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”

Predatory conferences and other scams of false Swedish professor Ashutosh Tiwari

Predatory conferences and other scams of false Swedish professor Ashutosh Tiwari

Previously I reported on my site about the Indian nanotechnology researcher Prashant Sharma, whose collection of blatantly manipulated papers seems to grow daily on PubPeer. The article prompted two scientists from Sweden to contact me about a certain Sharma associate who was only briefly mentioned there: Ashutosh Tiwari, a former employee of the Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden. Tiwari built an entire industry of predatory publishing and conferences, which hosted many among the material science research elite, all from a small rented office in the industrial area of Linköping. Tiwari’s genius trick was to play at the vanity and greed of certain academics: all he had to do to get them to participate at his conferences and to help divert public money via conference fees into his pocket, was to offer a luxurious holiday-style venue (like a cruise ship) and hand them some ridiculous made-up awards, diploma and medals.

As it looks, Tiwari never was professor in Linköping or possibly anywhere else, in fact he arrived at LiU in 2011 as Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellow, assigned to the lab of Professor Anthony Turner, Editor-in-Chief of Biosensors and Bioelectronics, who somehow published a number of fraudulent papers by Tiwari’s associate Sharma and eventually became an invited speaker, co-organiser and even advertiser for Tiwari’s conferences. Even Tiwari’s doctorate is not certain: around 2015, Linköping University was investigating the validity of his PhD degree. Now, LiU finds itself unable to give me a straightforward answer about their scientist’s academic credentials. It is not even clear when Tiwari’s employment at LiU ended: my source says 2015, Turner says in summer 2017.

Yet to the scientific community and even his colleagues working at LiU, Tiwari presented himself since 2011 as “Associate Professor” of Linköping University, at Turner’s Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM). The Sweden-based Indian scam artist, whose scientific career began with data manipulation (as the evidence below proves), was and still is running many businesses:

  • a phony Vinoba  Bhave Research Institute (VBRI) in Allahabad, India (just where Sharma is located, working however at the really existent Indian School of Mines). This Tiwari-led research “institute” invites applications of PhD students and postdocs, but uses fraudulent photos to pretend it actually exists. The institute now has a Swedish branch, the Insitute of Advanced Materials, led by director Tiwari and located in a small rented office in Linköping
  • a predatory publishing outlet VBRI Press, located in the same office in Linköping, which used to be even DOAJ-listed, though its editorial team of young women is fake, with their photos stolen off internet, while VBRI press’ only peer reviewer is Tiwari himself
  • a so-called International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM), also located in the same mailbox in Linköping, which only purpose is to organize predatory conferences, preferably on luxury cruise ships. The conference fees for Advanced Materials World Congress, European Advanced Materials Congress, American Advanced Materials Congress etc flow to the same VBRI mailbox owned only by Tiwari and his wife.

Continue reading “Predatory conferences and other scams of false Swedish professor Ashutosh Tiwari”

Sharma’s bad karma, or is anyone peer reviewing nanotechnology?

Sharma’s bad karma, or is anyone peer reviewing nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is the way to cure cancer and to save humanity of all its problems in general, often using all possible plants and their parts to create nanoparticles. This is what one learns from certain publications which often appear in chemistry journals, where one can be quite sure no biologist was ever invited to peer review those. In fact, one wonders if anyone at all ever peer reviewed them. That is certainly the impression one gets from the evidence gathered by my now regular pseudonymous guest contributor, “Smut Clyde. Below, he will tell us a tale of the photoshopping team around the physicist Prashant Sharma at the Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad, India. There are currently two dozens of Sharma papers flagged on PubPeer, several feature a regular coauthor Rashmi Madhuri, who was apparently threatening hers and Sharma’s critics with “an International cyber complaint and formal police complaint” and “a case of defamation of worth 50,000 $ (per author)”.

Besides already available PubPeer evidence of what looks like the most lazy approach to data photoshopping, Smut Clyde lists a case of a single cell culture microscopy image which found its way in no less but (currently) 8 papers by Sharma et al, in different context. There are also examples of some apparently very insolent cloning of nanoparticles and other stuff inside same image, that bad that one feels ashamed for everyone involved. Certainly for the respected journals.

In those cases, the expert nanotechnology editors and reviewers do not have an excuse to have missed the evidence of gross data manipulation due to being dazzled by heavy biology they are not really experts in. Here, it was obviously duplicated electron microscopy, spectra analyses and chemical reaction kinetics which did not at all look like they represented original experimental data. Maybe they are supposed to stand in as illustration, and the authors promised to send their real research data afterwards, and then forgot.

Except that in one case, Sharma et al did have to fix a publication with a Corrigendum, which apparently shows the same photoshopped collage, but slightly zoomed out. For the esteemed editor-in-chief of ACS Biomaterials and professor at Tufts University School of Engineering, David Kaplan, this was apparently good enough. The irony: this was only caught because the original manuscript version is available on the “pirate” site Sci-Hub, which hosts almost all paywalled scholarly publications. The same site, which ACS (American Chemical Society) just now successfully sued in US court and had several of its internet domains removed, to prevent nosy people from accessing ACS property without paying. All, as ACS declares: “for the benefit of Earth and its people”.

After the evidence against Sharma et al papers began to pop up on PubPeer, a strange thing happened. Massive wave of comments targeting many papers from Sharma’s institutional colleague at Indian School of Mines, Sagar Pal, appeared on PubPeer, which were basically randomly picked figures from Pal’s papers combined with a comment declaring those to be fake. The tone occasionally tried to emulate the jovial descriptions of irregularities found in Sharma et al papers. Yet those accusations were all without exception ridiculously empty and utterly unfounded, and indeed PubPeer removed them soon (possibly after my tweets).  Continue reading “Sharma’s bad karma, or is anyone peer reviewing nanotechnology?”

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”

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”

The stem cell faith healers, or magic inside your bone marrow

The stem cell faith healers, or magic inside your bone marrow

Bone marrow stem cells are magic, they can do everything. If you don’t believe it, you are simply a loser scientist and will never get funded.

Prior to his bombastic fall from grace, the celebrity surgeon and professor of regenerative medicine Paolo Macchiarini was considered a genius stem cell wizard and a miracle healer. He not only fully trusted bone marrow cells to generate any kind of tissue inside his patients, nay, he also published his results in highest profile journals like The Lancet (which, by standard academic definition, is proof enough that his theory and methods were valid). Macchiarini did not chase money, neither funding nor salary, it was chasing him. Even after media revealed mass patient deaths and gross inconsistency between Macchiarini’s published reports and the actual medical files of his patients, the Elsevier-run Lancet is reluctant to retract his papers.

Simply put, the faith in the force of the bone marrow stem cells is stronger than their science. These cells are often referred to as mesenchymal stem cells; basically they are those undifferentiated cells from the bone marrow which do not carry the established markers of hematopoietic (blood-generating) stem cells.  What these “mesenchymal stem cells” are actually a mixture of, and which types of cells or tissues they are really able to differentiate into, is still a subject of an ongoing research. Unless you are a stem cell believer, that is, then you don’t bother with such details. Continue reading “The stem cell faith healers, or magic inside your bone marrow”

Do nanoparticles deliver? Merck’s Smart Flares and other controversies

Do nanoparticles deliver? Merck’s Smart Flares and other controversies

A large body of scientific nanotechnology literature is dedicated to the biomedical aspect of nanoparticle delivery into cells and tissues. The functionalization of the nanoparticle surface is designed to insure their specificity at targeting only a certain type of cells, such as cancers cells. Other technological approaches aim at the cargo design, in order to ensure the targeted release of various biologically active agents: small pharmacological substances, peptides or entire enzymes, or nucleotides such as regulatory small RNAs or even genes. There is however a main limitation to this approach: though cells do readily take up nanoparticles through specific membrane-bound receptor interaction (endocytosis) or randomly (pinocytosis), these nanoparticles hardly ever truly reach the inside of the cell, namely its nucleocytoplasmic space. Solid nanoparticles are namely continuously surrounded by the very same membrane barrier they first interacted with when entering the cell. These outer-cell membrane compartments mature into endosomal and then lysosomal vesicles, where their cargo is subjected to low pH and enzymatic digestion. The nanoparticles, though seemingly inside the cell, remain actually outside. How so? Continue reading “Do nanoparticles deliver? Merck’s Smart Flares and other controversies”