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.
Browsing further back into the journal’s archive I found an interesting supplemental issue from 2016 that consists of 20 papers on psoriasis – all written by the same group of prolific authors.
The papers are not without problems. Lack of IRB approval, lack of patient consent to have their photos published, unclear patient recruitment and trial locations, inclusion of children in experimental drug testing, and to top it off, incorrect statements about conflict of interest. All papers heavily promote the same product line of herbal ointments and gels – and the founder of the company is one of the authors!
After an anonymous tip about some papers by the Şen Research Group with possible duplicated graphs, I started digging around a bit more. And I found a couple more papers with duplications. And more. Quite a lot more. As of now, the SRG has 84 papers flagged on PubPeer. [Excel spreadsheet; PDF version]
A short post highlighting a small set of papers (currently five) that all share some interesting features. As before, these might all have been produced by the same paper-writing entity, a so-called “paper mill”.
Similar to the Tadpole paper set, where all Western blot panels showed the same background noise, most wound healing assay photos in this mini-mill share the same microscope irregularities. And all of them describe a group of 48 patients.
While working on the larger “Tadpole” and “StockPhoto” paper set, plenty of other papers with similar title and layout structure were found that appeared to belong to different sets.
In this post, I will present to you the “Effect” paper set, uncovered by super-spotter Hoya Camphorifolia (a pseudonym).
I called this set the “Effect” set because about half of the papers’ titles start with “Effect of” or “Effects of”.
As with other paper sets suspected of being produced by a paper mill, this group of papers are all authored by different research groups at different hospitals, studying different animal models and therapeutics. Yet, they all share at least one image with each other.