Fatty acids, STAT3, and unexpected image similarities

This blog post expresses my personal opinion and is not an accusation of misconduct.

An exciting new paper about STAT3

The STAT (“signal transducer and activator of transcription“) protein family consists of proteins involved in many important aspects of cellular function, such as growth, differentiation, and apoptosis (programmed cell death). These transcription activators are activated themselves if other molecules bind to them, and they act as messengers that transfer changes outside of a cell to inside the nucleus, by binding to promoters and determining which genes are switched on or off. One of STAT proteins, STAT3, in particular has been the topic of many studies, because it might play a role in cancer. Simply put, the continuous activation of STAT3 might induce cancer, and STAT3 might be a target for new anti-cancer drugs.

A recent study, published on 28 August 2019 in Nature by authors from Harvard Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, therefore gained quite some attention. It reported on one of the ways by which STAT3 can be activated, through the binding of fatty acids in a process called palmitoylation.

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Face value: sunscreen, lack of control group, and conflict-of-interest

A reader pointed out a 2016 paper published in Dermatologic Surgery.

Daily Use of a Facial Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Over One-Year Significantly Improves Clinical Evaluation of Photoaging – M. Randhawa et al. – Dermatologic Surgery: December 2016 – doi: 10.1097/DSS.0000000000000879

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Duplications in Spectrum Plots

One of my recent investigations led me to expand my set of figure types to look at. For our 2016 mBio study, in which I scanned >20,000 papers for image duplication, I focused on real photos of Western blots, agarose gels, tissue sections, etc.

Some examples of photos from biomedical papers. Top left: Western blot. Top right: agarose gel. Bottom left: petridish with bacteria. Bottom right: immunostaining of tissue sections. None of these photos have image duplications. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
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Falsification: The Andrew Wakefield case

The Andrew Wakefield case

One of the best-known examples of data falsification is a study described in a 1998 Lancet paper with Dr. Andrew Wakefield as the lead author. In this paper, 12 children with autism and chronic enterocolitis were described, and these symptoms started immediately after MMR (Measles / Mumps / Rubella) vaccination in 8 of these children.

However, a 2004 investigation by Sunday Times reporter Brian Deer revealed concerning issues with patient recruitment and undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

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What is Research Misconduct? Part 3: Fabrication

This is Part 3 of a series of 3, which also includes Part 1: Plagiarism, and Part 2: Falsification.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I showed some examples of plagiarism and falsification in scientific papers, which the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) considers two of the three forms of Research Misconduct. Here, we will look at the third type of misconduct, fabrication. ORI defines fabrication as follows:

Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.”

Office of Research Integrity: Definition of Research Misconduct
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