Five years ago I found three possibly Photoshopped images in a @ScienceMagazine paper by the lab of @RPlasterk
Yesterday, the paper got retracted.
Here is what happened, and what went wrong or right.…
These images are not simple duplications as some of the news articles state. They contain very unexpected repetitive elements.
Like a photo of a dinner party of 20 persons, but with the same person visible twice, in exactly the same pose.
I did not use any special software to detect these duplications. I just scanned 20,000 papers carefully for repeats like these, just by eye.
Our paper was published in mBio in 2016.…
I reported the problematic images from Sijen et al. paper to @ScienceMagazine in April 2015 per email to the journal editors, so they could start an investigation and ask the authors what happened.
Nothing happened, so a couple of months later I posted the problems, anonymously, on @PubPeer.
I made sure to alert three of the authors, so they should have gotten an email.…
None of the authors replied on @PubPeer, unfortunately. So I waited for the journal to get back to me. I waited two years.
In 2017, I sent an email to @ScienceMagazine asking them for an update on the case, and on ten other papers that I had sent them. An editor wrote back and promised to send me an update later that week.
That update never came.
I waited three more years. Still no update from the journal. Still no response from the authors.
Well, I am a very patient person. But five years seemed like an awful long time to wait.
So I tweeted about the paper's problematic images in March 2020, five years after reporting the paper to Science.
Pepijn van Erp @pjvanerp, a Dutch scientist and skeptic, wrote an article about these findings (in Dutch), a couple of days after my tweet. That article appeared to finally set some things in motion.…
The Hubrecht Institute @_Hubrecht, where the research had taken place, responded that they would start an investigation. And they did.
And yesterday, @ScienceMagazine announced that they retracted the paper. However, they did not tell me that beforehand.
I had to hear about the retraction from @RetractionWatch, not from the journal or from @_Hubrecht
What went right here: the paper got retracted.
Images with duplicated features within the same photo, without a good alternative explanation, are likely to be photoshopped. If that is indeed the case here, it would be research misconduct, and then retraction is a good decision.
What went wrong:
1. @ScienceMagazine never followed up after I sent them my concerns
2. Based on surprised reaction of authors and institute, the journal might have not taken any action at all
3. Journal did not give me an update after deciding to retract
All three things are in not in compliance with @C0PE guidelines. @ScienceMagazine should have acted upon the allegations, and should have provided me with an update once they decided to retract.
Here are those guidelines, Science. Maybe read them?…
I know we scientists all think of @ScienceMagazine and @nature as amazing journals. But when it comes to acting upon image or other concerns, they appear to prefer to do nothing and sweep things under the rug. This is wrong. They should take such allegations seriously.
I would love to hear from @ScienceMagazine what happened here. Did they contact the authors or institute back in 2015? Or did they only act after I tweeted about it five years later?
And how about the other ten @ScienceMagazine papers I reported five years ago? At least eight of these have not been acted upon either.
I would love a discussion with the editors, as opposed to taking things to Twitter.

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More from @MicrobiomDigest

19 Nov
Thrilled to be sharing some great news. Thank you, @MicrobioSoc, and congrats to the other Prize winners.
Thank you all for your kind congratulations and wishes.
I am so honored to be in the great company of these fantastic scientists.
Prof. Joan Steitz @SteitzLab @yale won the 2021 Prize. She has been a leader in RNA research, from studying phage R17's structure to ribosomal interaction with mRNA and intron splicing by snRNPs. She has also been a lifelong advocate for women in science.
Read 6 tweets
13 Nov
Currently attending the @ILSI_Global Webinar: "Science Is Self-Correcting- but the Record Is Not. Opportunities for Improvement for Journals and Scientists."
Moderator: Johanna Dwyer
Speakers: David Allison, A. Wallace Hayes, Marcia McNutt…
First speaker: A. Wallace Hayes, @usfcoph - Editor / Editor in Chief of several journals
AWH: The ideal peer reviewer has expertise, is objective, can think clearly and logically, write a good critique, and returns within allotted time.
But many reviews are not helpful.
AWH shares several stories about manuscripts that were rejected, e.g. because of dual submission or because reviewer and author used the same computer.
Read 13 tweets
3 Nov
Why publish a paper once when you can publish it twice?
And have it funded by three National Natural Science Foundation of China grants.
Compare doi: 10.1016/j.proenv.2011.12.142 with doi: 10.1002/eco.1415.
Figure 1 (2011) and Figure 1 (2013):
Or compare Figure 2 (2011) with Figure 4 (2013):
Or compare Figure 3 (2011) with Figure 5 (2013):
Read 7 tweets
24 Oct
Today, I present to you The Paper With More References Than Words.
It has 182 words and 212 references.
All references are from the first author.
Who works at a university that does not appear to exist.
Link to the paper (PDF):…
The first author also sits on the Editorial Board of that 'peer reviewed' journal.…
Others have written before about this person and the mysterious California South University. This university, with "150-buildings occupying 50 city blocks", does not appear to exist on any map.
Read: @wgrover:…
and @Dereklowe :…
Read 4 tweets
30 Jul
"A Black Hole at the Center of Earth Plays the Role of the Biggest System of Telecommunication for Connecting DNAs, Dark DNAs and Molecules of Water on 4+N- Dimensional Manifold "
The nonsensical papers by Massimo Fioranelli & Alireza Sepehri.…
You might laugh, but these are PubMed indexed papers, published in a journal that claims to be a member of @C0PE - but that is not listed on the COPE website as a member. Some of these papers lack patient consent, animal ethics approval.
Image duplication too.
The journal, the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences apparently thought it was very normal that a group of the same ~10 authors published 39 papers at the same time in a special issue. Maybe they were so happy with content they skipped peer-review?
Read 4 tweets
22 Jul
Sepehri and Fioranelli strike again. See my previous comments on PubPeer:…
They have published several papers on electromagnetic waves and that the chemical structure of DNA differs between males and females.
In one paper, they claim that one can tell the gender of a fetus by infecting a pregnant woman by male or female influenza viruses. (Please don't do this! It is nonsense).…
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