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?
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.
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.