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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Curi-us: Author whose lawyers threatened Science Fraud corrects a paper the site criticized

with 80 comments

curi

Rui Curi

A few weeks ago, we reported on the shutdown of Science-Fraud.org, a site dedicated to highlighting problems with scientific papers, thanks to legal threats. At the same time, we noted that Rui Curi, one of the authors whose work had been questioned — and whose lawyers had sent the site a cease-and-desist letter — ended up retracting a paper the site had questioned.

Now, Curi has corrected another paper that featured on Science-Fraud.org. Here’s the notice: for “Comparative toxicity of oleic and linoleic acid on human lymphocytes,” which was originally published in Life Science in 2006:

After the publication of this manuscript we found a mistake in Fig. 3. The same image was used for human lymphocytes treated with 100 μM of oleic acid and linoleic acid for 24 h. The representative images have been replaced. The legends, results, discussion and conclusions remain as in the original article. Please, accept our apologies and refer to the correct corresponding Fig. 3 that we provide in this corrigendum.

curi image

Fig. 3. Effects of oleic or linoleic acids on chromatin condensation. Human lymphocytes were stained with Hoechst 33342 and incubated for 10 min at room temperature in the dark to visualize DNA after treatment for 24 h with 100 and 200 μM of oleic or linoleic acid. Cells were examined by fluorescence microscopy for determination of chromatin condensation using a 365/80 nm filter.

The paper has been cited 39 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

We’ve contacted Curi to find out whether he had any other corrections or retractions planned, and will update with anything we learn.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

January 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm

80 Responses

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  1. I am pretty much convinced that Curi will proceed to correct all papers exposed by Science Fraud as quick as he can to avoid future retractions (which take longer and usually editors try to avoid them), especially as he is being investigated by his funding agency in Brazil. This is all to “prove” he had been willing to correct any innocent mistakes anyone brought up, and that all was a misunderstanding. He probably hoped bringing the blog down would shun everyone fro his papers, however it seems the effect was quite the opposite.
    Please, people, keep looking into his papers. I have heard there is a lot of interesting things there, easily spotted when they are put side by side. The guy will be happy to correct them.

    Hibby

    January 23, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    • But, can we trust the corrections?

      markj

      January 23, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      • its up to readers to decide, let us see. One day one should write a review on such papers to see if they survived being repeated by other authors.
        At this time, it is important to expose any glaring mistake. Isn’t there another SF-like blog up and going?

        Hibby

        January 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm

        • This is the same image problem spotted by Hans Müller in http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/irony-paper-by-author-whose-attorneys-sent-cease-and-desist-letter-to-science-fraud-retracted/#more-11511. There must indeed be others.

          Hibby is absolutely right – image problems of this sort have implications way beyond the specific image in question, and journals that simply allow their replacement one-by-one are failing in their task of supporting a minimum level of research integrity. The problem is not the image duplication itself – the real concern has to be that the duplication is just the external evidence of the fact that the experiments were never undertaken in the way that the authors claim. And once you see a lab doing this on multiple occasions (we now know of two, with one paper containing many issues) the likelihood of it being fabrication rises steeply.

          There may now be a series of corrections as Hibby suggests. But until his institution investigates and produces a clear explanation of what happened, all these journals should be issuing expressions of concern – when will editors learn? If the correct process is ignored it will simply be more evidence that even when fraud is highly likely, people get away without being seriously questioned, and this will furthermore set a terrible precedent in terms of how using lawyers can be used to intimidate people from getting at the truth.

          I think this case now carries an importance beyond a few images being replaced by other images in a process that we all know is meaningless. So a clear summary describing all problems from this lab is vital – there are a few vestiges of Paul Brookes’ images still alive on that previous RW thread but not much else.

          amw

          January 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm

        • Hibby is correct, though we have a duty to the more naive reader, since the literature is used by greenhorn students and grizzled veterans alike. As others have pointed out here on on other blogs, a reasonable guide is frequency. People make mistakes and some will make it into manuscripts. With reviewing and editing not always being up to scratch, then some mistakes make it through to the printed page. However, we can probably expect a handful in an entire career. After all, science is about careful documentation , recoding and so on. Scientists working in universities also spend some time teaching students this.

          So a few such mistakes in a career is “honest”, more looks like deceit. I seem to recall that on Science Fraud 15 papers with image problems was considered to be a major tipping piont, that is an indicator that the lab’s entire output was probably not worth reading. That number is probably personal. I put it at somewhere between three and five. After that, I don’t read the papers from the lab and I suggest to my students that they also don’t read, or if they do, proceed with great care and look for problems. This then becomes a great exercise in learning critical reading.

          ferniglab

          January 24, 2013 at 2:39 am

        • Quite right, Hibby and ferniglab. A few errors over a career can be attributed to honest human error. But many and repeated errors are a sign that something is wrong. Whether it is intentional fraud or outrageous carelessness and sad incompetence, it should not be allowed to continue. Congratulations to ferniglab for turning the existence of such papers to good use as a teaching tool.

          JudyH

          January 24, 2013 at 8:39 am

    • Please, someone here could advise the perofessor that Figure 4A in the manuscript bellow may need to be replaced – seems that it was modified in lane “AA”. Thank you,

      Toxicol In Vitro. 2008 Jun;22(4):1018-24. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2008.02.012. Epub 2008 Feb 26.
      Persistent activation of Akt or ERK prevents the toxicity induced by saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in RINm5F β-cells.
      Simon MN, Azevedo-Martins AK, Amanso AM, Carvalho CR, Curi R.

      mariposa

      January 24, 2013 at 10:59 am

      • could you please provide more details?

        Hibby

        January 24, 2013 at 12:19 pm

        • I took a look at the article that mariposa mentioned and the Western does appear to have been manipulated in Figure 4A lane AA as mentioned. If you look closely, the band for AA appears to have been pasted in from a separate image as the background directly around it is inconsistent with the rest of the image. It appears to have been carefully cropped very close to the actual band. A bit more obvious is the right three bands on Figure 4B that are clearly demonstrate a different background but were not cropped nearly as close — it is unclear if they were taken from the same blot and can be directly comparable to the bands to the left or not (but they were definitely moved). For the record, I have not read the entire article, so I can’t say whether the authors commented about either of these issues.

          PTG

          January 24, 2013 at 2:15 pm

          • Tell the editors is the best movement.

            Justice will prevail

            January 24, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      • Contact the editors!

        Justice will prevail

        January 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      • Mariposa! Thanks for pointing out. One more paper from Curi with strange blots. How the hell did this pass unnoticed by the reviewers? I begin to doubt many peer-reviewed journals. They system are flawed.
        One more paper, that even Science Fraud have not saw that.

        Volkil

        January 24, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      • Man, just saw the paper, how come the journal accepts phosphorylations of proteins without normalization of the data? there is no blot for total protein or even a housekeeping protein, like GAPDH. They say they used ponceau for assuring equal loading, but where is the ponceau sayining then?

        Volkil

        January 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm

        • Id bet they chose the reviewers, who barely glanced at it. Reviewer indication is the direct corruption of peer review, and I have seen it much too often nowadays. In some periodicals they can even choose the responsible editor, and you know, the guy is a 1A in Brazil, meaning he calls the shots here. Any Brazilian editor will feel compelled to give him a free pass.

          Hibby

          January 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm

          • Double-blind peer review would be an improvement, because then the reviewers would have to read the paper in order to guess who the authors were.

            michaelbriggs

            January 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm

  2. Regarding the corrected paper, Science Fraud also raised questions related to text self-plagiarism, as full paragraphs were identical to two other related papers:

    Comparative toxicity of oleic acid and linoleic acid on Jurkat cells. Clinical Nutrition, Volume 23, Issue 4, August 2004, Pages 721-732. Maria Fernanda Cury-Boaventura, Celine Pompéia, Rui Curi.

    Comparative toxicity of oleic acid and linoleic acid on Raji cells. Nutrition, Volume 21, Issue 3, March 2005, Pages 395-405. Maria Fernanda Cury-Boaventura, Celine Pompéia, Rui Curi.

    It may possible that all of them being retracted because of plagiarism. Ivan, it would be good if can you contact the editors of theses two journals to hear if they will take some action.

    Justice will prevail

    January 23, 2013 at 3:04 pm

  3. Er…Curi has managed to produce more than 400 articles, the vast majority of them in fairly obscure specialty journals. Many of the recent articles relate to small physiological effects of oils – fish oils, sunflower oils, shark liver oils… There are also endless reviews, and huge numbers of papers where is a minor author.

    To be honest, I can’t imagine that anyone has the time or willingness to go through such a mass of soft science looking for irregularities.

    Being realistic, is there not a case that Curi has dug his own grave by his actions, and it’s best to just let him carry on digging? He now has a global reputation as a sort of scientific Berlusconi and for once I can see an argument that the best thing might be just to document what happens.

    amw

    January 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    • Good comments! Two points you raised in which I could comment on: i) Curi is being investigated by his own university, where he is a top-rank director. I do not really have high hopes nor small doubts about what will be concluded. ii) As I also work in a cold field (like practically all Brazilians) I understand it takes some stomach to anyone outside the area to scrutinize Curi’s low-profile papers. However some person who is really fond of finding published mischief would do it, or, of course, someone from the same field by crude interest. There is always someone else in the play, sometime… this is the beauty in scientific construction.

      I am just saying that exposing glaring flaws in his papers NOW will have way more effect than within, lets say, 8 months.

      Hibby

      January 23, 2013 at 7:53 pm

      • what do you suspect?
        that Curi himself may falsify images? or that his student are put under so much pressure to get the expected results that they might do it?
        (given at least several papers are involved the first may be more likely?)

        pdiusc

        January 24, 2013 at 5:12 am

        • I have seen instances here in Sao Paulo where the group leader would personally instruct students several methods of getting many publications with minor effort. Always behind such claims as “everyone does it”; “why should anyone care about this”; “look at you can get from it”.
          There is not such a great pressure to publish as this in Brazil (for one to have hundreds of papers). Usually many people do it to get more money and prestige than colleagues, and to become department heroes — and this happens fast. That would be my guess.

          Hibby

          January 24, 2013 at 5:59 am

  4. It is perverse of Rui Curi to retract a paper and correct a paper criticized by the science fraud (SF) blog, yet threaten legal action against the SF blog for pointing out the errors. I know that this is saying the obvious, but we might hope any judge would see the same point. Surely Rui Curi should have thanked SF blog for pointing out the errors? That is the correct scientific response. Perhaps Rui Cui might like to make a donation to SF blog. There is still time.

    I really think that there is a place for blogs like RW, SF (possibly to be resurrected), and other blogs which are critical in general.

    As amw January 22, 2013 at 9:35 pm wrote (in another entry in this blog)
    “a large dose of scepticism – which in the end is what science is about.”
    People do need to be able to give voice to their scepticism.

    fernando pessoa

    January 23, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    • I think SF would still be up if all it did was “pointing out the errors”. We all know it went beyond that, resulting in exposure to legal action.

      Average PI

      January 24, 2013 at 5:21 am

      • No it not went beyond that.

        Frederic

        January 24, 2013 at 5:39 am

        • Whether or not the comments on SF did or did not go beyond pointing out the errors, fact is that the site was called Science _Fraud_, bringing an implication of fraud on every error that was pointed out on the site. By quickly correcting as many problems as possible, Curi may be creating a body of evidence that these problems were honest mistakes, which eventually may have to be weighed up against the accusation of fraud implied by the web site’s name. Quite frankly, if it is resurrected, SF should probably go through a rebranding. Or as we humans would call it, a name change.

          CH

          January 24, 2013 at 6:38 am

          • Right. Unfortunately, SF went clearly beyond pointing out errors and jumped to conclusions about character and intentions, all things that any lawyer would know are very difficult to prove.

            Average PI

            January 24, 2013 at 6:49 am

      • In the case of Rui Curi SF was correct. In which cases do you think SF was incorrect?

        fernando pessoa

        January 24, 2013 at 6:02 am

        • Do we have to repeat it one more time, Fernando? SF jumped to conclusions about Curi’s INTENTIONS. That is the problem and that is what exposed SF to a legal attack.

          Average PI

          January 24, 2013 at 6:10 am

          • Please go through it one more time.
            Hypthesis to be tested. That’s how many think. People should do it more often.

            fernando pessoa

            January 24, 2013 at 6:17 am

  5. Of course people could sue anybody for anything. The blog was withdranw not because of legal actions, but for pression on Paul Brooks and the threanten to do it. Or do you believe that Brooks got an official paper from any court stating that he must take the blog down? Of course not! They haven’t done that, they threaneted Brooks instead with the promise of legal action.

    Frederic

    January 24, 2013 at 7:11 am

    • Probably Brooks talked to a lawyer and followed his/her advice. Perhaps there was pressure from the University he works at as well. Unknown.

      Average PI

      January 24, 2013 at 7:46 am

    • Amusingly, the letter did not claim that Brookes posted untrue statements on the blog. The letter claimed that Curi’s reputation had been damaged and his source of funding had been cut off. Those seem like appropriate consequences, in light of the number of errors in the papers, whether those errors were intentional or accidental.

      Frederic, you are right. A letter threatening to sue is much cheaper than an actual lawsuit. Such a letter is the correct first step in a dispute of this kind, giving the blogger an opportunity to remove the offending material and post a retraction. But too often it is misused to bring about the desired effect without having to prove that the material was improper in the first place. I have seen it done. Private citizens usually do not have the money to defense against a lawsuit, even if they are likely to win. It’s just too expensive. So the material gets taken down despite its merits.

      JudyH

      January 24, 2013 at 9:20 am

      • Laws for these kind of things vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I know in European jurisdictions if something damages a person’s reputation courts can and will issue gagging orders regardless on whether the accusation is true or not.
        So in the case of scientific misconduct European courts will issue orders forbidding the publication or dissemination of such claims, however with a clause for qualified privilege – such as taking the matter to a university ethics committee.
        In general, I think, anglophone courts won’t issue such orders if the matter concerns material already in the public sphere (such as a journal article), but European courts certainly will. An analogy might be it is forbidden to accuse foxes of raiding the henhouse, however you are permitted to raise these concerns in camera before a committee of suitably credentialed and eminent foxes. Given time and reviewing all the evidence this committee will conclude that although on the surface it might be that there appears to be some discrepancies in the number of hens still residing in the henhouse, there is no firm evidence that any hens have in fact been eaten and if they have, then it is completely beyond the powers of reason to determine which fox actually did the eating. There might be 100s of reasons why that particular fox might have feathers stuck between his teeth and it would be an outrageous slur to conclude any malfeasance hereto

        In such a situation Brookes would be obligated to remove the material from the internet, but still be in perfect freedom to take up the matter with University ethics committee.

        University ethics? Must be a perfect candidate for an oxymoron award.

        littlegreyrabbit

        January 26, 2013 at 2:36 am

  6. Just in case anyone gets into the mood of investigating Curi’s papers, a complete list can be found here. https://uspdigital.usp.br/tycho/CurriculoLattesMostrar?codpub=D7A0B5C8B86D

    Good luck!

    Hibby

    January 24, 2013 at 7:40 am

    • Poor Curi. Little did he realize the blow-back in support of justice. Has anyone informed Paul Brookes yet? This sudden explosion in fraud and subsequent retractions is extremely worrisome. Mainly because most of the journals reported on in this blog are pretty top-notch. If any of you spend time browsing manuscripts in the mountain of (supposedly) predatory OA publishers, I estimate that 25% should never have been published in the first place, anothe 25% should be retracted while the remainder are “suspect” quality. Science is in serious trouble, Who to trust? What value does the peer review hold? How accountable should editors, reviewers and the publisher be relative to the fraudulent author? I have no doubt that some anal-retentive scemtist will examine all of Curi’s papers, and the snow-ball will begin to roll. What does Curi say to this blog entry? Someone invite him to come clean publically, making sure that the Brazilian authorities are also informed.

      Robin Hood

      January 25, 2013 at 8:14 am

      • oh, these things are kept very quiet in Brazil. They say things “have to settle”. In this area, Curi IS the authority, that is our general problem here. Best thing to do is to keep on looking into his papers and informing international authorities, demanding exposure. No silence should be allowed.

        Hibby

        January 25, 2013 at 9:56 am

  7. It is quite interesting to compare the attitudes os people. I followed the the cases of both Curi and Eddy Liew. Eddy wrote in the science-fraud blog himself, thanked the author of the blog and corrected his papers. Curi’s attorneys sent a letter to shut down the site and I have no idea of his intentions by correcting this papers!

    Clearly, someone that published more than 500 papers, that means nearly 20 per year, has the ability to proofread with the detail needed to all this papers.

    PS

    January 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    • Indeed. In addition,”frauding” papers with an average IF = 3 is definetely not a good example for a head of Institute or whatever he actually is now. I was wondering right now what the hell his students (and maybe some post docs) are thinking just right now testing all these oils in dodgy cell lines, no mechanism at all, writing dodgy thesis with no support (20 papers/year makes Curi very busy), dodgy blots and ridiculous peer-review and BOOM, you’ve got your PhD. Anyway, hats off to SF and shame on you Dr. Curi. Does anyone here, brazilians, actually know if USP and CNPq were porperly contacted (i.e. explaining the situation in a scientific, high profile level, by someone NOT involved in his research field?).

      DEUS ex MACHINA

      January 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      • Authorities at the University of São Paulo, from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, where Rui Curi is the Director, are asking people to sign the letter bellow in support of Rui Curi.

        Don`t stop posting news here, bad scientists from University of São Paulo, and from anywhere, need to learn that life science is a serius busines and it is NOT just a matter of publishing papers.

        DECLARATION

        We teachers / researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, we would like to reiterate, for all purposes, that the moral character, ethics and professional Prof. Rui Curi is absolutely unquestionable. Prof. Rui Curi built a solid academic career over more than 30 years, focusing on hard work, dedication, good sense and high character, that a complaint of potential problems in a few articles published can not destroy. Such termination shall be determined by the relevant bodies, but not erase the merit he has contributed greatly to the education of thousands of students who have taught in the classroom, their importance in the development of many researchers who supervised in his laboratory and the numerous scientific contributions recognized by his peers in his field.

        maripoosa

        January 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

        • All researchers from Curi’s Departament or Institution have signed that? Astonishing!

          Frederic

          January 27, 2013 at 1:36 am

          • Are the signatures real?

            Average PI

            January 27, 2013 at 3:50 am

          • If a person on whom my livelihood depends asked me to sign a petition supporting their bid for sainthood, I would do it even if that person deserved instead a bath in a pot of molten brimstone. Sign or else, I say.

            chirality

            January 27, 2013 at 5:41 am

          • Dear colleagues from overseas,
            This is Brazil. All politics and no compromise.
            Should anyone in the same field have some spare time, please, peruse further papers from Dr. Curi and his coauthors. Actually any Brazilian “1A” researcher is a good source for questionable materials to post, I think.

            Someone asked about contacting official Brazilian agencies: small mouth quickly took the facts to members of funding agencies, who are exactly Curi and colleagues. They only decided to take some public action after it became a scandal. Basically they will try to diminish the situation and hide it under the carpet. There are good people/scientists here — just not among decision-makers, I am afraid.

            Hibby

            January 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm

          • Frederic, I would guess everyone signed it (most feel really intimidate under pressure)

            maripoosa

            January 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm

        • “Prof. Rui Curi is absolutely unquestionable”

          Nothing is unquestionable.

          Even less is absolutely unquestionable.

          Science is all about asking questions.

          Stewart

          January 27, 2013 at 5:09 am

        • How come? This is ridiculous. I would not use my name in a situation like this. I mean, we all can see that most part of Curi’s papers in the last years are deepless, grandma’s science. But this is his problem, not mine. The question is wether any suggestion of fraud in a low IF paper involving a couple of unimportant research groups in the filed (research, not politics) is a matter of scandal or not. It is. We are talking about thousands of dollars in funding. CNPq has enough money now to support fish oils in space rocks to deep genomic sequencing in space bacteria ,so WHY not to use it properly, openly, with the support of the midia and the top 1A’s? Please guys, send e-mails to journals, things will start happening slowly. Many 1A’s are the same that NEVER change the politics for grant proposals (giving money to someone with 30 years career and 10 papers instead of a young guy with 2 NATURE an 3 years career). But some 1A’s are the same crying in front of the computer reading news like this one. This is Brazil, but not in a bad sense (neither in a bad mood, not all the time). Very desincouranging, but still worth fighting against.

          DEUS ex MACHINA

          January 28, 2013 at 3:55 am

        • Curi supporters are been exposed to the University of Sao Paulo in the article bellow. Luiz Roberto Britto was the main responsible for Rui Curi been such a big name in politics these days. Hey, there is hope these big names will have to pay the bill!

          original article in Portuguese

          http://www.adusp.org.br/index.php/9-uncategorised/1567-acusado-de-ma-conduta-cientifica-diretor-do-icb-nega-fraude-mas-admite-erros

          Translated to English using Google tools.

          Accused of scientific misconduct, director of ICB denies fraud, but admits errors
          A commission of inquiry constituted by the Dean of Research, is investigating an allegation of fraud against the scientific director of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICB-USP), Professor Rui Curi. The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) also opened an investigation.

          Because of complaints, originally published in ScienceFraud blog (maintained by an American researcher), Curi sent his unpublish an article of 2007, “Regulation of interleukin-2 signaling by fatty acids in human lymphocytes,” published in the Journal of Lipid Research .

          Professor Curi denies that there has been fraud, but acknowledges errors in images that illustrate the article. “These are mistakes that we have not seen. Assure that there was no bad faith, “he told Folha de S. Paul the director of ICB. “There was no fraud, but errors in assembling the figures,” he told O Estado de S. Paul. He attributed the mistakes to his former student Renata Gorjão, orientanda PhD. Other former students of his, as Sandro and Rafael Hirabara Lambertucci are also coauthors of the unpublished article.

          This case calls attention to some similarities with episode occurred in 2009, when it went public complaint of plagiarism against a group of researchers which was part of the then dean Suely Vilela (see Informative Adusp 296). The group’s leader, Professor Andreimar Soares, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ribeirão Preto, USP would be fired in 2011 after an administrative proceeding.

          At the time, Smith also blamed his orientanda, one of the co-authors of the article asked, and (as in this case) by improper choice of images: “I make it clear that there was no plagiarism, but there was an unfortunate error replacement for my figures former doctoral student, “said the Informative Adusp. She had her title revoked by USP.

          Productivism?

          There is strong evidence that the current case, like the other episodes of scientific misconduct that occurred at USP, has as its background the exacerbation of academic productivism.

          The director of ICB has the impressive number of 503 published articles, and 475 abstracts presented at conferences. The data contained in the curriculum of teacher Lattes, updated May 2012. Another very expressive number: 503 articles of no less than 98 were published since 2009, so the period in which he is ahead of the ICB.

          I mean that in just four years – precisely the period in which he has held the leadership of the ICB, with all the administrative burden that this role entails – the professor has published nearly 20% of its own scientific production, which began 30 years ago. Note that some researchers in the field of prestige, colleagues with similar academic profile, have little more than a hundred articles published throughout his career.

          On 4/2, Informative Adusp sent to Professor Curi questions about the case. Until the time of writing, on 7/2, did not receive their replies.

          Solidarity

          Handling unusual happening in the ICB, as soon as it was announced that the case would be investigated. Teachers Luiz Roberto Britto, former director of the unit, Benedito and Correa, deputy director of the current administration, have circulated a document of solidarity Curi, in which they highlight the suitability “absolutely certain” of his colleague and stated that “a complaint of potential problems in a few published articles may not destroy “what they call” a solid academic career. ”

          Professor ESEM Cerqueira, the ICB also questioned the “insistence” of Correa and Britto “send us e-mails demanding adherence to their intent,” and asking the teachers of the unit “did not omit” in defense of Curi. “What do you mean, ‘not omit this time’? Since when we are required to have taken a position in favor (or against) to anyone? “Reacted Cerqueira. “And in this case, in favor of a colleague, even before the results of the investigations promised by the Dean, FAPESP and CNPq?”

          maripoosa

          February 16, 2013 at 5:26 pm

          • Very informative article. Politics is what this is all about. Please, after google-translating the article, could you ask someone to just peek-correct it a bit? I do not think it is clear enough to foreign readers, and this is a really insightful report. It is good that such maneuvers, which are certainly expected to run quietly, get international attention. We are all waiting on this case… and the recent similar ones from UNESP.

            CF

            February 16, 2013 at 6:54 pm

  8. My advice is to contact journal editor’s to pressure for investigation. Only that corrections/retractions could be achieved. Irregular articles should not be maintain intact in the scientific literature.

    Fraudbuster

    January 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm

  9. The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Conselho nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – CNPq) has established a guideline that allows plagiarism. At link: http://memoria.cnpq.br/normas/lei_po_085_11.htm is presented the following definition of plagiarism:
    “Plagiarism: is the presentation, as if it were his own, results or conclusions previously obtained by another author, as well as complete texts or substantial part outside of texts without care detailed in the Guidelines.”
    According to CNPQ plagiarism is allowed provided that “small” and without using results from other researchers.

    Busta Bloodvessel

    January 27, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    • Good point, Busta. Brazilian ethical guidelines officially tolerate some undisclosed % of copy without flagging it as plagiarism. This is quite illustrative of how things are going around here.

      One professor from UFSC, south of Brazil, started posting on a personal blog the % amount of unreferenced copy (=plagiarism in serious institutions) found in academic theses in his department. He has been threatened and now people are saying he was “finally fixed”. Whatever happened, his blog has been shut down exactly like Brooke’s Science Fraud, and no-one cares. Have a look below (in Portuguese).

      http://naofoiplagio.blogspot.com.br/

      Hibby

      January 28, 2013 at 9:36 am

  10. guys, go and check the case of Diederik Alexander Stapel at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diederik_Stapel
    In 2011 Tilburg University suspended Stapel, pending further investigation, for fabricating and manipulating data for his research publications. This scientific misconduct lasted for years and affected at least 55 publications. Maybe USP should know that.

    mariposa

    January 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

    • I do not think there is any connection between the situation related to a number of publications from the Curi laboratory and the situation of Stapel where there was clear evidence of ‘fabricating and manipulating data’. I think Curi will have to defend his work to a committee at USP and also committees representing his grant funding agencies. Let us wait for the outcome of such investigations before jumping to conclusions.

      Busta Bloodvessel

      January 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      • “I think Curi will have to defend his work to a committee at USP and also committees representing his grant funding agencies.” — Actually the only questioning funding agency will probably be CNPq, and their investigation apparently is asking what did the local committee at USP thinks of what happened. Bottom line is, Curi will be investigated by his department colleagues, usually below his political power. Usually ethical investigations in Brazil find no real, intentional, misconduct in such cases, and tend to investigate only retracted papers. Yet, alas, let us not jump to conclusions.

        Hibby

        January 29, 2013 at 4:55 am

        • oh, and note that his colleagues (including the selected members of this investigation committee) have probably been pressured into signing this letter of support to Curi. But, no jumps here too

          Hibby

          January 29, 2013 at 5:07 am

          • Hibby, I find your attitude difficult to understand. I think you must have been at the wrong end of a decision against you in the past in Sao Paulo? If so, I do not think this is the medium to take out your frustration. But perhaps I am jumping too far?

            Busta Bloodvessel

            January 29, 2013 at 10:10 am

          • …or maybe I read these facts in newspapers and blogs… Well, time will tell what the committee will find

            Hibby

            January 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      • In reply to Busta Bloodvessel January 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm

        You write,

        “Let us wait for the outcome of such investigations before jumping to conclusions”,

        and other formulations.

        How come it took Rui Curi time to amass 400 publications (that is the approximate total I understand) to notice that something might be amiss? Why has he been waiting? I think these are fair questions.

        fernando pessoa

        January 30, 2013 at 9:31 am

        • I think your question is entirely valid. It is only my humble opinion, but I think Curi was working to very heavy demands, and did not spend enough time looking over and checking the data included in his own senior author publications. This is an example to all senior investigators: do not place full trust in, and hand responsibility to your students and postdocs, they may not be entirely reliable.

          Busta Bloodvessel

          January 30, 2013 at 9:45 am

          • Why blame downwards? Is there any evidence that it was the fault of more junior people?
            It could also be that senior investigators may not be entirely reliable.

            fernando pessoa

            January 30, 2013 at 10:51 am

          • Why blame downwards?

            You did write “Let us wait for the outcome of such investigations before jumping to conclusions.” Busta Bloodvessel January 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm

            Is there evidence that junior peple are to blame?

            It could also be a example to all junior investigators that senior investigators may not be entirely reliable.

            fernando pessoa

            January 30, 2013 at 10:55 am

  11. Nice text and discussion (in portuguese) here: http://ccientifica.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/foi-sem-querer.html
    Some good people in brazilian science are actually following carefully the news about Curi’s potential frauds, I believe in something to come soon from CNPq…

    DEUS ex MACHINA

    January 29, 2013 at 11:10 am

  12. I think it is pretty simple.
    (1) Real mistake (including a supervision mistake by the PI) results in manipulated data. This is brought to a wide audience by a blog such as Science Fraud, which uses good trenchant english. Pi sees this, goes through data, supervision, etc., etc., then contacts Science Fraud and the journal, feeling as embarrassed as when s/he was a student and destroyed several weeks/months of work by making a mistake at the bench. PI apologises, corrects errors in paper (or retracts, depending on the scope/scale) and is happy because they are now a better scientist.

    2. Fraudster, fights back, reaches for lawyers and tries desperately to protect their empire and cosy life.

    Most scientists are in (1), those in (2) we don’t need or want, and worse, they consume valuable resources (taxpayer’s money, charitable money) and they destroy the future because they “train” students.

    ferniglab

    January 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    • ferniglab, I agree that the PI in this instance should have apologised for all errors and mistakes made as soon as he was able to do so. However, and it just my humble interpretation, I think he felt intimidated by a ‘witch hunt’ instigated by the blog ‘Science Fraud’. While most of us would have taken a completely different course of action, Curi unfortunately engaged the services of an influential law firm, something then copied by other individuals named in the Science Fraud blog. I think we need to wait for the outcome of all professional investigations into his actions and his publications before making assumptions and conclusions.

      Busta Bloodvessel

      January 30, 2013 at 9:09 am

    • ferniglab, I agree with you. The response to the now-defunct Science Fraud blog is a good indication of the PI’s true colors. Instead of fixing the problem — bad data coming out of his lab — Curi attacked the person who reported the problem. This is typical of a person (in every profession) who is more interested in the trappings of achievement than in true achievement.

      JudyH

      January 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

  13. The Corrigendum is not easy to find, if one is not familiar with this thread. One cannot see any reference for the correction in the HTML version of the paper, but I remember to see it when it was corrected. That is reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally strange! Try to see t by yourself: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0024320505009525

    Frederic

    February 6, 2013 at 4:32 am

  14. Rui Curi is back to his Director position in one of the most prestigious Research Institute from USP after a vacation break – most (but not all!!!) colleges are supporting him… unbelievable!

    In the text bellow Marcelo Hermes makes an evaluation of the problem in a big picture.

    Complicity of teachers
    For Professor Marcelo Hermes-Lima, Department of Cell Biology, University of Brasília, often the work has defrauded the complicity of teachers themselves counselors. “I know of many colleagues who rewrite the theses of students to avoid losing accreditation [along with research bodies]. Has long interest involved,” says Hermes-Lima, which follows years of work and cases reported and articles dealing with the subject in your blog, Science Brazil. He sees a growing number of fraudulent papers in Brazil and points as one of the reasons the great pressure suffered by students, especially graduate, publishing articles in scientific journals. The publication is essential, for example, to defend a thesis douturado.
     Pressure for publishing scientific texts may be among the reasons that lead to fraud
    Hermes-Lima says the lack of punishment for fraudsters and the feeling of researchers in the scientific corporatism in Brazil also greatly contribute to a greater number of cases. Several scientists whose articles were plagiarized demonstrably tampered with data or had remained in leadership positions in research institutions, including university federal weight.
    In the U.S., according to estimates of UNB professor, is the large number of jobs “unpublished” for mistakes or plagiarism. He points out, however, that the volume is proportionally smaller than in Brazil, “Why there’s career who defrauds ends.”

    http://www.dw.de/esc%C3%A2ndalo-alem%C3%A3o-exp%C3%B5e-dificuldade-do-mundo-acad%C3%AAmico-em-lidar-com-pl%C3%A1gio/a-16585055

    mariposa

    February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am

    • Great post. I still cannot understand HOW brazilian midia is dealing with the case. No comment at all, nothing new… I’m pretty sure that some people contacted journals to see what happens, so it’s going to take a while from now. But in terms of “local action”, I can see that there is no local action at all! As a director, Curi must try to protect himself as a real scientist, not behind a firewall of attourneys. Young, avant-garde brazilian researchers are discussing deeply about the topic in congresses and coffee breaks, but there is a lack of information regarding which actions CNPq and FAPESP are going to take. Moreover, Curi is NOT a main scientist, still active, productive and a reference of Brazilian science nowadays. This is one more reason to make things clear, and to make a real difference between name and production.

      DEUS ex MACHINA

      February 11, 2013 at 5:12 am

      • Dear DEUS

        I am not sure how long youve been away from Brazil, Patria Amada… There will be no serious action. Funding agencies will wait on the conclusions of the local commitee, composed of Curi’s friends. Newspapers were most likely silenced exactly like happened couple of years ago with the Leonardo Gomes scandal. They want dust settled, people forgetting, so they can pretend nothing much happened. Just wait and see.

        Hibby

        February 11, 2013 at 8:52 am

        • Well man, I’m away for a while, but I know some stuff can be quite “venereous” in our beloved country, it’s just a question of mess around with the right persons. I know the chef of the comitee in which Curi has his grants evaluated at CNPq (and some other people there). They are wise, oldschool guys, and will deal with that in a way where, AT LEAST, people will have a chance to judge by their own. Ah, in addition, unless you work at USP, it’s is just a question of low pH and balls. Not one single reason to be afraid of criticizing him. This guy is far from being a national scientific personality. Far away from that.

          DEUS ex MACHINA

          February 12, 2013 at 4:57 am

          • Good to know this, DEUS. As I am not from the same field, I keep getting the impression he is a big shot from what others say. Well, he is 1A after all. I really do not believe he will fall, yet we shall see and comment here.
            If he does fall, I really expect other 1As to be closely investigated as well (Longo, Zanuncio, Zuben, Szanto, etc). This would do miracles for Brazilian science…
            I hope the true national scientific personalities in Brazil (maybe Nicolelis, or Ribeiro) are any better than this.

            Hibby

            February 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

  15. I looked at the pictures in the paper and in the image here. The authors say: “nuclei of untreated cells were observed as blue and round..” and: “treatment…resulted in nuclear fragmentation and chromatin condensation, which are characteristic of apoptosis”. I don’t see any of these claims being demonstrated in pictures. When I increase gamma, the fields clearly show much greater number of cells (nuclei) in all pictures. Second, in control there is much smaller density of cells. Third, I cannot see whether nuclei are round or not because they all close to the size of (square) pixels, i. e. square. Much higher resolution is needed, sorry. In addition, I (and you) see here the halo of fluorescence, NOT the shape of the nucleus. (The same is in dark field illumination.) As I say, their resolution is way too small for any of their conclusions. I don’t know why they needed fluorescent staining, other stains will show chromatin as well, and show the shape of chromatin elements at higher magnification – that’s what they need, not fluorescence. (I might later give link to my preparation of individual nucleus, one thing in the size of their whole field of view.)

    pyshnov

    February 12, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    • This correction is very strange. First, Science Fraud reported that in the figure in question, 100 uM oleic and 100 uM linoleic acid images were duplicated. In the correction by the authors, not only theses 2 images has been changed, but also all the images from all groups.
      Of note, 200 uM linoleic acid which had much more nuclei stained in the original article, now looks pretty much similar to control group.

      Fraudbuster

      February 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      • I don’t know what images are corrected and by whom. I see that technique is atrocious and they need to bring someone to set up an adequate to their task microscopy and digital camera. There is no way these images can be manipulated to give results, any results. The technique needed is ab. the year 1900, the image can be taken by drawing with mirror, also ab. 1900 procedure or earlier. The stain – before 1900. So, in such circumstances, I don’t know if it’s reasonable to speak about some “misconduct”.

        pyshnov

        February 12, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    • Reminds me of another case from Brazil, where author pulled a correction on a suspected paper containing duplicate results, and in the end the new corrected figure made no sense at all. From Abnormal Science, below:

      http://1608ab.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/brazil-needs-a-lesson-in-transparency-a-case-of-severe-sms/

      Apparently, to avoid a retraction, anything goes.

      Hibby

      February 13, 2013 at 7:37 am

  16. I want to express a concern.
    1) My educated guess would be that if you use the authors’ method of adding alcoholic soln. of oleic acid to a DISTILLED water, OA will not form a solution but will float on the top (a small drop on 1L of water).
    2) I do not know what will happen if you add this to the cell MEDIUM. In principle, the medium is slightly alkaline and a soluble salt, sodium oleate, can be formed. I would guess that you will need to shake the bottle quite strongly. There could be also another result – an emulsion. Yet, for these experiments you need a solution, even very fine emulsion would create big problems.
    3) If I were a reviewer, I would notice not only the problem with pictures, but, first of all, ask the authors if they had conducted an experiment and are now sure that there are no drops of OA in the medium. My recommendation would be to add alcoholic soln. of OA to a, say, 10% of the medium, make sure there are no drops of OA, and only then mix it with cells.

    Why nobody talks about the reviewer(s)?

    pyshnov

    February 13, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    • Well observed! Yet, as remarked by other readers in SF blog, Curi’s papers may have bypassed peer-review by using either friendly editors or friendly reviewers. My guess is: no reviewers!

      CF

      February 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      • In that case, friendly Elsevier should get involved.

        pyshnov

        February 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm

  17. New paper from Curi has an erratum published.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jcp.24321/abstract

    volkil

    February 25, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    • This is expected: a series of errata to avoid retractions and “prove” authors are willing to appreciate and mend their “innocent mistakes”. This way the investigating committee will have fair basis to claim their good intentions, and everyone forgets this mess.

      Hibby

      February 25, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    • …and another one:

      http://joe.endocrinology-journals.org/content/216/3/X1.full.pdf

      I wonder if he is going to start correcting yet unexposed papers as well… and are the explanations for such mistakes.

      Hibby

      February 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm


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