Stellaci ‘stripy nanoparticle’ dispute heats up

Paul Jump reports in the Times Higher Education:

Analysis critical of professor’s discovery claim is published on arXiv

A continuing war of words over “stripy nanoparticles” has reached new levels of acrimony following the appearance of a paper savaging data purporting to prove their existence.

Read it all here.

Paul Jump concludes his article with:

He said he would send Professor Moriarty a sample of stripy nanoparticles when he had found further independent groups willing to analyse them.

“But I am really against this approach where we have a self-nominated king, whose images are the only ones that contain ‘the truth’, [especially] when the bias of this king is clear,” Professor Stellacci said.

“A year from the start of this story, and it is clearly apparent that this group will twist any data in front of them with the clear purpose of tarnishing my reputation.”





  1. The sad part of this story is that Prof. Moriarty and Dr. Lévy do not seem to realize that they are building up an aura of mistrust that, ultimately, is damaging the scientific enterprise. They go about as if they carry the flag of the truth, as heroes uncovering a carefully planned plot of scientific dishonesty and wrongdoing. I am not sure if they realize that the community is turning their backs on them.

    If Moriarty and Lévy would have solid arguments, they would not need to bombard the community with tens of blog posts lambasting the same points over and over. To trained eyes, their arguments fall flat. The blog posts that both Lévy and Moriarty have written on this blog contain a mix of bombastic claims, factual errors and biased opinion.

    Then there is their recent paper posted in the arXiv. I have spent some time reading it. I would be surprised if any of my colleagues, be STM or nanoparticle experts, finds their arguments to be solid. The paper is riddled with mistakes and overreaching claims. Lacks depth of analysis, and too often the authors build up arguments by using a battery of (loosely related) facts lumped together in a way that overwhelms the reader and obscures the underlying logic.

    I am not sure what the basic motivations of Moriarty and Lévy are, but I am convinced that scientific honesty is not one of them.


    1. ProfSTM, can you confirm that you are not “the unreg”?
      If so, that brings the stripist side to at least a clear two, there currently (seem) to be many more people on the stripe-agnostic side (I’m certainly on the latter side for what it is worth).

      Not sure what you mean by bombard…no one is forced to come to this webpage, and the authors on this blog have been gracious and patient in responding (specifically to “the Unreg”). The voluminous content here has been demanded by critic(…s?).

      What is your take on the general notion that we can see stripes on the high resolution images from 2013 but we can see them in low res images in 2004? Can you explain this apparent inconsistency (encourage you to target Ph. D. level scientists that might not be STM users)?


      1. I am not “the unreg”. I don’t even know who you are referring to with this pseudonym.

        There is no such general notion or apparent inconsistency with the stripy nanoparticle images published over the years. Alignment, independent of imaging parameters, such as tip speed and rotation, has been repeatedly demonstrated and confirmed by rigorous power spectral analysis.


      2. “the unreg” refers to what (appears) to be a specific commenter respond in the pubpeer thread and here who supports the notion that the stripes are indeed real. It was important to get at least a weak confirmation that your identities were not the same.

        While I feel the Science article really misses some key points in the debate (as these sorts of articles invariably do), at least one other STM specialist seems to think that the 2004 images are artifacts:

        “[Kevin] Kelly agrees with critics that the stripes in the original paper “look like an imaging artifact,” but he and others say the jury is still out on more recent reports.”

        I can’t yet find anyone who has publicly (with their identity) supported the 2004 images. Yet according to you and “the unreg” (Stellacci’s apparent proponent on this blog and on pubpeer) don’t see an inconsistency.



  2. Cyberbullying is defined as “actions that use information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm another or others” (from Wikipedia).

    Below we leave a very small sample of quotes, all making reference to Stellaci and his work, written by Philip Moriarty (University of Nottingham), Raphael Levy (University of Liverpool), Dave Fernig (University of Liverpool) and Mathias Brust (University of Liverpool), all principal investigators, as well as Predrag Djuranovic, a former student of Stellaci who has yet to publish his first scientific paper. They all have posted criticisms of Stellaci’s work at Levy’s blog ( and many other internet sites.

    – “Meanwhile, out in the world of science we continue to witness ridiculous decisions regarding manipulated and falsified data by journals and a quite stunning self-justification by a materials scientist who looks to be the next serial fraudster.”

    – “Given the months of stonewalling by Stellacci on the issue of provision of original data, one can only conclude that the data have appeared through pressure from his employer.”

    – “It is quite remarkable that the ACS Nano and Langmuir papers are seen by some to provide a vindication of previous work by the Stellacci group on stripes. I increasingly feel as if we’re participating in some strange new nanoscale ‘reimagining’ of The Emperor’s New Clothes!”

    – “The article is surreal ??” it makes the case that the artifact is present everywhere except on the particles, where those stripes which look just like the artifact, are instead, the “reality”. An extraordinary case of confirmation bias.”

    – “I cannot understand why he has neither retracted the original paper nor published some call for caution, i.e. indicating that such stripy patterns can also be obtained deliberately as artifacts in the absence of ligands that could be made accountable for this observation. Instead he based additional papers on something he must have known rested on shaky ground.”

    – “The most amazing thing is that Stellacci nanoparticle STM work is so obviously erroneous that anybody with the slightest modicum of SPM experience can catch it.”

    – “I think the same applies to Stellacci ??” he wants to demonstrate how “ripples” are oriented in different directions ??” and he does it, by misleading the reader, playing with contrast and cherry-picking his data.”

    – “As final remark, please notice that Stellaci ??” while performing his bogus tricks ??” is contradicting himself.”

    What’s more, anyone can type on Google search “Stellaci Levy Moriarty” and look at the hundreds of results all pointing at Moriarty and Levy’s posts and comments against Stellaci’s work.

    No one can’t deny that there is a strong case for cyberbullying. When Moriarty says that “at no time have we indulged in ad hominem slurs” (from a comment on PubPeer;, he is not being true to the facts.


    1. It is becoming apparent that unregistered troll supporter(s) of Stellacci are attempting to detract from the original tone of this debate — which is based on scientific arguments — to a different direction which does great disservice to the readers of this blog and scientific community. I’d like to ask anonymous trolls to get back on track and discuss science only.


  3. Interesting article in The Economist (of all places!) today:

    Sloppy researchers beware. A new institute has you in its sights

    “WHY most published research findings are false” is not, as the title of an academic paper, likely to win friends in the ivory tower. But it has certainly influenced people (including journalists at The Economist). The paper it introduced was published in 2005 by John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist who was then at the University of Ioannina, in Greece, and is now at Stanford. It exposed the ways, most notably the overinterpreting of statistical significance in studies with small sample sizes, that scientific findings can end up being irreproducible—or, as a layman might put it, wrong.

    Dr Ioannidis has been waging war on sloppy science ever since, helping to develop a discipline called meta-research (ie, research about research). Later this month that battle will be institutionalised, with the launch of the Meta-Research Innovation Centre at Stanford.


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