The F**** word

I am talking of course of the word fraud.

It is generally understood that the f**** word is best avoided in polite company, especially when talking about the work of colleagues published in peer reviewed journals. If you really must (in which case, you’d better be critical but fair), you should instead simply point to the facts but avoid making explicitly the implication that fraud has happened (the copy and paste similarities between bands, etc; you name it).

Hopefully, from that point, journal editors and scientific institutions whose main mission is service to science and its integrity will take over and will sort out the mess.

Except that it does not happen. Here is an ordinary example:

The same authors have at least two other articles with similar problems, i.e. multiple particles from the same electron microscopy picture that look strangely similar.  Right. I am not going to beat around the bush. This is fraud. There cannot be any innocent way by which such an image can be produced. It is therefore fraud (and poor quality photoshop).

François-Xavier Coudert reported his concerns to the Editors of the respective journals. After this latest series of tweets, one editor finally responded that “authors could not provide original (primary high-res) data due to a “flood” of their lab”. End of story, says editor. Microchimica Acta will not act because they “cannot prove image was manipulated”.

The best Twitter responses so far are by Chris Waldron and Sylvain Deville




Seriously though, if in a case like this, institutions and journals cannot act in a timely manner to fix the scientific record, there is no hope for cases which actually require thinking and investigations.

Here is the PubPeer thread with links to the other articles.

Update (20/12/2015): Editor of Microchimica Acta, Otto Wolfbeis, has been in touch. It is not the end of the story after all. From his email, we learn that the University of Manchester has been alerted and that a draft of a Retraction Note has been sent to the authors for comment.

Update (11/02/2016): Still no expression of concerns nor retractions… and Elsevier and Springer are still selling these fabricated articles:



Update (01/03/2016): RETRACTION of the Microchimica paper (Springer) “Following a balanced discussion of the allegations and after having consulted experts, the Editors of Microchimica Acta have come to the conclusion that there is striking evidence for manipulation.



Disclaimer: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.



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