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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Catching up: Charges against CFS-XMRV researcher Mikovits dropped, ‘gyres’ author Andrulis publishes another paper

with 15 comments

A follow-up on two stories we’ve covered here at Retraction Watch:

1. Criminal charges against chronic fatigue syndrome researcher dropped

The state of Nevada has dropped criminal charges against Judy Mikovits, the embattled chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) researcher whose paper linking the condition to a virus, XMRV, was retracted last year by Science.

As we reported in November, Mikovits was arrested in Ventura County, California on an “out of county warrant” from Washoe County, Nevada, for allegedly taking lab notebooks, a computer, and other material from the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nevada, after the WPI fired her in September.

The first report on the dropped charges was apparently by Mikovits’ friend Lilly Meehan on Facebook, news that was picked up by the ProHealth website on June 13 (their post has since been updated). Later that day, ScienceInsider’s Jon Cohen, who has been covering the case closely, reported that

On 11 June, the district attorney’s office for Washoe County filed a petition to dismiss the criminal charges against Mikovits without prejudice (which means they can file a related complaint in the future), a clerk to the Justice Court of Reno told ScienceInsider.

The reason why the charges were dropped was yet another strange twist in a story that has had its share. As Cohen noted, and as the Chicago Tribune’s Trine Tsouderos also reported on June 15:

[WPI attorney Ann] Hall said the charges were dismissed not because the case lacked merit but because of issues related to the family of institute founder Annette Whittemore. Her husband, Harvey, a Nevada lobbyist and lawyer, was indicted June 6 by a federal grand jury on charges he made illegal campaign contributions to a congressman, caused a campaign committee to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission and lied to FBI agents, according to the Department of Justice.

2. Author of ‘gyres’ paper whose press release was retracted publishes new study

Erik Andrulis, the Case Western researcher whose paper in a then-new journal that was met with disbelief in the blogosphere — and led Case Western to retract a press release about it — has published a new study.

Andrulis’ sole-authored “Theory of the Origin, Evolution, and Nature of Life,” which appeared in the journal Life, concluded:

…this catholic theory provides an innovative and elegant solution to the origin, evolution, and nature of life in the cosmos. I humbly proffer my theory as a viable system for knowing life.

At the time the Life paper was published, several of the journal’s editorial board members resigned, and the editor felt the need to write an editorial on how the work was published.

The new paper, “Dis3- and exosome subunit-responsive 3′ mRNA instability elements,” has four co-authors and appears in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Unlike Andrulis’ paper in Life, which didn’t contain any experiments, this one reports on data.

The conclusion of the new paper is much more typical of scientific discussions than that of the Life paper:

In summary, we have identified two potential Dis3- and exosome-directed instability elements in 3′ UTRs of certain Drosophila mRNAs using RNA SCOPE. Based upon ESSE enrichment in our microarray-identified stabilized RNA pool, we suggest that the exosome and/or exozymes may be directly recruited to these mRNAs. Given the widespread roles for Dis3 and the exosome in mRNA turnover, processing, transport, packaging, and surveillance, our study provides new insight into how they regulate distinct steps in general mRNA metabolism.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

June 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm

15 Responses

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  1. “out of county warrant” from Washoe County.

    How is that possible? Dr Mikovits had left the county several weeks before and at no time had there been a court order to prevent her leaving the state. There is simple no case and the DA had to save face fast.

    As for the research, the viruses never were XMRV. They are different MLV-related viruses. It doesn’t help that no lab has ever attempted the successful methods of Mikovits and Ruscetti, and that all the negative studies have failed to clinically validate their assays. This is illegal if testing for HIV, is it ok to use this type of political science because the patients have ME/CFS? What about ever other human on the planet? What about the positive findings of Lo and Hanson?

    Dian

    June 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

  2. I’m no lawyer but this doesn’t make sense to me:

    “[WPI attorney Ann] Hall said the charges were dismissed not because the case lacked merit but because of issues related to the family of institute founder Annette Whittemore. Her husband, Harvey, a Nevada lobbyist and lawyer, was indicted June 6 by a federal grand jury…”

    Why would Harvey Whittemore’s legal situation have any bearing on Mikovits’? He’s nothing to do with the case AFAIK, except indirectly, and even if he were, his being indicted or not doesn’t matter to the Mikovits case…?

    Neuroskeptic

    June 17, 2012 at 3:39 am

    • This paragraph from the ScienceInsider story we linked to may make things more clear:

      Assistant District Attorney John Helzer, who filed the dismissal, says Whittemore’s legal troubles factored into his decision. “There’s a lot going on with the federal government and different levels that wasn’t occurring when we first became involved with prosecuting this case,” says Helzer. “And we have witness issues that have arisen.”

      ivanoransky

      June 17, 2012 at 8:55 am

      • It means they don’t have the evidence and the arrest was probably illegal.

        Finn

        July 12, 2012 at 4:48 am

  3. Regarding “gyres”, the very origins of modern Western science was rooted in the belief that there are patterns through the macrocosm to the microcosm.

    Andrulis’s contribution to this concept might be stunningly bad or it might not (I only flicked through a couple of paragraphs and it didn’t do anything for me) but there is nothing wrong with having a crack at the problem. It is depressing to see an attempt being mocked simply for being an attempt, as it is likely to discourage others from trying in the future.
    After all, arent we doing the same thing when we attempt to detect Fibonacci numbers in living systems?

    Grey

    June 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    • Wanting to fly to the moon is a noble goal – but if I stood on a chair and flapped my arms expecting to get there I’d be mocked.

      Neuroskeptic

      June 19, 2012 at 11:18 am

      • I see – so I assume you have read it?

        The ugly side of the blogosphere is it encourages a reflexive anti-intellectualism and fear of new ideas. People who class themselves as sceptics (this is not a personal reference to neuroskeptic) are particular bad offenders in being highly resistant to attempts at innovative thought.

        littlegreyrabbit

        June 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      • littlegreyrabbit

        I was appalled to see your blatant holocaust denying blog masquerading as a “Historical Skepticism Blog”.

        “The ugly side of the blogosphere is it encourages a reflexive anti-intellectualism and fear of new ideas. People who class themselves as sceptics (this is not a personal reference to neuroskeptic) are particular bad offenders in being highly resistant to attempts at innovative thought.”

        There is nothing innovative about what you espouse on that blog of yours. All you do is give skeptics a bad name.

        Please excuse me if I don’t believe a thing you post here based on cursory reading of a couple of your posts in your blog. Shame on you.

        JKR

        June 26, 2012 at 2:49 am

    • @Grey: Andrulis’ Gyre paper is a rambling catalog of dubious unquantified terms. He has no experimental evidence or predictions. He doesn’t even propose a framework under which testable hypotheses might be constructed.

      String theory, which is sometimes criticized as “not even wrong”, at least has a bit of solid math behind it. Andrulis only offers some swirly diagrams.

      Foo Bar

      June 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    • In previous discussion, I did read the paper through thoroughly and provided an explanation of the key flaw that renders it, unfortunately, not just wrong but meaningless:

      http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/editor-who-published-andrulis-paper-tries-to-explain-how-it-happened/#comment-10921

      Andrulis does, indeed, have a fine intellectual ambition and it’s perfectly reasonable to make an attempt.
      That doesn’t keep it from being a complete train-wreck of a paper that should never have been published.

      Reviewer #3

      July 7, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    • Andrulis doesn’t merely “have a crack at the problem”. He claims his paper is a scientific “theory”.

      His paper makes no predictions about the empirical world, and so it is incorrect to call it scientific “theory”. Apparently the purpose is to get grants:

      “Publishing in science is fundamental to demonstrating one’s productivity, aptitude, and vision. Without papers, one can’t get grant funding. And without money, one can’t be productive. A catch-22. And without papers and money, one certainly won’t hold a position in academia.”

      http://erikandrulis.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/manuscript-accepted/

      “Let’s hope funding agencies think our work is important….”

      http://erikandrulis.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/manuscript-published/

      ammoniumnitrate

      October 24, 2013 at 11:40 pm

  4. haters gonna hate

    The Widening Gyre

    June 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm

  5. @JKR “Please excuse me if I don’t believe a thing you post here based on cursory reading of a couple of your posts in your blog. Shame on you.”

    Consider yourself excused.

    littlegreyrabbit

    June 26, 2012 at 3:40 am

    • @littlegreyrabbit

      I wonder what keeps that brain of your ticking. You get a kick out of belittling death of millions of people for your own “academic” curiosity?

      http://hateblogwatch.nazihunter.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=101&start=10

      Please don’t show your face here ever again. You are truly a sick individual.

      JKR

      June 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

    • @littlegreyrabbit

      This is one of my favorite posts by you:

      “Is the IAEA crawling with Illuminati?”
      http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?p=7154849

      Very smart.
      You really have a brain for conspiracy theories… and nothing else.
      Absolutely loved the comments and bashing following your post.

      Must be lonely in your little world, huh?
      Good luck trying to sound educated elsewhere.

      JKR

      June 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm


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