers and almost 20 corrections, where manipulated data was simply exchanged with new one). Professor emeritus Witold Filipowicz, of the Friedrich-Mieschner-Institute in Basel, is like Voinnet a specialist in the field of regulatory small RNAs, and he was therefore one of two external Voinnet investigators whom ETH invited in early 2015. It did not matter to ETH that it was actually Filipowicz who nominated Voinnet for the EMBO Gold Medal, which the disgraced plant scientist then lost after EMBO’s own investigation into his many years of data manipulation. Continue reading “The Voinnet investigator and the tricky issue of conflict of interests”