Latchman and Wohl Foundation: gifts that keep on giving

Latchman and Wohl Foundation: gifts that keep on giving

Imagine being so rich that not you are employed as rector by the university, it is your university whom you give money to, from the inherited charity trust you preside over. If such a precious rector had over 40 of his publications flagged for what definitely looks like grossly manipulated data, it would be simply stupidly irresponsible for the university to actually investigate that. And if they really had to investigate, the only sensible solution is to find the entire blame with someone else.

This is basically the situation of David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck, professor of genetics at UCL and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The scientist who was once again cleared of all suspicions of research misconduct, while his two subordinates took all the blame, for just 7 papers. Past and apparently even future evidence for all other dozens of papers Latchman co-authored was dismissed, which let my regular contributor Smut Clyde present some of it last month. Now Smut offers an extra serving of duplicated graphs of experimental kinetics, in a Latchman coda below.

Latchman is not your pedestrian scientist who does science as a job to earn a living. For the Master of Birkbeck is nephew of the late London property developer and philanthropist Maurice Wohl, who died childless. One can guess who is the likely heir to the immense wealth Maurice Wohl left, and indeed, Latchman is Chair of the over £100 Million-heavy Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation, a charity which donates in no small part to healthcare and medical research in UK. Latchman’s own Birkbeck pays him a yearly salary of GBP 400k, one of the highest rector’s salaries in UK, yet the university received from Lathcman’s Wohl Foundation, according to these records between 2013 and 2016, over 5 Million British Pounds: Continue reading “Latchman and Wohl Foundation: gifts that keep on giving”

The anti-social mini-brains of Neanderthals

The anti-social mini-brains of Neanderthals

Neanderthals colonised Europe and Middle East long before modern humans and went extinct less than 30,000 years ago, when our species has spread there. Their story inspired the fantasies of generation of scientists, some of whom still cannot accept the idea that Neanderthals were just another kind of humans very similar or maybe simply just like us. Again and again the Neanderthals are portrayed as grunting hairy cave beasts utterly incapable of anything which makes us human: speech, art, tool-making and any meaningful social interaction except of copulation and mutual delousing. Gracelessly lumbering about, too slow to even hunt some food, not even grunting, but squeaking. The recent knowledge that modern humans and Neanderthal had actual children with each other, evidenced by genetic traces all modern humans of non-African origin carry, has for those academics a whiff of a bestiality fantasy. 

The following post by my regular contributor Smut Clyde presents you some fresh new age phrenology papers which try to explain why Neanderthal died out. Their brains were inferior, you see. Defective. This is why they are no longer amongst us: too stupid and anti-social. The history of Homo sapiens however suggests that we tend to see any out-group humans this way and then try our best in exterminating them and take their resources. Had certain more recent human endeavours succeeded, there would probably be peer -reviewed academic studies on why Australian and American first people, or Tutsi, or Armenians, or Jews were biologically bound to become extinct. Was it their poorly developed brains which made them sub-competitive against Europeans and other evolutionary more advanced races? Continue reading “The anti-social mini-brains of Neanderthals”

Attack of the Photoclones: Sharma-Madhuri Prequel

Attack of the Photoclones: Sharma-Madhuri Prequel

Smut Clyde is a natural force I insidiously chose to harvest and unleash upon the worst cheaters of the research community. His previous contribution to my site, about the nanotechnology Photoshoppers Prashant Sharma and Rashmi Madhuri, flushed several promising  academic careers down the toilet, quite deservingly so. Both are under institutional investigation and public ridicule, the list of their retractions grows steadily (presently at 15 retracted papers), with no end in sight (Sharma and Madhuri however try to compensate their losses by publishing new papers in Elsevier, e.g. here & here). Indian scientists even set up a Change petition, asking the Indian Government to deal with the research fraud at the Indian School of Mines (ISM) in Dhanbad.

A former partner of Sharma from Allahabad, Ashutosh Tiwari was exposed by readers of that Smut Clyde article, which awarded that fake professor from Sweden with his own string of my reporting. Tiwari saw his predatory conference and publishing business going down the drain, while the Sharma and Madhuri papers he edited and co-authored for a special Elsevier series were retracted.

Towards Chemistry World Sharma declined to comment beyond observing that he’s ‘just a co-author on some of those papers’“.

Madhuri, before she went silent, declared to an Indian journalist:

“We would like to mention that all our articles are published in very reputed journals, after a very rigorous and transparent review process, adopted by the concerned journals. The referees and editorial board have approved our work and published them.

“Merely by inspecting the images one cannot draw inferences that are outcome of very carefully designed and performed experiments. Therefore, it is very unscientific to comment that the images are morphed or photo-shopped, whereas all the related data and supporting files are still in possession of authors, which can be crosschecked by competent authorities, if required.”

Now, Smut Clyde presents the Prequel to that story, namely the tale of Madhuri’s PhD advisor, Bhim Bali Prasad, professor in the department of chemistry in Banaras Hindu University in India. He is the senior who apparently still make up his data in the traditional artisan way: by pencil. We shall now learn where Madhuri learned her skills. Grab popcorn, and enjoy the show!

Continue reading “Attack of the Photoclones: Sharma-Madhuri Prequel”

David Latchman, the reckless Master of Birkbeck

David Latchman, the reckless Master of Birkbeck

This is a story of David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck at University of London, professor of genetics at UCL and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. All this he achieved also by his impressive publishing record, part of which will be discussed below by my regular contributor Smut Clyde. Just part of it, because there are in fact oodles of Latchman co-authored papers discussed on PubPeer for evidence of data manipulation. As Birkbeck and UCL were repeatedly bombarded by whistleblowers, Latchman was (pretend)-investigated on misconduct charges twice. Naturally, neither whitewashing report was released to public. After the first investigation of 2015, we only learned:

“UCL confirms that the conclusion of its investigation is that Professor Latchman has no case to answer in relation to research misconduct”.

Last month, UCL declared that Latchman committed “recklessness” and was “insufficiently attentive” to what his junior researchers used to do in his lab and in his papers, namely the cardiologist Tiziano Scarabelli and the cancer researcher Anastasis Stephanou. The former is presently professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center in USA, while the latter is professor at European University Cyprus. These two were found guilty of having manipulated images in 7 papers. All other Latchman co-authored papers (of the 32 investigated) are perfectly fine, and anyway, as Birkbeck explained:

“The matter does not relate to Professor David Latchman’s leadership of Birkbeck, which has been excellent for the past 15 years.  Furthermore, there is no suggestion by UCL that Professor Latchman had any knowledge of, or involvement in, the image manipulation identified”

This is a typical academic attitude. When a paper is needed to get promotion and funding money, boss claims the main credit. When a paper is exposed as fraudulent, boss never had anything to do with it (see for example this Spanish case).

Retrospectively, both UCL investigation look even more of a farce, as Latchman himself seems to have been instructing the university how to properly investigate others and not him:

“In my view, the investigation should focus on those actually involved in preparing the questionable figures and those directly involved in supervising their production”

Despite at least 5 retractions, Latchman remains in his position as Master of Birkbeck, where he is paid GBP 400k a year, one of the highest rector salaries in UK. Without diminishing the responsibilities of Scarabelli and Stephanou (in fact, Smut Clyde presents much more below), there seems to be a pattern at UCL of finding the exclusive blame with those no longer employed, while their English-bred senior professors turn out utterly blameless. Recent revelations in the Macchiarini trachea transplant affair also suggest that. However, some of problematic Latchman papers have neither Scarabelli nor Stephanou as co-author. Very reckless of UCL not to have investigated those.

Continue reading “David Latchman, the reckless Master of Birkbeck”

The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin

The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin

On the Iberian peninsula, there seems to be a tradition to give well-connected scientists suspected (or even convinced) of data fudging an award. In Spain, Carlos López-Otín, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oviedo, was given a Mentoring Award from the elite journal Nature, on recommendation from Spanish academia and despite evidence of data irregularities in his papers. This prompted my readers, in particular the famous pseudonymous data integrity sleuth Clare Francis, to comment on on PubPeer and on my site (as “Zebedee”) with additional evidence, which made Lopez-Otin’s scientific credibility look progressively worse and worse, with each new post.

Eventually, an image of a Northern blot (showing expression of mRNAs which code for proteins) was found to appear recurrently across several papers from that Oviedo lab, where the authors pretended it was a newly produced analysis. In reality, it was a “library” loading control reused so the authors could re-run same RNA gel of human tissue lysates over the years and never check ever again what they have actually loaded on their gels. Eventually Lopez-Otin et al even stopped caring what order of samples that original loading control had.

Clare Francis was soon joined on his quest for the Perennial Northern Blot of Oviedo by Elisabeth Bik, famous microbiology blogger and image duplication detective, and my regular contributor (also pseudonymous) Smut Clyde, who now presents you the findings of no less than 23 appearances of that same northern blot in 23 publications from Lopez-Otin’s lab in the guest post below. It is just as convincing as if the Spanish actor Antonio Banderas appeared in 23 different films still dressed in same costume from his 1995 hit Desperado, carrying same guitar case. Incidentally, also Lopez-Otin’s Perennial Northern Blot made its first appearance at around that year.
Continue reading “The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin”

Michael Persinger’s crank magnetism

Michael Persinger’s crank magnetism

“What about you? Do you find it risible when I say the name…”

Michael Persinger?

Either you are laughing already, or you wonder what this is all about. Both audiences will sure be entertained by the following guest post of my regular contributor, Smut Clyde. For this is about Professor Michael Persinger, born 1945, psychologist and “natural philosopher” at Laurentian University in Canada, smart dresser and undervalued science fiction writer. Undervalued, because the scientific community seems to take his Kilgore-Trout-esque output at face value, his academic peers really seem to think that was Persinger publishes on neuroscience, cancer, particle physics and virtually any topic which springs to his mind, is actual research. Scientific journals like PLOS One publish his science fiction short stories as peer reviewed works of science, while the revered PNAS and possibly also the less revered Scientific Reports invite him as guest editor to host fan fiction of his admirers. When Professor Persinger does get in trouble, it is never for impersonating a scientist, but for things like using rude words in the classroom.

No spoilers now, just read Smut Clyde’s guest post.

Continue reading “Michael Persinger’s crank magnetism”

Fried Divine Comedy, featuring anti-cancer cockroach and phallic fungus

Fried Divine Comedy, featuring anti-cancer cockroach and phallic fungus

This is a follow-up to the previous article, about a misconduct investigation at the Cardiff University in UK into the published works of cancer researcher Wen Jiang, professor of Surgery and Tumour Biology, Fellow of Royal Society of Medicine and chair of Cardiff China Medical Research Collaborative. The following guest post by my regular contributor Smut Clyde now delves deep into the peculiar approach with which Professor Jiang intends to cure cancer: namely by peddling herbal (and not so herbal) medicinal powders, manufactured by a Chinese company Yiling Pharmaceuticals. Jiang sees there no conflict of interest, even in presenting the patented concoctions of Yiling as his own research in Cardiff. It is not exactly the case that Jiang was hiding his connections to Yiling, outside of his conflict of interest declarations, that is. His own Cardiff University initiated the collaboration with the Chinese company in 2013 and proudly announced the engagement to the British Parliament in 2014. In 2015, Yiling helped Jiang and Cardiff University to organise The China–United Kingdom International Cancer Conference, attended by the First Minister of Wales and the Vice-Chancellor of the Cardiff University.

Jiang’s cancer-fighting magic ingredients are ginseng and other herbs, plus a cockroach, a parasitic fungus and bits of chicken gizzard, all sold by Yiling. Sometimes it includes Divine Comedy (don’t ask). Yiling’s potion named “Yangzheng Xiaoji” was certified by Cardiff University in an Impact statement as a metastasis inhibitor, which “has been shown to be beneficial to patients with certain solid tumours when used alone…“. The sole basis for this bold claim from respected British university was a 2009 paper by Yiling in an obscure Chinese journal, which incidentally is edited and published by Yiling.

Update: scroll down for relevant Cardiff University press release.

Continue reading “Fried Divine Comedy, featuring anti-cancer cockroach and phallic fungus”