Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

How to report allegations of scientific misconduct

with 74 comments

labtimes 1-2013Given the subject of Retraction Watch, readers often email us with papers they’d like us to look into, whether for alleged image manipulation, potential plagiarism or duplication, or other issues. As we explain in question five of our FAQ, we don’t have the resources to do such investigations, unfortunately; we can’t even keep up with all of the actual retractions.

Other sites, such as Science Fraud and Abnormal Science, have tried to fill that gap, and a number of the papers those sites questioned have been retracted. But Abnormal Science is on a long hiatus, and Science Fraud was of course shuttered by legal threats last month. So with that in mind — and also because we also get emails asking the best way to report alleged misconduct — our new LabTimes column is a stepwise guide for those who have concerns about papers that they’d like to see addressed. Based on our reporting of retractions for two and a half years, we try to answer questions we often answer in emails such as, where to start? And where to turn if those first contacts aren’t responsive?

We recognize that many scientists have become justifiably impatient with a self-correction mechanism that moves slowly:

[We] want to gently suggest that following stepwise procedures – no matter how much it makes you gnash your teeth, nor how many times you’ve been frustrated by complaints that vanish into a black hole – will only help you in the long run. Leaving a paper trail – or more likely an electronic trail nowadays – will demonstrate to people further up the food chain that you’re serious and that you’ve exhausted all other options before you got to them.

And tone is important:

Try to resist the temptation to take out your frustrations in personal attacks against the editors or authors with whom you’re corresponding. While you’ll sometimes still get the results you want that way, we haven’t seen a single case where it did much good and we’ve seen lots of cases where it gave adversaries an excuse – not necessarily one we’d endorse, but an excuse nonetheless – to ignore future missives. Stick to the evidence, and approach it scientifically, starting with your subject line. “Requesting an investigation” is much better than anything including the word “fraud,” for example.

And respecting due process — or in this case, the scientific version of it — is critical:

Finally, keep a paraphrase of the famous quote in mind: Never attribute to malice what can be explained by human error. You may have found a big whopper of a mistake in a paper, but that doesn’t automatically mean it was misconduct. We know this can be a long and frustrating process, and that cronyism can protect obvious fraud – but the scientific version of due process is just as important as the legal one.

We hope the column will be an evergreen resource for those looking to help the scientific record correct itself.

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 8th, 2013 at 9:30 am

  • honestscientist February 8, 2013 at 9:49 am

    In 2005, my lab director and his collaborators, have published an article in a high impact factor journal in which they reported “magic” discoveries in a field of biology. After I defended my PhD, and left the lab, I wrote a strong email to editors of the journal, funding agencies, scientific societies and leader scientists of the field, to explain that the “magic” article was a fraud, indeed most of the data and findings in the article have been deliberately falsified. But unfortunately, nothing happened, my PhD supervisor and his team are still in the academia, they still have their jobs, their wages, and their grants !

    • André van Delft (@AndreVanDelft) February 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

      I have seen the black hole as well. Two scientific fraud complaints by me have been rejected at all official levels. My latest actions were to put the complete files online. Sooner or later these will be widely noticed. Until that day the involved scientists and committees will have something to worry about.

    • fernando pessoa February 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Wrtie to the journal editors again. Many may have changed by now. Write to the publishers, write to any professional organisation that may own the journals. Point out, in detail, things you think are amiss. Ask the editors simple questions about the data, especially when things don’t fit. When they realise that they cannot explain the data they may change their minds. If you find instances of scientific irregularities in more than one article point the them out to all the journal editors (they are not in purdah).

    • Schmuck February 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      I think the attitude shifted almost 180 degrees over the past few years, many thanks to untold number of unknown soldiers, Retraction Watch, Abnormal Science, Science Fraud and many others.
      I have never witnessed any problem in the few labs I worked in or directly dealt with. But, we occasionally uncover problems in published data and I have been very encouraged by Journals and Editors attitude when we reported these problems.
      My experience have taught me few things:
      – Do not just make allegations (unless you are on the inside and have no motive), you have to show a real problem
      – Send a low tone letter explaining your concern to the editors
      – Accompany that letter with a power point presentation of your concerns
      – Give them time. Many investigations, especially anything that involves a leader in any field, any large institution or a high impact journal will take few months

      The demise of Abnormal Science and Science Fraud, unfortunate as it maybe, should teach us that we have to better than those who abuse our trust, otherwise, we will be bunch of paranoid crazy old and young people.

      • Robin Hood February 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm

        Schmuck. Great advice. I know of one publisher that is protecting another to prevent a retraction of clear and unquestionable figure theft. When the corruption lies at the highest echelong and all calls to retract have literally been trashed, what to do then?

      • Stewart February 8, 2013 at 5:18 pm


        If someone does that, they can kiss their careers goodbye.

        I say learn to do it namelessly, or dont do it.

        Sending in a powerpoint is traceable, and putting your name on it, is akin to Robin Hoods “ice pick to the head analogy”

        Science fraud did more good for science than anything else for a long, long time.

        We need more of the same…..hell, the science community does.

    • Average PI February 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Yup. I know a VERY famous person in my field who probably fabricated a lot of his 400+ papers. There were things like postdocs giving him data with nothing and they would be magically transformed into a high profile paper within a month. Did the guy get caught? Nope. Now he is a big honcho at a famous Medical School.

      • Robin Hood February 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        So, if you know so much detail, what are you waiting for?

        • Average PI February 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

          There is no payoff, my friend. I’m pretty much set, somebody else’s problem at this point, I’m afraid.

          • Hans Müller February 9, 2013 at 10:48 am

            If he is such a big honcho now, I am sure there are some people who want to see him tumble. So, the right information in the right hands could move something.

            Talking about payoff: Martin Heidingsfelders founded the company PolitPlag earning money by finding plagiarism in doctoral thesis mainly from politicians. He startet free of payment with VroniPlag. But due to time consuming aspects of this work he decided to let him get paid for it. See source in german here:

            By the way, Frau Schavan, formal german education minister, announced her resignation today. Allegations about plagiarism were made on SchavanPlag-Wiki against her starting early last year resulting in retraction of here doctorate by the University Düsseldorf.

          • Schmuck February 10, 2013 at 1:16 pm

            For me the payoff is not direct. In medicine and biomedical research, the payoff is uncovering something wrong before it gets so big and another investigator tests a bad treatment, which is based on the wrong data, on a poor patients who is still hanging on to dear life by a thread.
            I see this as right and wrong and there is no other way.
            As for your career, any Journal Editorial office and any respected editor will protect your identity. Make sure you have some electronic trails and never, ever send you concern to only one person (suggest the main editorial office and an editor on the subject).
            As for reporting a big name to their institution, I have no experience with that and would be very reluctant to do that myself, again unless I have irrefutable evidence. Institutions will have major conflict of interest in investigating one of their stars who bring the Bacon. Your best option is to know, personally, one of the individuals who serve on your institution ORI and feed her/him the information.

          • Hibby February 11, 2013 at 9:27 am

            Just take a few minutes over the weekend and send some evidence to be posted online and to editors. This will help a lot.

      • Image-man February 8, 2013 at 5:59 pm

        I know many similar examples like that!! but I am lazy.

  • OMSJ (@OMSJ) February 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Despite having conducted thousands of criminal, civil and military investigations since 1980 with the LAPD and as a private investigator (PI), I am relatively new (2006) to the challenges of medical and scientific misconduct. But regardless of whether a case involves dishonest employees, stolen freight, computer crimes, dead bodies, science or medicine, the investigative process is fairly consistent.

    More often than not, presumably learned PhDs and MDs make the same mistakes when reporting that are made by blue collar workers: They go to their bosses to report something that they don’t want to hear. When nothing is done, they ask why and make waves; or worse, they will silently acquiesce to avoid the risks of doing the right thing.

    A reporter should be a contacted AFTER an experienced professional LICENSED investigator is hired.

    While many reporters are well-intentioned, far more are beholden to editors, who are beholden to CEOs, who are beholden to shareholders. By all appearance, RW is a vital independent resource to those who monitor the behavior of researchers. But aside from their diplomas, values and good intentions, NOTHING takes the place of an experienced detective who knows how to carefully build a defensible case for a vetted attorney who knows how to protect a source.

    This doesn’t mean that reporters should be excluded – media can be a powerful component in a successful case.

    As carefully as some employees read the internal reporting process, they rarely understand that many companies are just going through the motions. If the complaint is ignored and employee makes more noise, the corporate lawyers and HR will build a case file to paint the reporting employee as disruptive, corrupt, lazy and reckless. Once the employee realizes what has happened, his complaints are characterized as rants from a “disgruntled” ex-employee.

    Those who wish to report misconduct within academia or the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries should contact an experienced PI who knows how to build a case and protect his source. Once all the facts and evidence are in, a decision can be made to present the employee’s report. If the corporation fails to take action and/or retaliates against the employee, the PI and legal counsel will have already choreographed a defensible case that can include not only the initial report, but can implicate the corporate body in a larger cover-up. Such a scenario allows the corporation to “do the right thing” OR retaliate – in either case, the employee’s interests are protected.

    I appreciate what organizations like RETRACTION WATCH are doing, but no reporter can take the place of an effective team that can protect the employee.

    OMSJ is an independent 501c3 non-profit licensed investigation agency. Our mission is to “protect and defend the victims and witnesses of medical and scientific corruption.”

    • Stewart February 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      OMSJ wrote “in either case, the employee’s interests are protected”

      I largely agree with your views here but once an employee in a science lab reports misconduct — lets get one thing very very clear: Their careers are over. Win or lose, thats it, it is over. thats the three years undergrad, masters – 2 years, 3-5 years PhD….then…whooosh! gone! All wasted.

      It is usally a junior lab member that does it. They are 100% dependent upon their PI for their future references and promotions. They can be threatened, harrassed and bullied by the very PIs, the lab members and colleagues all for one thing – telling the scientific truth.

      You should realise that it is the very PIs who write grants with each other, back each other up, from different institutions as well as from the same institutions, that do the “investigations” and are the representatives of the Universities in such cases.

      I’m afraid to say but the problem, in my experience, is everywhere in science – not all scientists are doing fraud, but ALL (and I mean ALL) know of someone who has done it. And they are keeping silent.

      Whats your solution?

      • Robin Hood February 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm

        I fully agree with Stewart’s last sentence. And also the first paragraph. I am now in a position to sway the thinking of the masses, at least in my field of study. After 20 years’ experience, and over 400 publications, many in high IF journals, I have seen corruption from Deans of Faculties to Editor-in-Chief of top-tier journals. I have also seen blind protection of high-level officials in publishing and in so-called “ethical” bodies. I have seen mainly fear in the eyes of the scientists and I have seen well-phrased (clearly lawyer-backed) defenses by publishing management in constant denial of wrong-doing. Not in all cases, but in many. False peer reviews by EIC’s of IF journals >6 or 8, racially charged rejections, abuse of authors’ rights, etc, etc. Unfortunately, OMSJ appears to believe that the remaining 190 or so countries have well established legal systems and counsel as in the US (assuming that he/she is from the US). For the rest of us plain scientists out there, who see fraud, but not at levels equivalent to robbing a bank, we do fear our careers because it is all we know. We have invested everything (time, energy, resources) only to find that so much of what surrounds us is fraud. And to see so many gain power based on that fraud. If any of the scientists on this blog are like me, they clearly know that 24 hours is not enough to complete our research, teaching and publishing activities. Being a scientist is hectic. It is anything but “blue-collar”. It is a life-long dedication and a daily struggle with truth. So, seeking legal counsel is not only beyond our economical means, it seems almost ridiculous that we should have to hire lawyers to fight criminal (i.e., fraudulent acts) that take place right before our eyes. That is why I fully agree with and support this blog and others like it, because we have the responsibility to smoke out the fraudsters. So, even though excellent theoretical advice was given above by OMSJ, practically speaking once such a legal step has been taken, it is difficult to reverse. Even if fraud was proved or shown, it is almost impossible for that scientist to continue research in that toxic environment among researchers in the same institute or even country (to some extent). Worse yet, getting established as an independent thereafter is commitment to a life of hellish suffering and submission of work to journals takes a surprising peak in rejections, always with that loathed standardized rejection message about the bla-bla-bla of not within our scope or we receive many more papers than we can publish nonsense. Unfortunately, in my field, protecting the identity of fraudsters seems to be smarter than ratting on them. That is why I have taken the foolish decision to not seek legal counsel (because I neither have the money or the desire to get legal counsel for something I know inherently as a human and scientist is wrong), nor to stay associated with the current research institute, despite the suffering that comes along with the decision. Rather, there is a new call: Liberate Science, the movement of the scientific indignados. I have in the past 1-2 years called for formal publications to document these frauds, small or large. Write a book and get it published with an ISBN. Get it published as an opinion piece in open access journals with ISSN. Everything you feel is a fraud, and can document it, publish it. As much as possible in open access format. Blogs are good, but they can vanish in an instant, and then, where does the evidence sit? WE NEED EVIDENCE, not in court, but in the court of public opinion where it can be read, retrieved and consulted 2, 5 or 10 years from now. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I am of the opinion that something something horribly wrong is taking place and that it lies beyond our layman control.

        • Michael Kovari February 9, 2013 at 9:33 am

          Robin Hood,
          Looks like a very interesting comment. Could you repost using paragraphs?. Thanks

      • Anonymous crystallographer February 9, 2013 at 10:32 am

        “in my experience, is everywhere in science – not all scientists are doing fraud, but ALL (and I mean ALL) know of someone who has done it.”

        Knows personally? This is certainly not the case in my field, nor have I heard similar things from other fields. We all know of a few very public cases where the perpetrators (none of whom I’ve met) were caught, and several more cases of probable incompetence. I’ve spent more than a decade in various academic departments and I can’t remember a single case where fraud was alleged at any of these places, although people certainly had strong feelings about a notorious crank on the faculty.

      • Hibby February 11, 2013 at 9:30 am

        Well said Stewart. People should be encourage to report fraud, and certainly the process should be made simpler and safer.

    • Ressci Integrity February 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      “A reporter should be a contacted AFTER an experienced professional LICENSED investigator is hired” – Hiring means you have to pay, right? How much they cost? Do Investigators help on honourary basis? Who is going to pay? You can not get funds to conduct scientific misconduct investigation!! Academia does not pay that much as other white colour jobs. Moreover, if I am a postdoc or a new investigator, Please tell us how can we do this?

  • pyshnov February 8, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I understand that there is de facto legal problem with publishing of cases. Well, there should not be any: one should simply publish the case as ALLEGATIONS, not as a statement of facts. The big media knows this rule very well. Probably, 90% of the stories they publish are published as ALLEGATIONS, only 10% are cases proven in court. What, on Earth, is the problem with scientific publications???

    Of course, when you have documents, you can publish them without the fear of the law suit. Washington Post once published secret Pentagon documents, if you remember. Some parts of your story can be allegations, some – documents. I think, that is all you need to know about publishing and the fear of publishing. Needless to say, the allegations accomplish all your goal – to present the case to the public for judgement and action.

    Most certainly, it matters WHO published the case. It’s about credibility and about the size of readership. In the open society, we would see a competition for publishing the most outrageous cases. Sorry, that’s not what we see now, and this is not because of the “legal reasons”, as I explained above.

    I publish documents, allegations and facts. I had, for 13 years, no legal challenge. I have little doubt that those accused in my publications would love to sue me, as they know that I, having $385 monthly income, cannot even afford a lawyer or an expert. They don’t sue me for one reason – a law suit has the potential to add to the publicity, moreover – it can be a tipping point at which a credible and well-known source will publish a few words, and this is their worst nightmare. Others may follow, publish more, and the nightmare can become a realty.

    The last publication in my case is the answer I got from the NSERC (many here know what is NSERC in Canada) to my “Allegations of Extreme Breaches of Policy by the University of Toronto”, written, incidentally, in the letter and spirit of the advice from the Retraction Watch.
    The Allegations are at:
    The NSERC answer and the discussion of it is at:

    • Robin Hood February 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Michael Pyshnov, I assume that you are no longer associated with NSERC. Moreover, the fact that this event took place such a long time ago will automatically be like pouring ice on the fire. Even if you feel that an injustice was made such a long time ago, who is going to pay attention? You will be perceived only as an embittered scientist who will revert to any means possible to stain the name of the NSERC black. Yet, think, think carefully and think deeply. Surely there are thousands of NSERC scientists who are doing ethical work and who are respectable scientists. If so, then how can you tell what is fraudulent and what is not? Have you tried to contact all members of the Department to gauge their feed-back? In my opinion, your case is dead and was buried 13 years ago. You either need to let go, or work on something more concrete. Ideally, you would need to identify voices of discontent at the NSERC whose voices have been silenced on other actions of fraud. Unless you build a coalition, you are never going to find justice. Most importantly, you are never going to find peace in your heart. I understand what it means to know the inherent truth. But legal systems and lawyers don’t always care about the truth. They are more focused on how the message can be portrayed and perceived (by manipulating the tone and emphasis). And maybe that’s where you need to focus your attention… I am now entering the same process, but from a different angle. And my approach will be different, but with the hope that the result (and the lingering emotion attached to it) will not be the same as yours (i.e., 13 years of potentially lost talent).

      • littlegreyrabbit February 8, 2013 at 10:00 pm

        “I am now entering the same process, but from a different angle.”

        Well I would suggest you wait and see how you fare before issuing judgements on others (that isn’t meant to be hostile, btw, just I think you aren’t aware of the world of pain you may be about to enter).

        Always have an exit strategy, an awareness that you will probably reach a point where you have to cut your losses and keep your expectations very low. Above all keep an ability to laugh at yourself – because the fraudsters certainly will be.
        I believed had all those characteristics, after rapidly exhausting the normal channels (RIOs, National Science foundation, the relevant journals) I came up with what I thought was a low investment strategy: basically every week I would try to write – under pretext – to the most crustiest-looking faculty members at random universities attaching a PDF of the story. The goal was not enlist their sympathies (academics are notoriously hostile to whistleblowers) but to provoke them into writing in fury to my previous Institution along the lines of “I say there is the most frightful cad and bounder making outrageous and defamatory claims.” and hope that the institution would at least find it annoying to continually have to write back to them along the lines of “Graham’s untrue and malicious claims are well known to us. They have, of course, been fully investigated and are utterly without foundation. He is a noted trouble-maker and, we believe, mentally unbalanced.”
        Pinpricks perhaps, but I felt better pinpricks that to just walk away – and actually some of the replies I got were surprisingly unintentionally entertaining, especially the more infuriated ones. Anyway it was all going swimmingly, I estimated that around 30% of scientists were behaving in just the fashion I predicted they would, until I made the mistake of tipping my hand to someone whose reply I believed was genuinely sympathetic (I have to say although I am pretty good at picking up falseness, even I get tricked sometimes). This person was in Scotland and I just wrote back saying I knew I realistically had to hope of ever being permitted to work in science again, I was just trying to make life a little difficult for the Dean of Science.
        The two days later I got an email response from Finland, of all places, from an email query that had gone unanswered for months and that I had written off – her reply mirrored the language of my email to Scotland precisely.
        “Dear Mr Richardson,

        I’m happy to hear that you are interested in joining our institution (and you are not being difficult at all).”

        Hence, as I said, the importance of keeping a sense of humor.

        If I may be so bold to make a prediction Robin Hood, you won’t succeed in your complaint, you won’t have a scientific career, you will be immensely surprised at the number of scientists and academics who will correspond in bad faith, but you will learn a large amount about human nature. If you think that exchanging a scientific career for an insight into human nature is worth making – and I am afraid you won’t be able to gain this insight any other way – then go for it.

        PS. And its 23 years.

      • pyshnov February 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm

        1. No, I am “associated” with NSERC, they have not denied this. The university policy is the same – it doesn’t matter how much time passed, it doesn’t matter if the accused researcher no longer works in the university. Plagiarism is a special misconduct given the fact that allegedly plagiarised papers are in libraries, are electronically available, etc. It’s a matter of correcting the record of science. Authorship claims are valid up to 50 years after the author’s death. All retractions in general have no time limitations. Also, see a new German case where the lady plagiarised her dissertation and now her PhD from 1980 (sic) is taken away. Note that hers was a victimless crime, no particular person was seriously hurt by her plagiarism.

        2. Your impression of what NSERC is, is wrong. It’s a governmental structure, scientists do not do science there. There are no scientists on the Secretariat that is making administrative decisions about misconduct. I want to emphasise that this is one of the tricks used in the academia and elsewhere: to leave a room for later saying that the decision-makers failed as they lacked specific knowledge (not that they were crooks).

        3. “Have you tried to contact all members of the Department to gauge their feed-back?” I did exactly this, asked each of 88 professors to give expert opinion on the papers. Next morning the university lawyer sent each of them a letter discouraging any involvement. Only one professor answered and sent his letter to the university president (it’s on my web site). The Head of the Dept. told this professor to desist, saying that I am a second V. Fabrikant (who shot four at Concordia University). UofT knew what they were doing from the day one (this was in 1994), finally isolated me completely.

        4. “…you would need to identify voices of discontent at the NSERC…” ??? I don’t do this sort of things. If someone contacts me with competent expertise, that’s welcome, but to build a “coalition”, to use unrelated discontent for pushing my case???

        4. Lawyers are a problem, right. 51 law firms in Toronto (having several hundreds of lawyers each) declared conflict of interest saying they work for the university. One lawyer proposed: “We will sue them for negligence, they were clearly negligent.” To which I replied: “Claims of negligence against educational institutions are barred in law.” Her face became dark red, but she continued…

        • Robin Hood February 9, 2013 at 3:53 am

          Dear Michael, allow me to adjust my position, in case it was being misunderstood. I fully support the actions you have taken and thank you for clarifying the actions you continue to take, even after 23 years. That’s a quarter-century and possibly a third of a life time. What I meant to say is, if you have not seen justice in 23 years, and you clearly feel to be a victim, then what is the worth of the fight? Allow me also to correct my position. I never comment on something I do not have experience with. Although I do not have 23 years worth of pain caused by injustice, I do have at least 7 or 8, and it already feels like a life-time. But one thing I am grateful from the pain of trying to disclose fraud: I have gained knowledge in truth, and this knowledge will be absolutely valuable to others, starting in 2013, where I hopefully start to publish case studies. In summary, I have not judged you, just given my opinion. I think you are a “hero” of sorts for portraying your true story openly to us all so that we may learn from it. So, thank you.

  • Helene Hill February 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Thank you for your article in Lab Times on reporting allegations of misconduct. You should know, however, that the ORI barely deals with misconduct that involves statistics even though one of their own, James Mosimann, co-authored 2 papers on the subject, only one of which is cited under the heading of *statistical forensics*. Image manipulation is a whole lot easier to detect and their findings of misconduct primarily deal with that. When I presented them with new and compelling statistical evidence, they declined to consider it. This brings up another important point. There is no mechanism for a whistleblower to appeal an unfavorable ruling by the ORI, although the accused is permitted to do so.

    • Robin Hood February 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      Are you suggesting that the integrity of the ORI is in question? I might not be surprised considering that the “ethics” of COPE is in question. Do elaborate further… as with many politically charged groups, one tends to find protections of “truth” are often politically motivated in defense of some capitalistic result…

      • HZHill February 8, 2013 at 5:52 pm

        In this case, ORI had been involved earlier when there was much less information about potential misconduct available and they said there was not enough evidence. I think they refused to reconsider the new, very compelling, data because they didn’t want to admit that they had been wrong.

        And would you please elaborate on your statement about COPE. Can they not be relied upon either? What is the world coming to?

        • Robin Hood February 9, 2013 at 4:03 am

          Helene, wait for my paper in 2-3 months from now where I expose the hypocrisy, and lack of ethics, of COPE management. I will not divulge such delicious tit-bits on a blog… however, I would start with an opinion piece that was published anything between 24 and 50 times, made to appear in PubMed to sway opinion, and including, at times, the exact same text (i.e., self-plagiarism), often with as many as 17 co-authors to write one page, i.e., 2-3 lines per author. As I say, no names yet, but just this information alone should tell you that corruption lies right up at the highest levels… Would you consider it ethical for COPE to charge “membership” fees to belong to COPE? Start to play with their membership fees and the number of journals per publisher, and you will start to conclude: ethics is now being commercialized in a multi-million dollar industry… I will lose everything, I know, with my profound analysis and revelation, but many will gain from the truth… On this issue, ROI stayed fabulously neutral, knowing the political sensitivity, no doubt…

          • Ressci Integrity February 9, 2013 at 8:42 am

            looking forward to that report, Robin Hood..

          • pyshnov February 10, 2013 at 8:01 am

            Read my correspondence with COPE. It’s here:
            (the URL of my web site was then different, now – )

            At that time Liz Wager became the Head of COPE. She later replied to my comment in Times Higher Education on my case. Interestingly, on her blog (it’s now removed but I have the download) she said that males are lying more than females.

            In that correspondence, COPE said that my allegation of plagiarism is not an allegation of plagiarism because there is no such thing as plagiarism of unpublished research. I replied that their own definition of plagiarism includes plagiarism of unpublished research. They were wiggling for a long time but finally admitted: “We probably did make a mistake with our interpretation of the term ‘plagiarism’…” They anyway refused to help me, on another, probably even more ridiculous pretext.

            Read also on my web site the chapter “In the hands of the Committee on Publication Ethics” As you know they are the watchdog of ethics in 5000 scientific journals.

  • Average PI February 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    This is dangerous. It’s just a matter of time before fraudsters will start using this same resource to throw mud on people they dislike, perhaps the same people who uncovered them. When a paper is openly questioned in the mediasphere, suspicion on the paper and on the author is generated, whether there is a problem with the paper or not in the end.

    • Robin Hood February 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Average PI, of course it is dangerous, but perhaps you fail to see the point at which a whistleblower acts. Try to imagine how desperate you feel as a scientist to see fraud that you will take steps that will potentially cripple your career forever, if it had not already crippled you already. Whistleblowing takes place when a person has exhausted their available resources and has reached their personal limit. It is understandable that the accused (the fraudster) will fight back. After all, we are talking about careers, jobs, salaries, bonuses, research grants, etc. The risks of loss are massive on both sides of the “truth” isle. When a paper is questioned, it is not only devastating for the accused, but with everyone associated with that author. Crime by association. If scientist A works in Institute B, then any scientist that has ever worked with scientist A will, even if not guilty, always have some association of guilt. Same with a research institute. The name will always carry some “heavy” baggage which can be increasingly crippling if more such cases surface. Make no doubt about it, average PI, this is dangerous for all of us. Because we are dealing with raw justice in the blogosphere. Although I am not necessarily defending some of the personalities that have been highlighted in this blog, but some of the retractions made have been pure revenge calls. Cold-blooded. Even without ample quantifiable proof. It seems almost ironic that scientists who are so extremely methodical, call for retractions, in some instances, of what may have been pure error or oversight, while massive duplications flood the publishing world. Your name or your photo on Retraction Watch is surely like an ice pick to the head. Plain and simple. Although I personally call for justice against fraud, please consider how slanderous, unsubstantiated claims can damage these people for life. Imagine your name + photo appear on this blog. You are fried forever. I caution against witch-hunting and even though legal means might not be possible or within reach of most scientists, we need much more quantifiable and “hard-core” evidence than a color-inverted gel or Photoshop manipulated figure to crucify a scientist.

      • Average PI February 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm

        Sorry, I disapprove of any trials by the masses, regardless of context. It also opens the door to plenty of litigation by parties whose reputation is tarnished by such a process.

  • ferniglab February 8, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    It is a slow process and being polite and presenting duplicated data to journals sometimes achieves something, but often does not. I am still waiting for the editors to act 5-6 months after reporting image re-use in two papers for different experiments. There is a lot of inertia in the system. Editors don’t have lots of spare time and academic editors usually have a day job too. It isn’t necessarily in a journal’s interests, at least in the short term, to investigate and to take real action, e.g., retraction. They lose a paper, citations and get a very public bad mark against their brand. As for junior lab members who challenge the PI, this only works with a PI worthy of the name, but many are more interested in status than in discovery. A threat to their status and lifestyle is something they will fight hard against. Obtaining the used in a publication can be impossible. The consequence is that chasing misconduct will mean repeating research. Publishing this paper often leads to nothing: one paper that is lost in the sea of hype, which is not much to use for you next grant. Institutions have also been very slow in setting out a clear process for dealing with allegations of misconduct by their staff. The reward system makes misconduct very, very attractive. There is no loss of prestige for journals or “league table position” for institutions that turn a blind eye to misconduct. The result is pretty messy. Retraction Watch cannot keep track of retractions, yet we know that the current retraction rate is likely at most 10% of what should be retracted.

  • Phyllis Patterson February 9, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Why do we rely on the journals for the retractions??? Isn’t the important thing that colleagues, study sections and search committees see the entire story behind the paper (duplicated figures and all)?

    There is a pressure from the granting agencies and search committees to publish shady science because once a paper is published the researchers can wipe their hands and there is no discussion afterwards. If the community got used to discussing papers after their publication and if colleagues, study sections, and search committees got used to monitoring these discussions then the pressure to produce the shady science would be far reduced. Instead the pressure would be put on producing science that stands up to these discussions.

    It continues to surprise me that we as a community are so slow to adopt this post-publication discussion. If we went to one of these sites (there are several, etc) and simply made comments, then others would do the same and we would soon stop worrying about whether a paper was retracted or not. It would be good enough that everyone (including the people who decide the authors next grant/promotion) knows that the science was shady. Most of these sites automatically inform the authors and close colleagues of new comments on their papers and one can enter other addresses of of people to notify.

    By the way if we all did this then the importance of which journal a paper was publsihed in would be tempered as well!

    • pyshnov February 9, 2013 at 11:08 am

      I agree with the idea of discussing papers. However, you underestimate the depth of the mud hole in which science is now. I once read the comments in one such place allowing discussions of published papers. It is a project in the UK. They created the society of experts, grading them into signor experts, heads of expert teams and foot solders, I mean – foot scientists. I haven’t seen anything more ridiculous. Correspondingly, the comments were merely a mutual courtesy unrelated to the paper contents. I guess that an alternative possibility would be biting the “enemies”. Politics in science prevailed, the substance is gone.

      Retraction Watch needs to make one more step – to ban anonymous posting. There is not much of it currently, but it is still something seriously degrading the otherwise serious exchange. In alternative, there should be at least a category of Anonymous-1, Anonymous-2, etc., indicating that the author does not wish to have any responsibility for the stuff. It should be fully realised that anonymous posting is a form of falsification; how far it goes each time, doesn’t matter. Have you seen an anonymously published scientific paper? That’s it! That’s the standard.

      • Phyllis Patterson February 9, 2013 at 11:47 am

        I think that as scientists we are able to judge which comments are useful and objective regardless of who it is that is making the comment. Seeing who left the comment does not affect my judgement of the content within it just like seeing who wrote a paper does make it any more credible to me. I look at the fact and that’s it. Anonymously published scientific papers would be GREAT. That would solve a lot of problems discussed here and there would be no motivation to fudge/exaggerate the results, but it would also make funding a bit difficult…

        Once a we get a critical mass on or equivalent, allowing everyone to discuss and make up their own mind on the discussion, these issues you mention will disappear.

        • pyshnov February 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

          The thing is that anonymous comment can be misleading and that’s why the author is hiding. I do not have your vision. I take things at their face value. I attach importance to every word. I have this handicap. By the way, if papers are published anonymously, you create two sorts of people: the ones in the know and the ones in the dark. In institutions, people will appear and disappear mysteriously overnight. Interesting possibility, and may be one missed by Orwell.

          • Phyllis Patterson February 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm

            Perhaps the author is “hiding” because he wants to avoid retaliation for writing his thoughts on the interent where they may stay for eternity. If you do “attach importance to every word” as you say above, then why are you so concerned about who those words are coming from? We are having a fairly productive conversation right now and I have no idea who pyshnov is.

            I’m not sure what those last two sentences mean.

            My point is that an open conversation would be useful for everyone and could completely change the way science is conducted and we are smart enough to take what we want from such a conversation regardless of whether or not we know who is actually behind the words. I have no idea who ‘pyshnov’ is but I know that I disagree with his/her basic thesis in this discussion.

      • blatnoi February 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm

        Yeah… if I had to report scientific fraud, I wouldn’t use my real name. Like it was said above: good chance my career would be over. And no offense, but you said how much money you make per month in previous comments. My lifestyle requires substantially more that ~400 bucks. I guess I’m lucky I worked for bosses who were honest and good scientists so far. Including an important leader in the field, so that’s been a good role model. Though, he’s so big now, that a postdoc might get away with putting cooked data on his desk, but he always asks for a lot of repeat experiments.

        Still, I’m not going to comment on anything remotely linked to this toxic scientific fraud thing if it can be traced to my real name. Maybe if I have a good science exit plan…

  • pyshnov February 9, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    What is my interest in a person? I say that anyone who puts his real name would not publish misleading comment, spam, “trolling”. And vice versa – anonymous poster understandably does not care about the honour of his false name. For that reason I don’t like anonymity. If the comment is very interesting, I would also like to know who wrote it. In the past ages, decent people did not write anonymous letters. Moreover, such letters were normally ignored: usually they contained accusations hurled by cowards who would not even support them. Society hated these cowards and their rumors.

    Now, Internet adopted this previously despised manner. It is now falsely justified as giving more freedom of speech and “protection”. Wrong. I say: if you are afraid of retaliation by your institution, etc., be absolutely certain that they have means to find out who you are. The only thing you are doing is that you are preventing the like-minded people from coming together. And the latter, I believe, is the reason why anonymity is being supported by the forms issued by the web forums that mostly cater to students. Scientific communications should adopt better ethical standard. If scientists do not speak, I mean – speak openly, who will? You want to “change the way science is conducted”. That needs live people who will speak at the institutions and say exactly the same things they wrote on forums.

    My legal battle, work and recent publications are at
    This also has links to my other sites.

    • Phyllis Patterson February 10, 2013 at 3:44 am

      A few points:

      –You are worried about potential problems that don’t exist on these sites: spam, misleading comments, and trolling. You should really check out the sites for yourself because all three of these are excluded. Spam filters are used and effective, and the sites do not permit rumors, only facts (e.g. figure 1 is the same as in the previous paper) which eliminates misleading statements and trolling.

      –These sites are limited to published authors and therefore are restricted to participation from informed scientists.

      –Despite the fact that some of the comments are left anonymously the discussions are all very civilized and quite productive. If you have comments to make about papers, and those comments are based on facts, then these sites are great places for them. The authors and their colleagues will be automatically notified. Your comments could affect the betterment of science and future grants much more than a retraction.

      –I completely agree with you that scientists should speak. If they are more comfortable doing that anonymously, and have something interesting and productive to say, then by all means please let them say it.

    • Ouch February 10, 2013 at 6:47 am

      Anonymity is a very valuable tool. It is the only way the little people can fight the powers that be without fearing direct retaliation. The internet is probably the only place we can truly have anonymity anymore. Grant and paper reviewers are outed by other committee members and editors.

      Here is a great example. A world leader from a major Ivy League school had his grant up for review at an NIH grant round committee. A friend of mine on the committee said that the grant idea was average at best and the grant itself was poorly written. A week later, he receives a phone call from a friend at the Ivy League school telling him that said “world leader” was told what my friend said by another committee member. Now my friend has a target on his back and will have a very hard time getting anything through the NIH.

      You can’t even be honest when you should be protected by anonymity within a review group.

      The system is so rigged and dirty. You have a handful of people in each scientific area that edit the major journals and sit on the boards of the major granting mechanisms.

      These people determine who gets funded and what gets published. You cross them and your career is over.

      • Average PI February 10, 2013 at 7:51 am

        So true!

      • Phyllis Patterson February 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        This is why the sites that I mention above (in particular are so valuable and could actually change the way we publish science. They allow us to comment on papers without putting the targets on our backs and at the same time allow authors to respond and defend themselves. If they continue not to tolerate rumors and trolling they could really lead to a revolution that in the end also loosens the hold publishers have on our data.

        • Robin Hood February 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm

          “The system is so rigged and dirty.” I wouldn’t say that the entire system is dirty and rigged. But academic power and political power cannot be separated. After all, who owns the NIH?… “You cross them and your career is over.” I am not really one for martyrdom, but we really do need more soul-searchers to sacrifice their careers in the name of integrty rather than just following the stream’s flow simply because they know the entire trajectory. As for anonymity, just in case you’re wondering, Robin Hood’s address is in Sherwood Forest. Everyone has the right to anonymity (or at least I believe so). Provided that what we say can be substantiated by facts, an opinion hidden behind a false name is not fraud. It is simply protective. Some people wish that protection forever, and we should respect them. Some people like Michael Pyshnov like to advertise their real names because they like to draw attention to their causes. Each has a reason to be here, but you can bet in the shadows, all posts and comments are being closely monitored by the fraudsters as they see the heat being turned up on them. I saw somewhere else on this blog (don’t know where) that retractions are at least 90% under-reported. If true, we will indeed start to see heads roll, including some big ones.

    • Otto February 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      “In the past ages, decent people did not write anonymous letters.”

      Such as the Federalist Papers?

  • scienceinsanity February 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I do not believe misconduct is common, but it is definately on the rise. It seems the scientific community and the “scientific infrastructure” is unable to deal with the problem in an adequate way. People are afraid of raising accusations, scientists that are accused have no fair way to defend themselfs and governmental authorities are not capable of dealing with the problem either.

    A large problem is the reverse burden of proof. In science, it is up to you to present the evidence, or no-one will believe you. Any scientist should be able to present all necessary data to support the claims in his publications, but of course, in practice this is very difficult.

    We need some standardized way of dealing with scientific misconduct.
    I have started blogging about it, and I hope that over time, we will as a community develop the
    necessary infrastructure of dealing with these problems.
    The blog is here:

    • Robin Hood February 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      Scienceinsanity. Keep up the good work and aggressive attack on fraudsters. Also nice to see your anonymity respected. It is your weapon against these fraudsters. Actually, you fortify a predatory publisher, Marsland Press, already listed on the Bealle “black-list” at, so there is hope that each and every one of us can start to stand up against these crooks giving science a bad name. Thumbs up, in every way! It amazes me how much criticism and how many of the retractions reported on this blog refer to high Impact Factor papers. Yet, no attention is being paid to the predatory or fraudulent nature of editors, reviers and so-called “peer” reviewers, ALL of which are under control of the publishers. Although I agree that pressure should be placed on fake, foolish and fraudulent (FFF) authors, maybe we should also start to focus our attention on FFF publishers… of course, I am sure that those with a fertile imagination could easily bake in three separate F-words to replace my FFF…

      • André van Delft (@AndreVanDelft) February 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm

        I agree that emphasis is too much on FFF authors. There are also publishers, scientific integrity committees, national science academies and research councils that may be just as responsible.
        I also think that FFF’s are easily blamed too severely; there are other forms of misbehavior, such as unjust peer pressure, that will never be punished as much as plain fraud, but that may be equally harmful.
        In case of the Diederik Stapel scandal, the blame is now mainly on a single person, but I think it should be smeared out (rather than multiplied) over more parties.

      • scienceinsanity February 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm

        Hmm, Perhaps you are right in not putting all the blame on the authors of bad papers. In the case of Sivasubramanian and Kalimuthu, I believe it’s honest incompetence on the side of the authors, with no malice intended. And I believe we should protect the right of anyone to _submit_ anything for publication.

        There is a strong correlation between retraction frequency and impact factor, a correlation that disturbs me. At least I naively assumes that low-impact journals would more often be targeted by fraudsters, but apparently I’m wrong.

        • Ressci Integrity February 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm

          well, high impact journals do retract papers – that too big papers – that worries me. While publishing in high profile journals you can pressure, competetion and usually they are from big people…small people seldom try their luck in big journals as research done at the labs of lesser known people are not for general audience – as if i understand all what is published in big journals..

          We were discussing about anonymous reportins on this page. Will the editors and reviewers reveal their identity while accepting or rejecting the papers they review for journals (I know some journals are do this) or will people who review grants reveal their identity?

        • Anonymous crystallographer February 10, 2013 at 10:07 pm

          I think the low-impact journals tend to be more often targeted by *plagiarists*. I’m not at all surprised when I see a retraction in Cell due to doctored Western blots, but I would be genuinely shocked if they had to pull a published paper for substantial plagiarism.

          • Ressci Integrity February 10, 2013 at 11:10 pm

            Agreed. Which one is more serious – plagiarism or doctored data – the latter will have implications on subsequent studies by others you see….

          • Robin Hood February 12, 2013 at 7:05 am

            Are you suggesting that papers in high IF journals are not being pulled or retracted? We really need specialists in each field who have plagiarism software to troll high IF journals to see if plagiarism or figure manipulation is involved. Even if it takes time, how about each of us check one full journal issue a week and start doing something useful and voluntary for the community. I have started to do this, and I am shocked by the amount of rubbish I am finding is being published in my field of study, or the level of errors (scientific, language or plain editorial), of course to a large degree in no-IF or low-IF journals, but still some pretty sloppy and crass errors in high IF journals. I am now starting to compile with the objective of publishing a compilation as a post-publication historical record of the fraud committed by the PUBLISHER. From your comment you seem to classify plagiarism as the lesser of two evils when compared to image manipulation. I see both crimes as equal crimes.

          • Ressci Integrity February 12, 2013 at 8:17 am

            i have access to software and have started doing it on papers published in a particular journal on a personal interest.

        • Marco February 11, 2013 at 1:55 am

          I’m not so surprised to see fewer retractions in low impact journals. Note that I have _no_ evidence for the following, but:
          a) why commit fraud to get into low impact journals? You can already publish just about anything in those. Getting into high impact journals will raise your status much more. Which brings me to the next point

          b) how much scrutiny is there of papers in low impact journals? There’s a reason they have a low IF: the published work in those journals is not that widely of interest, so it gets hardly cited. In contrast, the work in high impact journals is usually of more broader interest, and thus also more prone to being read in detail

          And finally
          c) Are the high impact journals perhaps better able to handle reports of scientific misconduct? It is my impression(!) that the high impact journals have a better support staff, whereas the low impact journals are often run by an already overworked Editor. Add a Publisher that does not have the right support staff, and you’re in trouble (or, as a fraudster, not so much). Of course, this does not mean that high impact journals always handle things better, but at least the chances of a proper response are increased.

          Again, this is all my own perception, and I definitely do not intend to cast any doubt on the sincerity of the Editors of low impact journals (I’m on the Editorial Board of one).

          • Robin Hood February 12, 2013 at 7:20 am

            Please do not associate quality with the IF. This is the old trick by Thomson Reuters into believing this myth (and so far they have been successful). Even though there is an association between IF and quality, they are not equated. IF reflects ONLY the level a paper is referenced, and even so, in a limited scope of data-bases… so please take care when referring to IF as “quality”. Quality, or the lack thereof, existed long before Garfield existed… I agree with Phyllis Patterson’s post-publication assessment of papers and we each have the responsibility, now knowing what we do about author and/or publisher/editor/peer fraud, to start to report it, as formal publications. I also disagree with you about how people reference low-IF or no-IF journals less than IF journals. I have just completed an assessment of how the Beall predatory publishers at have increased almost exponentially in one publisher’s (name kept anonymous for now) set of journals between 2007 and 2013. From almost 0.03% in 2007 to as much as >15% of the reference list of papers include journals of publishers in Beall’s list. This is SCARY and shows that scientists are either becoming lazier, or are dealing a deathly blow to traditional publishers by doing Google Scholar or Yahoo searches for information (increasingly) to supplement traditional academic data-base searches for inclusion in reference lists. I am not sure on what board you serve, but please make sure you know exactly who you are serving. Do you know the predatory nature of the publisher? Do you know who is the CEO? Do you know how money is spent? Do you know how fees are paid by author? etc etc. Don’t just be the passive “I do-as-you-say” type editor and think that you are doing the academic community any favours even if you are doing an honest job… I have recently created a “Predatory Score” that will soon be (hopefully within February) available open access which will allow scientists to score the predatory nature of any publisher or journal using publically available or publisher-supplied information. I will provide the link as soon as the paper has been published. It will benefit the bloggers of this site to have a quantitative means to evaluate the fraud by publishers, who push through falsified figures or plagiarized texts…

  • Phyllis Patterson February 11, 2013 at 2:26 am

    If we all have different blogs that point out problems with papers they will all be completely useless. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been on an NIH study section but I can tell you time is precious! Can we really expect granting committees to spend their time going from blog to blog to blog to find out if there is a problem with a paper?

    We all read papers and we all see occasional problems with these papers (sometimes big sometimes small) and these should all be pointed out in case someone is interested to build on the science or give the authors money to do more research in the future.

    Keep up the good work with the blogs but also put your comments somewhere centralized where they will be seen by the people that count (e.g. editors, study sections, university search committees, etc.). This way you can really make a difference.

    • pyshnov February 11, 2013 at 8:14 am

      I would not deny that a genuine complainer can sometimes wish to post anonymously. However, he will soon realise that the “protected” posting does not allow him to give evidence: he cannot post any details known to him or any documents that he received or sent. This posting is useless. Sooner or later he will see that if he presented the evidence in his complaints to the administration, it can as well be presented to the public. True, the administration always tells him (often through other people who pretend to be on his side) that he will be much better off if he keeps silence, but this is always no more than a trick, and the man will soon realise this.

      I strongly believe that there are some points where the legitimate complaints most often become buried. One is at the community level, another – at the level of the “committees”.

      The anonymous posters cannot post the evidence supporting their cases, instead, they write generic complaints related to their causes – denouncing “the system” and calling for “change”. Typically, such comments do not even say what concretely the “change” should be. It’s not difficult, after so many years of the campaign “for change”, to recognize this activity as the mechanism distracting attention from the concrete cases, while the allegations in the concrete cases are practically the only material that should be dealt with.

      A few years ago, there sprang numerous “committees” and “secretariats” playing the role of the watchdogs of ethics and integrity. They have published their codes of ethics, but their work on the cases is proceeding in secrecy. Some do not have to have scientists on their staff. They are either unwilling or incapable even to correctly apply such terms as “plagiarism”. See here my correspondence with COPE at

      The results of their “work” are not comparable with the judgements traditionally rendered by the university professors – specialists in the particular area of science, who would not damage their reputation and their good name by issuing ridiculously arbitrary decisions, and whose names, as well as the entire process are not shrouded in secrecy. It is an outrage that universities and scientific journals now accept the decisions of these “committees”.

  • super-rio February 11, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    There is every reason to allow anonymous reporting of science fraud. As a whistle-blower in scientific misconduct you’ll get hammered by your institutional leaders and you’ll get sued for defamation by the fraudster. You will not survive as a normal person and your career will probably be finished.

    • Robin Hood February 12, 2013 at 7:35 am

      That is precisely why more “martyrs” are required. I am ( I believe) one of them. I am not afraid to lose my entire career because I didn’t build a career to see it being run by mobsters. I am afraid, however, to see those who fraudulently abuse the system around me gaining more and more based on their fraud. Time to not just turn the tables on them. Time to rip down the walls and see that Clinton-glass ceiling shatter into a million pieces. The problem is that not everyone who commits fraud is a criminal and not everyone who commits academic fraud is even aware of the seriousness. I have seen papers being rejected for 1% plagiarism and I have seen papers with > 15% plagiarism being accepted? No (or poor) industry standards are to blame. So STOP blaming the scientists all the time. The publishers must start answering tough questions, too. Although Pyshnov’s call for justice to a case that was buried by UoT 23 years ago will fall on deaf ears, I do agree that at some point anonymity fails to create an impact and can only do so when the anonymity shows a real face. At the end of the day, these blogs are good for making your blood boil or your hair cringe, which is good to rile up the academic community, but finally we need the “martyrs” who sacrifice their names to reveal the truth. Note that small complaints about small issues can be effectively done anonymously, but large complaints need a name the community can trust. We can also sit here discussing the theology of the issue, but if a high percentage of fraud is emanating from outside the US, alot from developing countries, many of whom probably don’t have the interest in reading this blog, then what use is it for the academic theological elite to wonder if a gel has a XYZ% overlap or not if it was peer reviewed by 3-5 peers and was published in an IF = 8 journal? Can you see the bathos of it all? No need to crucify the 99% honest scientist and let the 99% dishonest scientists get away with murder, i.e., many scientists publishing in the Beall list of journals. Those are the journals we should TRULY be worried about…

      • Hibby February 12, 2013 at 8:24 am

        Dear Robin Hood,
        I am one honest (I believe) scientist from a developing country. I agree with you that a lot of scietific misconduct is emanating from developing countries; and I believe Brazil is a great source in need of more attention. Concerning “…many of whom don’t have the interest in reading this blog…” I ought to say that the issue of most of my colleagues cannot read English so well, especially the corrupt ones as they are lazy in learning. Please let me ask what you meant on one aspect: “Those are the journals we should TRULY be worried about…” — are you suggesting banning small journals? Or predacious publishers?
        Top scientists in Brazilian science (usually the most mischievous) are evaluated in terms of their production numbers, namely IF and number of papers. The results being 1A top scientists have either awfully many (300-800) poor papers in small periodicals, or many papers (80-180) in higher-impact journals. The dirty tricks, in the first case, involve trusting they will never be retracted (or if so, no one will know) in small journals thus they employ salami/plagiarism/manipulation/gift authorship and thus spread like a virus over small periodicals. In the second case, they usually have better writing skills and political influence, and employ hard-manipulation/evasive narrative/peer-review manipulation/gift authorship, and thus manage to hit higher impact more than often. Note these last are more exposed by retractions, and usually populate this blog (which usually ignores retractions in small local journals).
        I cannot say which strategy is the most detrimental to Science, but I can say these authors are destroying scientific quality and international perception of Brazil. I hope this 3rd world example is useful to you.
        One of my points is, I believe small journals and small areas are important. And no-one cares. Small journals should not be banned; actually I think less distinction should be made, and all production treated with same level of trust.

        • Robin Hood February 12, 2013 at 8:59 pm

          Hello Hibby, thanks for your thought-provoking feed-back. First of all, I am NOT calling for a banning of small journals. We need more journals, but run ethically, rather than these big fat corporate publishers. I am saying we need a way to differentiate predatory from non-predatory. I have just devised the first quantifiable system, the Predatory Score that was just published a few days ago and will be online as Open Access hopefully within the next week or so (I am trying to get the web-engineers to up the paper ASAP). At that time, I will add the link to this blog or request the blog owners to do a special piece on the special issue. At that time, Robin Hood’s identity will be unmasked. I just recently published a short Opinion piece on the struggles in South American countries with about 5 co-authors from 5 S-American countries, and indeed, as for the rest of the world, there is a sick dependence on Thomson Reuters’ IF. It’s all part of a much bigger capitalistic New Order plan (no conspiracy theory here). Get some real news and background that will allow you to start linking the corruption in science and fraud in science and publishing with the “greater evils” in the financing and political spheres: (specifically Abby Martin and Max Keiser shows). One you have been able to start picking up on that background (it would take some months to get there), the thing you have to realize is that Brazil is not that “developing” as you think. I am of the opinion that the Lattes system ( is one of the world’s most comprehensive and transparent systems that allows the public to scrutinize a researcher because they are forced to report everything they have published. Hidden CVs, masked resumes and incomplete publications lists by ministries and universities around the world are the first platform for fraud. So, yes, even though Brazil may be “developing” in certain respects, it is highly advanced in others, not to mention a potential top-5 economic power within years. In the same special issue where I published my opinion piece on the S-American continent’s challenges, I also published one paper which lists about 50-60 questions, tough ones, aimed and directed at Thomson Reuters. As soon as that paper is published, I will be officially requesting Thomson Reuters to provide a formal response to all queries. By putting out a list of critical questions to those in power into the public sphere increases pressure on those who hold power to respond. Failure to respond, well, we all can imagine the consequences… The same applies to COPE, the NIH, Elsevier, Springer, the “predatory OA journals” at Beall’s blog, etc. We have alot of work to do, but the fact that this blog allows us to express our ideas openly and seek solutions that will help us fortify our communities, and make the real fraudsters run for cover, is already an inspiring start. My special issue and ideas enrage those, mainly those who don’t want to see openness, who don’t want to see truth, who love the establishment, who hate freedoms (or rather who love pseudo-freedoms) and who can’t stand the smell of transparency. This is our time to fight back against fraud. The may be the last opportunity we have to expose them all, or we will be engulfed into a pitless dark-hole of rehypothecated fraud where a fake data-set is as good as a high IF journal data-set since it is referenced as many times. The IF is just a marketing tool. Even our children or grand-children know that A/B = C is as simple as 1/2 = half. Yet, as you describe, scientists get caught up in the game, not in a race to the top, but rather in a race to the dirty bottom. Who cares if you have 500 papers, a total IF score of 300 and an H-Index of 30? Just pedantic, meaningless numbers meant to distract you while publishing CEOs make profits. So as not to over-crowd this precious space, two points: a great video that will link some topics in this blog, i.e., between social capitalism and retractions: (and one of my favorite philosophers of our time, Zizek); second; BEWARE of the latest fashion in Orwellian nightmares coming to science: ORCID.

          • Hibby February 13, 2013 at 8:04 am

            Dear Robin,
            Thanks for an insight into Brazil from outside. I agree that this is a great country, but this can often be misleading. Political and economical reality is not so good as it seems. It remains forever only as “potential”, since Brazil will always be “country of the future”. Yet, time will tell. Concerning the Lattes platform, I must note that other smaller countries have similar systems in Latin America, something easily missed by the propaganda. And I must note that it is really not quite transparent, as scientists can put and omit very much what they carve in it (there are no true obligations/penalties), and there is even a possibility of hiding your CV from public access, as was done by our president after she was involved in a CV fraud scandal. Lattes CV fraud is awfully common (even in high ranks, as you see), however it is not mentioned in written glossy propaganda.

      • Hibby February 12, 2013 at 8:36 am

        Just another point, I believe both anonymous and clean-face claims are useful. Obviously there is a great cost to pointing fingers in Science. As there is a great cost in being exposed for scientific fraud. Yet I feel those who claim “careers are over” after these are either too melodramatic and never seen it happening. Anonymity are for those not willing to pay the cost and go through the humiliation. Showing their face will usually lead to retaliation and some complications, and only in extreme cases the accuser can be sacked (quite rare even in corrupt Brazil) or murdered (OK, in this extreme its game over). Sacked professionals can find a good place somewhere else, especially if they are willing to lower their standards or change their topic of interest. I do believe that the accused generally get the worst bit from the exposure, although they strive to keep smiling and posing.
        Also I feel any scientist “out of the system” (retired, self-supporting, private, amateur, etc) is a great weapon in this war. Please someone find a few of those.
        I also believe that as the number of open whistleblowers increase, retaliation will decrease, like in any revolution in history. Thus I admire your intentions, and feel like you are writing history here.

        • Robin Hood February 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm

          Hibby, I liked your last sentence, because I feel that too. I have created the Global Science Factor, an alternative to the IF. I have created the Predatory Score, a FAIR way for the scientific community to quantify the predatory (or not) nature of a new (or old), open access (or print), small (or large), charity (or commercial) publisher. I am questioning all major powers in science publishing, much to their deep irritation. These will be made public VERY soon and throughout 2013. And then life for me will change. All I have created over 20+ years has the potential to be lost. Overnight. Very exciting to meet full-face with truth, but extremely scary to be trudging through a jungle where no path lies before me. And all of these new and essential concepts must be FREE. Must be open. Must be tools used to fight what is wrong. Nothing is perfect, but so much can be improved. But this does not depend on me or you alone. Each of us have then the responsibility to use whatever talent we have, or whatever tools are available to us, to fight crime. Like this blog, built on the inherent notion that truth is first and that all else will follow naturally. But not a fight of crime with crime, a fight of crime with fair justice, not raw justice, but public courts where there is fair opportunity to criticize and defend, rational discussion that is based on honesty. We do not need expensive lawyers to understand what is wrong from right. We do not need to become members of “ethical bodies” to know what is ethical, and what is not. We do not (or should not) have to pay for tools, like iThenticate, to tell us who is doing wrong. I once again CALL on this blog’s community to urgently develop FREE, OPEN ACCESS software to allow, stronger than Google’s software, plagiarism checking, as a tool for protection, and not as a tool for attack. Because, as humans, we know what is inherently good from what is inherently bad. Hibby, we need, unlike what you suggest, not people who are “outside of the system”, but those who have had the courage to keep one foot in and one foot out to be able to objectively assess what lies on either side of the ethical fence. I am one, and I can and will be forcefully useful in my field of study, but we need such warriors in mathematics (not some accidental Oxford professor who burps on Twitter and then cowers away afraid of his own uttered words), we need a cavalry in medicine and pharmacy (where the biggest commercial interests and government corruption lie), we need foot soldiers in the humanities, in the arts, in philosophy, in history, in agriculture, in microbiology, in biotechnology, in each and every field of specialization we need those who are able to do a very wide split, with one foot in and one foot out. I believe that we are already in the neo-Dark Ages and even though some might think that their iPods and Facebook are symbols of freedom and expression, they have clearly been caught up in the “trap”. This blog, my actions and suggestions and the actions and suggestions of hundreds of others, who take the fight forcefully (but peacefully) against the fraudsters, is the right way forward. As I said elsewhere, I believe that the “Science Spring” is coming, I can smell it in the air, and the scientific indignados will rise up in force, and in numbers. But don’t be fooled, the fraud is also in exponential expansion as global economies suffer and people turn to desperation to cling on to what they hold dear, while sacrificing some essentials to cling on to others. Make no doubt about it. This is a war to win back respect, to win back dignity, to win back honesty, and to win back public confidence, so that these 4 pillars re-form one of the basic bulwarks of humanity. Liberate Science (now in full motion). We can do no more than try. We can express, teach, and show, and we can only hope that the baton is carried forward by the next…

          • Hibby February 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

            Dear Robin,

            I am happy to see that you are inspired, and I really hope the tools you announce are good and effective, and on top of all, that the scientific community will embrace it. Recently several new ideas have been brought up, but people seem to prefer the traditional way. As I said, maybe you will not loose everything (unless someone gets to “snuff-ya”), good luck. Looking forward for your papers. Self-correcting mechanisms: thats only us in end.

  • Eduardo R. Saguier August 9, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    La espiral de miedo y silencio y la Jaula de Hierro en la ciencia y la educación argentinas

    (Spiral of fear and silence and the iron cage in argentine science and higher education)


    The imposition of a wave of fear and silence in the scientific and educational environment has increased in Argentina since a quarter of a century, during the Menem government, has been intensified during the Kirchner government, and has spread to the rest of the system in a long historical process theorized recently by Noelle-Neumann, and whose damage to the argentine society measured in monetary terms largely exceeds the totality of the foreign debt.

    La creciente imposición de una ola de miedo y silencio en los ámbitos científico-educativos se acentuó en Argentina hace un cuarto de siglo, durante el Menemismo, se intensificó a posteriori durante el Kirchnerismo, y se derramó desde ahí hacia el resto del sistema en un largo proceso histórico que ha sido teorizado recientemente por Noelle-Neumann (1995, 2010), y cuyo daño a la sociedad argentina medido en términos monetarios supera largamente a la totalidad de la deuda externa.

    Efectivamente, el miedo al aislamiento social en la convivencia con los colegas docentes y la necesidad de pertenecer a una camarilla se agravó en los ámbitos académicos a partir la caída de Alfonsín (1989). Seis años después, en 1995, este miedo se profundizó con la promulgación de la Ley de Educación Superior (LES), que admitió el arancelamiento y restringió la autonomía universitaria, y con la imposición por decretos de necesidad y urgencia (1995-1996) de un arsenal burocrático inspirado por el Banco Mundial, y atentatorio del principio de autonomía universitaria. Este principio, conocido como doctrina reformista, garantizaba la independencia del saber respecto del estado, y fue consagrado hace un siglo y medio en la Ley Avellaneda (1885). Dicha doctrina, aunque no logró acabar con deformaciones –como la endogamia docente y la departamentalización postergada y con la valoración en los concursos de la antigüedad en desmedro del mérito (Gaviola, 1931)– fue violentamente interrumpido solo por dictaduras militares a partir de septiembre de 1930, y por regimenes bonapartistas a partir de junio de 1943.

    Entre esas medidas burocratizantes y contra-reformistas introducidas por el Menemismo y nunca derogadas descolló la instauración en todas las universidades de la categoría del docente-investigador, que fragmentó la comunidad educativa en dos compartimentos falsamente disociados, los docentes que investigan por un lado y los que meramente repiten lo conocido por el otro, cuando en principio el docente universitario por el solo hecho de serlo debe estar moralmente obligado a investigar. Por ello, un docente no puede ni debe ser inducido a investigar mediante estímulos materiales previos a la real y efectiva producción intelectual, pues en su lugar existen combinaciones de estímulos simbólicos y materiales mucho más exitosos, donde el esfuerzo realizado se premia con ulterioridad (Nobel, Cervantes, Konex, etc.).

    La nueva categoría del docente-investigador burocratizó la conciencia moral e intelectual de nuestros docentes, pues vino a aceitar la producción académica con incentivos salariales deshonrosos que estimularon un combo explosivo de egoísmo, miedo y codicia que acabó con la solidaridad y el espíritu de equipo, y sembró entre los investigadores una competitividad salvaje y una creciente pérdida de personalidad y de libertad. Para mayor competitividad y control burocrático, estos incentivos se estratificaron en un laberinto de cinco (5) rangos escalonados, y los conflictos por las categorizaciones se dirimieron en tribunales ministeriales extra-universitarios que dieron lugar a pleitos extenuantes y litigios kafkianos, merecedores de un estudio pormenorizado de la miseria académica argentina. La consiguiente violación de la autonomía en la evaluación del saber no fue en ese entonces cuestionada ni por los partidos políticos ni por los medios de comunicación.

    Amén del docente-investigador siguieron otras medidas burocratizantes y contra-reformistas tales como la Agencia Nacional para la Producción Científico-Tecnológica (ANPCyT) y la Comisión Nacional de Evaluación y Acreditación Universitaria (CONEAU), que acentuaron en lo institucional la pérdida de autonomía y en la producción científica la ponderación de un eficientismo macdonaldizado, de raigambre Taylorista.

    Por otro lado, con la puesta en funcionamiento de la denominada Agencia se inició una operatoria crediticia internacional financiada por el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID) consistente en un crédito otorgado en tres tramos distintos y sucesivos que se inició en 1999 y que alcanzaron hasta el 2010 la suma de U$S 1240 millones de dólares, cifra similar a la adeudada a los mal llamados Fondos Buitres. La distribución de esa enorme suma de dinero en lugar de estar destinada a la infraestructura científica del país (laboratorios, bibliotecas, archivos, museos, etc.) se derivó a proyectos individuales de investigación operados por científicos que ya tenían inserción en el sistema nacional de ciencia y que por ende contaban con sus respectivos ingresos salariales. Esta discrecionalidad acrecentó en la comunidad educativa el miedo al aislamiento que se había iniciado con la estratificación de los docentes-investigadores, y este miedo luego se espiraló contagiando a toda la comunidad científica con un silencio opresivo, lo que a su vez ha derivado en un clima de sofocante jaula de hierro (Weber), que Kafka había metaforizado como un enmudecido castillo al que nadie se atreve a entrar o en una colonia penitenciaria de la que solo cabe escapar.

    El actual Ministro Barañao administró la referida suma cuando estuvo al frente de la SECyT, pues bajo su mando se orquestaron el medio centenar de comisiones y jurados de la Agencia (ANPCyT) que distribuyeron dicha suma en forma delictual, beneficiándose los mismos funcionarios responsables del reparto (o botín de guerra). Estos Jurados y Coordinadores se caracterizaron por violar la independencia e imparcialidad de la función arbitral, pues operaban simultáneamente como jueces y partes. Cada uno de ellos, al considerarse sus propios proyectos de investigación, simulaba –como en una variante del juego de las sillas– retirarse del jurado para una vez obtenido el subsidio reintegrarse al mismo y reciprocar a sus colegas del mismo jurado. Por cierto, esta violación de la independencia arbitral deslegitimó el sistema científico y educativo supuestamente creado para emancipar a los educandos, y acentuó aún más la espiral de silencio, que fue infructuosamente denunciada ante la justicia penal de Comodoro Py, pero que tampoco mereció por parte del aparato político partidario ni por los medios de comunicación el menor interés ni confrontación alguna.

    De todos los partícipes de este escenario político, se destacaron con el tiempo por su valentía y coraje cívicos el periodista Jorge Lanata y la diputada Elisa Carrió, a quienes les vino a corresponder por ello el precepto formulado por De Gaulle, que a mayor grado de exposición pública y capacidad intelectual se debe exigir siempre mayor responsabilidad. Por el contrario, hubo otros periodistas e intelectuales que faltaron a este precepto como Leuco y Kovadlof, pues se sumaron al coro adulador o colaboracionista del Ministro Barañao. Hubo también otros más recalcitrantes, como Grondona, que persistieron en su prédica limitacionista y arancelatoria, y también quienes practicaron un tardío reconocimiento, como el periodista Nelson Castro, que pese a su esclarecido combate contra el Kirchnerismo, recién se desayunó en el tema universitario al entrevistar al economista Alieto Guadagni y fatigar sus estadísticas sobre profesionales universitarios, estadísticas que dicho sea de paso su colega J. J. Llach reduce solo a la educación primaria.

    Sin embargo, el que acaparó el repudio periodístico y político, al haberse descubierto sus maniobras delictivas, fue un personaje de alta exposición pública, ajeno a la ciencia y a la enseñanza superior, aunque graduado en el CEMA, el vicepresidente Boudou, quedando el resto de los funcionarios incursos en severos peculados, obstinadamente olvidados e ignorados ¿Cuál ha sido el motivo para que la oposición pusiera eje en un solo integrante del gabinete y omitieran al resto de los Ministros del Olimpo K? ¿Acaso fue la ubicación de Boudou en la línea sucesoria presidencial? No estar en la línea sucesoria como le ocurre al Ministro Barañao ¿lo exime acaso de responsabilidad judicial alguna? Si bien el Secretario de Transporte Jaime no estuvo nunca en la línea sucesoria, por haberse disparado una tragedia que significó un centenar de muertos mereció sin embargo ser justamente procesado. Siguiendo esta línea especulativa ¿acaso la oposición estaría soñando con un escándalo similar, como el de la Crotoxina (1986), para poder despertar un tardío interés por la decencia en la ciencia? ¿O acaso también pudiera ser que en las filas opositoras o de los multimedios independientes figuren incómodos autores y beneficiarios de los subsidios de ANPCyT?

    En esa selectiva discriminación, Lanata, Carrió y sus colegas, pese a valientes y sobrehumanos esfuerzos, no han podido escapar a la estrategia Cristinista de inmunizar y amnistiar la corte de funcionarios acusados de delitos mucho más tenebrosos que los cometidos por Boudou y por la misma presidenta (si el vicepresidente se atreviera a confesar) ¿Porque Lanata y Carrió, para saldar estos déficits, nunca entrevistaron a filósofos como Aguinis o Abraham, para los cuales el drama argentino actual no arrancó del Proceso, como sostiene el revisionista relato K, sino de los fundamentos filosóficos de la denominada Revolución Argentina (Ongania) y de la Noche de los Bastones Largos (1966)?

    Para Castoriadis, sin que se cuestione la realidad con un ajustado diagnóstico es muy difícil encontrar la cura ¿Por qué motivo Lanata, Carrió y sus colegas no cuestionaron la espiral de miedo y silencio instalada en la ciencia y la educación superior a partir de los planes del Banco Mundial? ¿Acaso Lanata y Carrió desconocen el rol que ha tenido la dupla del Banco Mundial-BID y los gobiernos bonapartistas en esa espiral que deterioró la ciencia y la educación superior mucho más intensamente que el default y la deuda externa? Cabe suponer en su descargo que Lanata y Carrió han evitado penetrar en ese perverso laberinto por carecer de un hilo de Ariadna que disperse las tinieblas de la ciencia argentina ¿Es posible meditar entonces si con esa pesada amnesia histórica se pueda derrotar al Kirchnerismo?

    Eduardo R. Saguier

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