In October 2020 and 2021 I reported a total of 21 papers published by Professor Vojtěch Adam that contained image problems. Vojtěch Adam is a professor in chemistry, and head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, at Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic. He is a top Czech researcher in cancer and nanotechnology.
Today, a day before his appointment as the new Rector (Dean) of Mendel University, a committee released a report of their findings from an investigation into twelve of these papers. Their conclusions came as a big surprise.
Tall el-Hammam was a Bronze-Age city in current Jordan that is a site of archaeological interest. It is believed by some to be the biblical city of Sodom. According to the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah were cities full of sinners, which were destroyed by “sulfur and fire” sent by God.
A paper published last week in Scientific Reports now claims that Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by a “cosmic airburst”, perhaps by the impact of a meteorite or comet. The article provides evidence of melted pottery and plaster, shocked quartz, and diamond-like carbon, all suggesting the city was exposed to a sudden high-temperature event.
The paper got a lot of media attention. However, several images presented in the paper appear to contain repetitive elements, suggestive of cloning.
A group of anonymous persons filed a Statement of Concern with the FDA regarding the integrity of research papers about Simufilam, an Alzheimer’s Disease treatment drug candidate developed by Cassava Sciences (Nasdaq: $SAVA). The petition raises concerns about Western blots and methodology. I took a look at the problematic photos included in the report, and agree with most of those concerns. I also found some additional problems.
Other papers by this group of researchers led by Professor Didier Raoult and/or his right-hand man Professor Eric Chabrière, also appear to contain problems, ranging from potentially duplicated images to ethical concerns.
In this blog post I have gathered the papers by the Raoult and Chabrière group that have image concerns. This post is not an accusation of misconduct, but a compilation of the potential problems found in 22 different papers by this group. I welcome the authors removing any concerns by providing the original figures.
A chemistry professor at Northeastern University in Boston, MA who has almost 70 papers flagged on PubPeer resigned yesterday, May 4, 2021.
On his blog For Better Science (Update May 5, at the bottom), Leonid Schneider shared an email from the Chair of the Department of Engineering, which states that Thomas J Webster has resigned from the university.
Webster has 69 papers flagged on PubPeer, mostly for concerns about image irregularities. I reported 59 to the journals and institution in March 2020.
This week I worked on a large set of papers from a research group at the Tianjin Life Science Research Center at Tianjin Medical University. The group, headed by Dr. Hua Tang and funded by many National Natural Science Foundation of China grants, has published a total of 113 PubMed-indexed papers.
However, a significant number of these — 45 as of today — have PubPeer posts in which concerns are raised about their figures.
A 2007 paper published in Science — in which I found image irregularities back in 2015 — has finally been retracted. For five long years, the journal took no action. But after I tweeted about the case, it eventually acted.
A stem cell research group at the University of Louisville, Kentucky — famous for apparently discovering an exciting new class of stem cells — could be facing new troubles.
Although the work of Mariusz Ratajczak was supported through large NIH and Vatican grants, no other lab could replicate his findings on very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs).
And now, 28 papers from the Ratajczak lab are listed on PubPeer for image duplication and textual similarity concerns.
March 2022 update: No misconduct found
The University of Louisville sent their final decision – dated July 29, 2021 – to me today – March 23, 2022 (shared here with permission).
“The University of Louisville found there was no research misconduct. The institution followed its established, thorough, and robust process and made no findings of research misconduct against Dr. Ratajczak associated with any of the allegations, including all the allegations that continue to persist publicly on the internet. ”
When it comes to image integrity, all papers are equal. But some papers appear more equal than others. A 2017 paper published in Elsevier’s journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine that included an image with lots of repetitive elements was not retracted, but instead received only a very mild correction for “an inadvertent mistake for Figure 3,B” (sic). One of the senior authors also happens to be an Associate Editor of the journal, raising questions about whether the investigation could have been carried out in an objective way.