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.
Two flow cytometry panels in a 2018 Frontiers in Immunology paper by authors from Sweden and China appeared to share some data points. The image duplications were very suggestive of post-experiment image alteration. Yet the editors accepted the authors’ excuse that it was an “accidental error”, and published a correction. For this, they will be awarded the fourth “This Image Is Fine” Award.
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.
Yesterday, it published an obviously fake study that claimed that hydroxychloroquine could prevent push-scooter accidents – but only in Marseille. The paper has a lot of references to French scientists and politicians, and one of the authors is a famous French dog.
The paper got retracted today, but not before many had a good laugh at it on Twitter.
A group of authors has found a way to crank up the number of papers on their resumes. The complete “Global Dermatology” September 30, 2019 issue of the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences is filled with papers from the same group of authors, headed by Torello Lotti and Massimo Fioranelli, both from the University of G. Marconi in Rome, Italy.
Some of these papers contain photos of patients without consent, others contain duplicated images, and some papers are full of extraordinary claims without any evidence. Just a bunch of pretty diagrams.
The paper suggests that 5G waves (the latest cell phone technology) can spontaneously generate Coronaviruses in skin cells. Yet, there is nothing in this article that proves this extraordinary claim. It is absolute nonsense.
Combining two hot topics into one title, this article is surely asking for some attention. Attention it will get. Because it is one of the worst scientific papers I have seen this year.
All too often, blots that appear to have duplicated lanes or cells (suggestive of photo manipulation) are corrected by the author with an “Oops, here is a new figure”. Bewilderingly, journals find this acceptable. This has to change.
In the past months I have been going through my spreadsheet with over 2,000 papers with image or other problems. Many of these papers were reported by me in 2014 and 2015 to the editors of the journals in which they were published. Now, around 5 years later, it is time to see what happened with my reports.
In this post, I want to show you an example of a paper that I reported in 2014, and that was corrected about a year later.
In my opinion, the Editors of the journal made a huge mistake here. This should have been a retraction.