Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Scientist sues PubPeer commenters, subpoenas site for names

with 185 comments

Fazlul Sarkar, via Wayne State

Fazlul Sarkar, via Wayne State

Last month, we reported that a Wayne State University cancer researcher had threatened legal action involving post-publication peer review site PubPeer, claiming that he had lost a job offer from the University of Mississippi because of comments on the site.

Fazlul Sarkar — who has received $12.8 million in NIH funding and has been an investigator on five clinical trials — has now filed suit against PubPeer’s anonymous commenters, and has demanded that PubPeer release their names and identifying information. The complaint, filed by attorney Nicholas Roumel in Michigan’s Wayne County Circuit Court and which we’ve made available here, details more of the history of the case and of course describes the legal strategy, which we’ll describe below.

First, we learn that in addition to a salary of $350,000, which has been previously reported, the University of Mississippi had offered Sarkar “Commitment to ‘help us realize the $2 million level on endowed professorship,’ “Relocation expenses up to $15,000,” “Laboratory and office space in two locations, Research Assistant Professors, up to two additional Research Associates, and administrative support,” “A start up package of $750,000,” and “Moving expenses for the laboratory and senior personnel.”

Sarkar received the formal offer on March 11, 2014, had it confirmed by the provost on April 8, and signed an agreement on April 18. He received tenure from Mississippi on May 15, and submitted a resignation to Wayne State on May 19, with an anticipated start date at Mississippi of August 1:

He engaged the services of a real estate agent in Oxford, Mississippi, and made an offer on a house to move himself and his family. He put his house in Michigan on the market.

Then, however, things, well, went south:

[I]n a letter dated June 19, 2014 – just eleven days before Dr. Sarkar was to begin his active employment – Dr. [Larry Walker, the Director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi Cancer Institute] rescinded that employment, as additionally confirmed by the Chancellor Jones on June 27, in effect terminating Dr. Sarkar before he’d even begun. Dr. Walker’s June 19, 2014 letter cited PubPeer as the reason, stating in relevant part that he had “received a series of emails forwarded anonymously from (sic?)PubPeer.com, containing several posts regarding papers from your lab. These were also sent at about the same time to Dr. Kounosuke Watabe, Associate Director of Basic Sciences for the Cancer Institute at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. I learned yesterday that several were sent on the weekend of 14 June to Dr. David Pasco, Assistant Director of the National Center for Natural Products Research.”

Walker wrote:

At this point, we cannot go forward with an employment relationship with you and your group. With these allegations lodged in a public space and presented directly to colleagues here (I am not sure of the scope of the anonymous distribution), to move forward would jeopardize our research enterprise and my own credibility.

The complaint never asserts that Sarkar did not commit misconduct, but notes that he “has never been found responsible for research misconduct:”

To put the false comments publicly communicated on PubPeer in perspective, let it be stated emphatically: Dr. Sarkar has never been found responsible for research misconduct. He has published more than 533 papers. He has, to date, not had one retracted by a journal. For a tiny handful – less than 2% of his published total – he has voluntarily submitted errata. Of these errata, half have been published; for the other half, decisions from the journals are pending. These are unremarkable numbers given Dr. Sarkar’s prodigious output, and are quite within the normal range of errata, if not low.

The suit’s many claims of defamation go something like this:

a. In this discussion, “Peer 1’s” commentary begins with an invitation for the reader to compare certain illustrations with others. But then an unregistered submission links to another page, where someone sarcastically asserted that a paper “[Used] the same blot to represent different experiment(s). I guess the reply from the authors would be inadvertent errors in figure preparation.”

b. Perhaps that same unregistered submission complains, “You might expect the home institution to at least look into the multiple concerns which have been rasied.” (sic) This statement is defamatory. Given the regulatory scheme described above that requires such investigations only where there are “good faith” complaints of “alleged research misconduct” [deliberate fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism], this unknown author has accused Dr. Sarkar of deliberate misconduct.

It seems a stretch to say that suggesting a university look into allegations is the same as accusing someone of deliberate misconduct, which makes it even more of a stretch to call such a statement defamatory, but that’s of course for the courts to decide.

Another example of questionable logic:

At https://pubpeer.com/publications/2D67107831BCCB85BA8EC45A72FCEF, another discussion takes place among anonymous posters, accusing Dr. Sarkar of “sloppiness” of such magnitude that it calls into question the scientific value of the papers. The comments further demand a “correction” with a “public set of data to show that the experiments exist,” falsely stating that the data were false and that the experiments were fabricated.

By the standard that requesting data is “falsely stating that the data were false and that the experiments were fabricated,” many journals will now face defamation suits. That’s of course ridiculous, and a twisted response to attempts to allow replication.

Sarkar’s attorney acknowledges that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects PubPeer itself from a suit. He will try, however, to convince a court that PubPeer has an obligation to turn over commenters’ identifying information. The argument here is that the site allowed comments that violated its own policy, and that some of the comments referred to a complaint filed with Wayne State that should have been kept confidential:

Although PubPeer has since removed some of the allegedly defamatory comments, it has done so well after Plaintiff has suffered the greatest harm from its postings. In addition, PubPeer’s violation of its own standards and disclosure of a confidential complaint when it allowed these postings are among the factors this court should examine – in addition to the posters’ own defamatory, tortious, and bad faith conduct – in order to deny PubPeer any claim in law or equity that it may have to quash a subpoena for the poster’s or posters’ identities. [See also, e.g., Ghanam v. Does, 303 Mich App 522 (2014)]

That too seems like a stretch. It’s unclear why allegedly violating a comments policy would be a reason for disclosure of anonymous commenters. And while many assurance agreements filed with the Office of Research Integrity require that universities keep complaints and investigations confidential, there is no such obligation for those who file such complaints.

If Michigan had a more robust shield law, a lot of this might be moot. Such laws, which are on the books in many states, mean that reporters don’t have to disclose confidential sources, including anonymous commenters. That’s what protects anonymous commenters here on Retraction Watch — and we’d argue that PubPeer is providing a valuable service by publishing critiques, and should be eligible for such protection, too. But Michigan’s shield law is limited to grand jury and criminal cases, so a civil case like this would not seem to be covered.

Of course, we’re not lawyers. As of now, PubPeer, in a subpoena sent to First Amendment attorney Nicholas Jollymore, is being asked to provide commenters’ identifying information to the court by November 10.

As we noted last month:

Sarkar is a highly cited researcher, 38 of whose papers have been cited at least 100 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. He has corrected some papers including:

  • one in Brain
  • one in Cancer Research
  • one in the American Journal of Translational Research
  • and one in the Journal of Cellular Physiology.

Read the entire complaint here.

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 26th, 2014 at 8:43 am

Comments
  • Albert Gjedde October 26, 2014 at 8:53 am

    It strikes me that post-publication peer “review” criticisms should appear in the form of equally peer-reviewed and published comments that are subject to the same scrutiny as the paper itself. Otherwise we are likely to get all kinds of more or less seriously considered observations, with uncontrollable consequences.

    • SaG October 26, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Unfortunately many of these papers did not undergo thorough scrutiny by reviewers. If they had many of the problems pointed out in pubpeer would have be caught before the paper was published.

      • JATdS October 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm

        Some of Prof. Sarkar’s responses to an OMICS interview are commical:
        http://omicsonline.org/interviews/Fazlul_Hoque_Sarkar_Stem_Cell_Resaerch_Therapy/
        “1. How many years have you been practicing and/or performing research?
        36 years
        2. What is the research topic you are working on now?
        Molecular cancer research, EMT, CSC, miRNA, drug resistance, etc.
        3. What makes an article top quality?
        Cutting-edge novel findings
        4. What are the qualities you look for in an article?
        Data, Data and Data
        5. Do you have any research funding (NIH or other national funding) now?
        Yes, three R01
        6. When did you become an editor of OMICS Journal?
        I think about 2 years ago
        7. What is your greatest career accomplishment?
        Contributed to agents that could be clinically useful for the treatment of human malignancies
        8. How does the research published percolate through to practitioners?
        It must be through the Pubmed and other indexing
        9. What is the purpose of serving as an editor?
        Help journal whenever I can to improve the Impact Factor
        10. Do you have any patents?
        Yes; Pending
        11. Have you contributed any editorials or papers (any types) to OMICS Journals in the past two years?
        I cannot remember
        12. Do you plan to contribute any editorials or papers to OMICS Journals in the near future?
        Of course
        13. Do you have any trouble with OMICS Journals in the past?
        No
        14. Would you recommend OMICS Group to your friends or colleagues?
        They should consider publishing
        15. How do you differentiate Journal of Pancreatic Disorders & Therapy with other journals in the field?
        The journal should invite authors for state of the art review article like Nature Reviews in Cancer”
        But the fact that he is distinguished, but serving on the board [1] of a journal of a publisher that has an extremely concerning track record [2], and lending support to it, is of concern.
        [1] http://omicsonline.org/editorialboard-stem-cell-research-therapy-open-access.php
        [2] e.g. http://scholarlyoa.com/2014/08/07/omics-publishing-groups-abuse-of-researchers-more-evidence/

        • JATdS October 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm

          Prof. Sarkar is on the editor board of some very “curious” journals:
          a) OMICS: http://omicsonline.org/editor-profile/Fazlul_Hoque_Sarkar/ (on Jeffrey Beall’s list)
          b) SCIRP: http://www.scirp.org/Journal/EditorialBoard.aspx?JournalID=817 (on Jeffrey Beall’s list)
          c) WJBC: http://www.wjgnet.com/1949-8454/VsFile/wjbc/WJBC_Editorial_Board_2009_2013.pdf (with an editor board of 523 individuals)
          d) Oncobiology and Targets: http://www.oncotargets.com/editorialboard.asp (which lists 8 editors, including the EIC, from Wayne State University School of Medicine; despite being online for several months now, not a single paper has been published yet)
          e) PJCBR: http://www.pjcbr.com/index.php/editorial-board (it is unclear if Prof. Sarkar is originally Indian, or Pakistani)
          f) Why would Prof. Sarkar publish such good set of results in such relatively unknown journals?
          http://www.impactjournals.com/oncotarget/index.php?journal=oncotarget&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=269 (note that the first author is the EIC of entry d))
          http://www.impactjournals.com/oncotarget/index.php?journal=oncotarget&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=1471
          http://www.asiaandro.com/Abstract.asp?doi=10.1038/aja.2012.62
          g) I am confused why Prof. Sarkar changes his publishing names between papers. Sometimes, he publishes as Fazlul H. Sarkar, and sometimes only as Fazlul Sarkar. It is generally frowned upon to be inconsistent with one’s publishing and professional name, to avoid confusion.

          • herr doktor bimler October 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm

            Well spotted!
            The “World Journal of Biological Chemistry” is one of a range of grandiosely-titled journals from Baishideng, Hong Kong. Jeffrey Beall notes some issues with their policy of extraditing publication for extra fees:
            http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/11/07/want-a-faster-review-pay-for-it/#more-2581

            I suppose the proliferation of predatory-open-access journals has opened up new scope for resume-padding.

          • Allison (@DrStelling) October 26, 2014 at 8:11 pm

            As to point (g)- whether a middle initial should be included in the author name- I started out in my PhD as just “Allison Stelling”; but lately I’ve gone with “Allison L. Stelling” since I thought it would be more of a “unique identifier”. Do you think I should just stick with “Allison Stelling”? All scientists really have is their name- our names are linked to our reputations, and our reputations are our currency- so this is a sincere question from a very young scientist!

            Also, I’ve had some interactions with OMICS; a few year ago when I was naive and giving them the benefit of the doubt. It’s a bit of a joke- feels like yet another way to game to publishing system and be able to pump out “peer reviewed” papers to list on grant applications.

            Everything always boils down to the money.

          • JATdS October 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm

            Allison, I gave a voluntary presentation just last week about the importance of one’s name, its consistency and how publishers are allowed to freely manipulate it, without any repurcussions, in some cases. This is wrong, of course. When we die, as scientists, the only thing that is left behind, with the research, is the name. So, 200 years from now, scientists may be confused whether Allison L. Stelling was the same as Allison Stelling. It might sound like an insignificant issue to people who only possess two names, like John Smith (no offense to the Smith family name), but for others with more complex names, it is vital that our names be represented carefully, and faithfully, within the literature and data-bases, as well as in reference lists. The birth of a professional name starts when we are students, and our supervisors and professors have the responsibility of pointing out the importance of this issue to us BEFORE we ink out the first paper (in retrospect, my first international paper got my name all wrong, unfortunately, so the person on that paper appears to be someone totally different). In fact, I was quite shocked when I was informed about this, and I decided to select a name, from my several names, that would stand out. But standing out can also have its negative effects. A search on Google, for example, will bring readers to the bitter battles I am having with Elsevier and Springer, for example, simply because my name is so “unique”. But, for you to now revert back to the first version of your name could negatively affect it, I believe. You veered course at a certain point, now stay the course to the end (my advice at least). For consistency’s sake.

            As for your comments about “the money”. Yes, I have often said that science, science publishing and scientists have become, in many cases, corrupted by the money factor, whether its the desperation of grants, greed, or just the desire to survive on this planet getting a salary, without necessarily having a deep passion for science. Why I am so vocal about Prof. Sarkar is that he represents, to me, the typical “distinguished” professor that populates, for example, the plant and horticultural sciences. The individual who is all to easy to accept the laurels for his hard work – which he should – but then who shies away from taking responsibilty when the going gets tough. IF something good emerged from the Sarkar lab, then let him take due credit. But if there are problems, then why can he simply not just address them? That would be the publically responsible thing to do.

          • Ari Firestone October 28, 2014 at 1:04 pm

            I have often wondered why there is no effort to have actual unique identifiers for people, it would make things a lot easier

          • SaG October 29, 2014 at 7:35 am
          • Babelfish October 27, 2014 at 3:16 pm

            Hi Allison, changing to using a middle initial is fine, just try to keep it consistent. Some journals will, for whatever reason, drop the middle initial or not pass it onto pubmed. Happens to me every now and again. Other Solutions: (a) set up an ORCID id where your pubs are linked with the profile (b) set up your own website with your pubs listed on there, and eventually it’ll turn up in google searches.

          • herr doktor bimler October 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm

            I’ve published sometimes with a second initial and sometimes without, but I enjoy the luxury of a fairly uncommon surname

        • Nils October 26, 2014 at 5:49 pm

          OMICS? Oh dear…

        • Scrutineer October 27, 2014 at 3:43 pm

          @JATdS

          A most fascinating OMICS interview! In the context of the present discussion though, I was a tad confused by the reply to question 4:

          “4. What are the qualities you look for in an article?
          
Data, Data and Data”

          After doing some research, I wonder if this illustration might best capture the essence of what is meant?

          http://i.imgur.com/NAegz9T.png

          • JATdS October 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm

            I believe that you have captured the essence accurately and beautifully. This then begs the question, if Prof. Sarkar and his co-authors all fail to publically address these essential concerns, then surely Wayne State University School of Medicine, DMC and Karmanos Cancer Institute will have to assume this responsibility? After all, how does one have the right to remain silent about concerns on 75 papers? Especially when so much funding has been received? (see some of my analysis below about only 8 papers).

          • JATdS October 29, 2014 at 3:46 am

            One curious case is this paper in PLOS ONE:
            https://pubpeer.com/publications/997E578FC0B61F6BAE1974D4051157
            http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069485
            Sarkar is apparently a PLOS ONE Editorial Board member but the Competing interests statement states, very clearly: “This does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.” Well, if so, then why is Prof. Sarkar as well as his co-authors not providing details about the irregularities in Figures 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4C, 4D, 6C, 6D, and S2A and why are the original figres not being provided, in accordance with PLOS ONE data policies?

            Something sounds wrong here in this case. Should the PLOS ONE Editor, Dr. Masuko Ushio-Fukai, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, not be informed about this?

          • JATdS November 2, 2014 at 1:58 pm

            I wish to update the current state of errata of Sarkar’s papers as of November 3, 2014, assessed exclusively from links provided by PubPeer within PubPeer comments. There do not appear to be any retractions or expressions of concern, only 8 errata.

            1. Epigenetic silencing of miR-34a in human prostate cancer cells and tumor tissue specimens can be reversed by BR-DIM treatment. Dejuan Kong, Elisabeth Heath, Wei Chen, Michael Cher, Isaac Powell, Lance Heilbrun, Yiwei Li, Shadan Ali, Seema Sethi, Oudai Hassan, Clara Hwang, Nilesh Gupta, Dhananjay Chitale, Wael A Sakr, Mani Menon, Fazlul H Sarkar, Am J Transl Res, 4 (2012)
            PubPeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/3A850CD8D5CCA59AC351D40EAE386F
            Erratum: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3853430/; http://www.ajtr.org/files/ajtr1310005.pdf
            Partial quote: “In this article published in AJTR, a minor con¬cern regarding the composite Figure 4 has been raised by a reader although such a minor concern has no impact on the overall findings and conclusions previously reported.”

            2. In vitro and in vivo molecular evidence of genistein action in augmenting the efficacy of cisplatin in pancreatic cancer. Sanjeev Banerjee, Yuxiang Zhang, Zhiwei Wang, Mingxin Che, Paul J Chiao, James L Abbruzzese and Fazlul H. Sarkar. International Journal of Cancer Volume 120, Issue 4, 15 February 2007, Pages: 906–917
            PubPeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/83F5AEF3305134CE8AD887304FDFB3
            Erratum: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.28710/pdf
            Partial quote: “An error occurred during the creation of the composite figure for Fig-1C and Fig-2C (b-actin control), Fig-5a (Akt) and Fig-6c (Rb control) which has recently been uncovered. This correction does not change the interpretation of the results or the conclusions. The authors regret this error.” The erratum does not explain clearly the problems with the figures, nor does it indicate if the figures posted below the notice represent the corrected figures, or the figures with original errors. This erratum is problematic.

            3. Inhibition of nuclear factor κb activity by genistein is mediated via Notch-1 signaling pathway in pancreatic cancer cells. Zhiwei Wang, Yuxiang Zhang, Sanjeev Banerjee, Yiwei Li and Fazlul H. Sarkar. International Journal of Cancer Volume 118, Issue 8, 15 April 2006, Pages: 1930–1936
            PubPeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/88B8619C6BD964F6EDDD98AD8ECE47
            Erratum: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.28709/pdf
            Partial quote: “An error occurred during the creation of the composite figure for Fig-5B (Rb) and Fig-6B (IjBa) which has recently been uncovered although it has no impact on the overall findings and conclusions previously reported. The authors regret this error.” The erratum does not explain clearly the problems with the figures, nor does it indicate if the figures posted below the notice represent the corrected figures, or the figures with original errors. This erratum is problematic.

            4. Activated K-Ras and INK4a/Arf deficiency promote aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer by induction of EMT consistent with cancer stem cell phenotype. Zhiwei Wang, Shadan Ali, Sanjeev Banerjee, Bin Bao, Yiwei Li, Asfar S Azmi, Murray Korc, Fazlul H Sarkar, J. Cell. Physiol., 228 (2013)
            PubPeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/EB34B93EA97480D5701554A3F6DE47
            Erratum: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jcp.24551/pdf
            Quote: “In Wang et al. (2013), the authors have recently discovered an inadvertent error in Figure 4B (EZH2 lane). This mistake has no impact on the findings and conclusions previously reported, and the amended figure is shown below. The authors regret this error.”

            5. Activated K-ras and INK4a/Arf deficiency cooperate during the development of pancreatic cancer by activation of Notch and NF-κB signaling pathways. Zhiwei Wang, Sanjeev Banerjee, Aamir Ahmad, Yiwei Li, Asfar S Azmi, Jason R Gunn, Dejuan Kong, Bin Bao, Shadan Ali, Jiankun Gao, Ramzi M Mohammad, Lucio Miele, Murray Korc, Fazlul H Sarkar, PLoS ONE, 6 (2011)
            PubPeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/A38994FFC5B4B6BCB7EB6C27221613
            Erratum (correction): http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0101032; http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0101032&representation=PDF
            Quote: “There is an error in Figure 3A in the article; the Bcl2 lane in Figure 3A duplicates Notch 4 lane in Figure 1D. We are providing a revised Figure 3 with a corrected Bcl2 lane and the raw blots for each of the panels. The authors regret this error. This mistake has no impact on the overall findings and conclusions reported in the article.”

            6. Regulation of FOXO3a/beta-catenin/GSK-3beta signaling by 3,3′-diindolylmethane contributes to inhibition of cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis in prostate cancer cells. Yiwei Li, Zhiwei Wang, Dejuan Kong, Shalini Murthy, Q Ping Dou, Shijie Sheng, G Prem Veer Reddy, Fazlul H Sarkar, J. Biol. Chem., 282 (2007)
            PubPeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/7A5C187897BE734F3B47889F390314
            Erratum: http://www.jbc.org/content/288/48/34755.full
            Quote: “The original Fig. 3C had errors. The “nuclear” panel contained the same Western blot images as the “cytosolic” panel and the cytosolic panel did not indicate that separate lanes from the original blot had been spliced together. We have now replaced the nuclear panel with the correct images. A line in the new cytosolic panel indicates the point of splicing. This correction does not change the interpretation of the results or the conclusions.”

            7. CXCR2 Macromolecular Complex in Pancreatic Cancer: A Potential Therapeutic Target in Tumor Growth. Shuo Wang, Yanning Wu, Yuning Hou, Xiaoqing Guan, Marcello P. Castelvetere, Jacob J. Oblak, Sanjeev Banerjee, Theresa M. Filtz, Fazlul H. Sarkar, Xuequn Chen, Bhanu P. Jena, Chunying Li, Translational Oncology (2013)
            PubPeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/713321E65BB320045CE58A9C842F11 and https://pubpeer.com/publications/170E31360970BE43408F4AC52E57FD (double entry)
            Erratum: http://www.transonc.com/article/S1936-5233(13)80020-4/pdf
            Quote: “In the article by Wang et al. [1] published in the April 2013 issue of Translational Oncology, the Figure 2B used was incorrect. For the Western blotting of PLC-beta 3, an incorrect image was used for L3.6pl cell line (the middle panel). The blot images for Colo357 and HPAC cell lines are correct. Note that this error does not affect the interpretation of the results or the conclusions of this paper. Shown below is the correct figure.”

            8. Curcumin derivatives promote Schwann cell differentiation and improve neuropathy in R98C CMT1B mice. A. Patzko, Y. Bai, M. A. Saporta, I. Katona, X. Wu, D. Vizzuso, M. L. Feltri, S. Wang, L. M. Dillon, J. Kamholz, D. Kirschner, F. H. Sarkar, L. Wrabetz, M. E. Shy, Brain (2012)
            PubPeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/336353AA63F31886265C2327F65B42
            Erratum: http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/09/16/brain.awu269.full
            Quote: “The authors would like to apologize for an error in Fig. 2A in the above manuscript. The images from the wild-type untreated mouse and the wild-type mouse treated with CO were inadvertently both taken from the same untreated animal. We now supply a corrected version of the figure in which the wild-type images are from the correctly labelled animals. We are embarrassed by our error. It has no bearing on the interpretation of the figure, which was that neither PCC nor CO had any direct effect on myelination of wild type or mutant animals. The figure legend is unchanged. It is attached below.”

            Regarding all PubPeer comments:
            a) Sarkar – or any of his co-authors – does not personally address any comments, or criticisms, except for case 7 above, listed as follows “Unregistered Submission: (November 10th, 2013 7:25pm UTC) We feel terribly sorry for our inadvertent error during figure preparation. Thank you for pointing out this error, and we realized the blots were indeed misplaced. We have already contacted the journal regarding how to submit a corrigendum with the correct blots. We will keep you updated.”
            b) Not all comments have been addressed, and only 8/75 papers (~11%) with concerns appear to have had an erratum published.

            Regarding the above mentioned published errata:
            a) None of them mention PubPeer.
            b) Not all of them address all of the apparent errors pointed out on PubPeer. The errata need to be updated and the respective journals alerted to this.

            This update corrects and/or updates the following claims made by the lawyer, Nicholas Roumel, on October 9, 2014:
            a) Statement 11. “He has published over 430 original scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and written more than 100 review articles and book chapters and also edited a book on pancreatic cancer.” This number does not correspond to the 546 listed on his official university web-page.
            b) Statement 54e. “All told, there are 42 papers with Dr. Sarkar as lead researcher that have garnered only one comment on PubPeer, many of them extremely recent comments on relatively old papers.” This number does not reflect the true number of papers that have raised concerns, from any of Sarkar’s papers, i.e., 75.
            c) Statement 57. “He has published more than 533 papers. He has, to date, not had one retracted by a journal. For a tiny handful – less than 2% of his published total – he has voluntarily submitted errata. Of these errata, half have been published; for the other half, decisions from the journals are pending.” Assuming that the lawyer is referring to the 8 papers that have traceable errata, this would be 8/546 = 1.46% of the CV with published errata. The lawyer would do well to provide the exact list he is referring to, as well as the list of errata that have been submitted. Even if the submitted errata are not published, the fact that the authors (assuming Prof. Sarkar) have actually submitted these errata indicates that there were in fact errors (assuming here at least in another 8 papers?). That list should be published.
            d) How can this claim “Dr. Sarkar is one of the pioneers in developing natural agents such as Isoflavones, Curcumin, and Indole compounds” be quantified, and proved?
            e) The lawyer would do well in rechecking PubPeer and revising his numbers and updating the current status of the comments there, because there appear to be inconsistencies in the numbers and claims.
            f) Is there any relation between Sanila H. Sarkar and Prof. Sarkar in this paper that has raised concerns at PubPeer? Down-regulation of uPA and uPAR by 3,3′-diindolylmethane contributes to the inhibition of cell growth and migration of breast cancer cells. Aamir Ahmad, Dejuan Kong, Zhiwei Wang, Sanila H Sarkar, Sanjeev Banerjee, Fazlul H Sarkar, J. Cell. Biochem., 108 (2009) https://pubpeer.com/publications/B5E61CF7B50269B407E88AB5D411B7

            Anyone is welcome to publically correct any error I have made in my analysis above because we need as perfect an analysis as possible.

      • JATdS October 29, 2014 at 4:43 pm

        I wish to focus on the issue of co-authors, which has been mentioned by some RW commentators, because a set of authors on a paper is a team, much like in sport. All have invested interests, in principle all participated, and thus all are responsible for its contents. So that will be the focus of my comments now, after a painstaking examination of most of the 2006-2014 window of the 75 papers listed at PubPeer. The lists next are not exhaustive, and given the fact that the analyses have taken many hours to complete, there may be minor errors, so feel free to point them out to aid the precision of the discussion.

        First, in response to Narad below, I wish to put the issue of unlabeled affiliations to rest for Paper 5. Except for Sarkar, these 5 authors (Sethi, Hassan, Kong, Li, Sakr) have no number next to their name as a superscript and are not (correctly) represented in the list of affiliations, while the rest are. The only exception to your list is Sarkar, who is listed as the corresponding author, but he should in fact have two superscripted numbers next to his name, 1 and 2, but does not. Indeed, running the names through the WSU web-sites allows Sakr to be traced, as you correctly point out with the hyperlink.

        So what about the CAs on Sarkar’s papers that are criticized on PubPeer and that cannot be traced to the WSU web-site, what happened to them? Surely they also need to be held accountable for the contents of their papers based on the principle that the loss of one is the loss of all. There are three CAs linked to WSU that stand out other than Prof. Sarkar:
        Yiwei Li: http://www.ajcr.us/ajcr0000231A.html (2013)
        Aamir Ahmad: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mnfr.201300528/abstract (2013)
        Zhiwei Wang (several papers) is at Harvard Medical School (he appears to have been there since at least 2011, see paper 6 affiliations, “current affiliation”, but this is inconsistently indicated in some subsequent papers of his; this curricular inconsistency also needs to be investigated, I believe, by Harvard Medical School because such omissions can constitute serious conflicts of interest if not clearly defined; he also appears to be formally associated with Jiangsu Institute of Hematology in China (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069485)):
        http://omicsgroup.org/editor-biography/Zhiwei_wang/
        http://www.pubfacts.com/author/Zhiwei+Wang

        Of course, everyone has the right to move on, but they always have to be held accountable for what they left behind, so they all need to be meticulously traced, and informed, I believe, as do their employers simply because new posts and positions were undoubtedly based upon the successes of past positions and published papers. So, current contracts and funding should be revised based on analysis of the errors in the literature, also because such errors can negatively impact, by mere association with PubPeer or with errata / retractions, the image of a scientist or research institute. This is almost instinctive. Legend is not about “now”, it is about “before”, “now” and “hereafter”. And it’s not about what was left behind that was exclusively good, or positive, but about the other side of the coin, too. That is why I decided to generate the following lists, because a surprisingly large number of co-authors from many countries and research institutes, in the US and abroad, are now directly or indirectly affected by this case.

        So what about Sarkar’s national and international collaborators? Are they aware of these grave issues with the figures in these 75 papers? And do their institutes know? How will they use, interpret and process this information?

        1) Alia Ahmed, Mohammad M R Bhuiyan, Fakhara Ahmed, Shadan Ali, Khaldoun Almhanna, Bin Bao, Dejuan Kong, Joshua Liao, Asfar S. Azmi, Amro Aboukameel, Aliccia Bolling-Fischer, Seema Sethi, Sanjeev Banerjee, Jessica Back, Ramzi M. Mohammad, Jacqueline M. Schaffert, Bassel F. El-Rayes, Shijie Sheng, Q. Ping Dou, Eric Van Buren, Vinita Singh-Gupta, Christopher K. Yunker, Joseph T. Rakowski, Michael C. Joiner, Andre A. Konski, Gilda G. Hillman, Ágnes Patzkó, Mario A. Saporta, István Katona, Yunhong Bai, XingYao Wu, Suola Wang, Lisa M. Dillon, John Kamholz, Michael E. Shy, Omar Soubani, Farah Logna, Shivam Thakur, Christine Wojewoda, and possibly others (all these co-authors’ names were listed as being at WSU / Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center / Karmanos Cancer Institute in the papers listed at PubPeer, but cannot be found on the current WSU / BAKCC / KCI web-sites in the respective departments: some possibilities are that they are not faculty listed on the web-sites, i.e., they are staff, or “lower-than-faculty” positions, or they have moved on, or quit science, or my eyes have failed me). The non-faculty possibility is supported by the fact that some of the authors listed as “missing” appear in. Assuming that these individuals are no longer there, this appears to be a lot of people from the past recent years to be losing from or changing in research teams. Are cancer research teams so volatile, usually?
        2) What about those who were co-authors on papers being questioned at PubPeer, but who remain at WSU, such as Wael A Sakr, Philip A. Philip (who was previously listed in Karyopharm Therapeutics: see link to paper in 8) below) and Aamir Ahmad, Seema Sethi, Wei Chen, Rouba Ali-Fehmi, and Sandeep Mittal from a recent (2014) paper: https://pubpeer.com/publications/D49AA4BD6C70E5021BABCAB6A3B8CC and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4113500/) and possibly others like Shuo Wang, Yanning Wu, Yuning Hou, Xiaoqing Guan, Marcello P. Castelvetere, Jacob J. Oblak, Sanjeev Banerjee, Xuequn Chen, Bhanu P. Jena, and Chunying Li (https://pubpeer.com/publications/713321E65BB320045CE58A9C842F11 and http://www.transonc.com/article/S1936-5233(13)80035-6/pdf)? Why do they stay silent, and why are they allowed to stay silent? Do they even know about these concerns at PubPeer?
        3) Mohammad F. Ullah, Showket H. Bhat, Eram Husain, Faisel Abu-Duhier (University of Tabuk, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia); S. M. Hadi, Irfana Muqbil (Aligarh Muslim University, India); Subhash B. Padhye (University of Pune and Dr. D.Y. Patil University, India); Subhash Padhye (Abeda Inamdar Senior College, India); Domenica Vizzuso, M. Laura Feltri, Lawrence Wrabetz (San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Italy), Kazim Sahin, Nurhan Sahin, Cemal Orhan, Mehmet Tuzcu, Hasan Gencoglu (Firat University, Turkey). The list is not exhaustive.
        4) A lot of Chinese research institutes are apparently involved with the research that was conducted. But exact authorship roles is not described in many of the papers. So, what exact research was conducted there, if at all? These are additional lingering doubts that no one is discussing. The Chinese institutes listed include: Capital University of Medical Science, The Center Hospital of Bengbu, Bengbu Medical College, Taixing People’s Hospital, Sichuan College of Traditional Chinese Medicine,
        5) Similarly, other US institutes that are directly involved with papers being questioned at PubPeer are directly involved. So, they should also be made aware: The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (James L. Abbruzzese, Paul J. Chiao), Henry Ford Health System (Nilesh Gupta, Dhananjay Chitale, Mani Menon), Henry Ford Hospital (Shalini Murthy, G. Prem Veer Reddy), University of Mississippi Cancer Institute (Lucio Miele), Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Adhip P.N. Majumdar), Indiana University (Murray Korc), Karyopharm Therapeutics (Amro Aboukameel, Michael Kauffman, Sharon Shacham), Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (Jason R. Gunn), Oregon State University (Theresa M. Filtz), University of Iowa (Yunhong Bai, XingYao Wu, Suola Wang, Michael E. Shy), State University of New York at Buffalo (Domenica Vizzuso, M. Laura Feltri, Lawrence Wrabetz), Boston College (Daniel Kirschner). Should the ORI and WSU not have the responsibility of also contacting these down-stream US research institutes and companies?
        6) Is there a much larger tale to be told, but that is not being told, or is being concealed by WSU and/or the Karmanos Cancer Institute? What happened to these scientists? Did they terminate their contracts, or PhDs, or is there another reason why they cannot be traced?
        7) What is, or was, the relationship between the “Department of Pathology, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, 48201, USA” and “Department of Pathology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, 740 HWCRC Bldg, 4160 John R. Street, Detroit, MI, 48201, USA”? (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10549-009-0572-1)
        8) Notice carefully one source of funding and the declared COIs of this paper: http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(12)01552-1/abstract. It is odd simply because authorship functions are not indicated at all, calling into question in fact, the exact participation of all co-authors.
        9) This PubPeer entry (https://pubpeer.com/publications/7A5C187897BE734F3B47889F390314) contains a “different” contact for Prof. Sarkar: “To whom correspondence should be addressed: 740 Hudson Webber Cancer Research Center, 4100 John Rd., Detroit, MI 48201.” (http://www.jbc.org/content/282/29/21542.full.pdf+html). Was the previous cancer research center name at WSU the “Hudson Webber Cancer Research Center”?
        10) Should grant donors not be contacted as well, for example, the American heart Association or the Elsa U. Pardee Foundation? https://pubpeer.com/publications/713321E65BB320045CE58A9C842F11 and http://www.transonc.com/article/S1936-5233(13)80035-6/abstract

        I believe that there are a lot of issues with the 75 papers, possibly even a pattern. There also needs to be an investigation, no doubt, because this is no small number of accidental errors. Finally, all associated individuals and institutes, including grant givers, should be contacted. They deserve to know – and have the right to know – that not all is well. Hey can then make individual decisions as to what the right path forward is. All should be encouraged to contribute to the discussion so that the scientific community – and Prof. Sarkar’s lawyer – can learn.

    • JATdS October 26, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      Just in case this was not yet pointed out, the 546 papers published by Prof. Sarkar may be found here:
      http://www.experts.scival.com/wayneresearchconnect/expertPubs.asp?u_id=720
      Unfortunately, errata or corrigenda do not form part of that list, but should.

  • Anon October 26, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I think what has caused all of the problems for this gentleman is the _content_ of the posts on PubPeer. And he only has himself to blame for publishing it.

    He has certainly been very, very successful in raising funding. I’d be interested to see whether the preliminary data submitted in support of those applications shares some of the features of his published work. We all know that exciting preliminary data makes all the difference to obtaining funding.

    • Delhi Deli October 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      I invited Sarkar and co-authors, and members of the departments of pathology and oncology to join in the debate and to make some explanations clear.

    • A November 3, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      Check out the study section that has funded his work. Take a look at the standing and historical memberlist. Look for patterns… other names we’ve seen recur on RW?

      • JATdS November 4, 2014 at 12:17 am

        As I have indicated elsewhere, the funding agencies MUST be contacted. I simply cannot understand how a funding agency that has doled out money for conducting what was originally perceived to be good and solid science would not be interested in knowing that the science it financially supported was not as good as was originally thought. At the end of the day, the negative image already created for Sarkar and all of his co-authors, as well as for Wayne State University and Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, as a direct result of the lack of responsibilty of Sarkar and his co-authors of not coming to RW and other blogs, or even to PubPeer, to fully address the concerns with figures, will also negatively impact the image of the funding agencies who provided the financial structure for these papers to even exist. Not only should these agencies be contacted, the risks associated with being associated with Sarkar and his group and research institute should be emphasized. And then, ultimately, should they feel that their image or reputation has been tarnished, or that the funding that they provided was in some way squandered, then they should demand a refund. This seems to be the most logical thing to do.

  • Anon October 26, 2014 at 9:20 am

    One more question: were those clinical trials in any way based upon the research that has been questioned?

  • Eibl October 26, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Interesting report, but interesting reaction of the university. Although it does not seem to be clear yet, if any wrongdoing by the scientist happened, such a strong response by a university on even anonymous comments may encourage more whistleblowers or just critical scientists, but also real victims of university driven plagiarism to “publish” their view, critiques and comments.

  • Jay October 26, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Paragraph 52 of the lawsuit reads: “52. For example, a “dialogue” between two allegedly different posters took place on July 24, 2014. These posters, “Peer 1” and “Unregistered Submission,” each posted in the middle of the night, one responding to the other just 56 minutes later. See: https://pubpeer.com/publications/A3845DA138FC83780CB5071ED74AEC, “Concurrent
    Inhibition Of NF-Kappab, Cyclooxygenase-2, And Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Leads To Greater Anti-Tumor Activity In Pancreatic Cancer.” This is either a very odd coincidence that two scientists were independently reading the same page regarding Dr. Sarkar (in the example stated in this paragraph, a page regarding a 2010 paper that at the time had only had 151 views) – on the same day, in the middle of the night; or drawing a reasonable inference from these facts, it’s the same person feigning a dialogue; or two persons working in concert with one another.”

    Well, Pubpeer is an online site which can bee accessed from anywhere in the world. So it’s not logical to assume both posters were from USA. These users may have been from different countries or time-zones. So they may not share identical “middle of the night”.

    • BB October 26, 2014 at 11:38 am

      This implies some sort of cunning sock puppetry. Middle of the night, yes – in Greenwich… While in the far east or Australia it was morning, and in the west coast it was afternoon. And regarding the number of views, the pubpeer thread of the paper jumped onto the top of the “recent” list immediately after the first entry was posted, so the short interval between these comments is not surprising at all, since the visibility of the thread was as high as possible.

  • littlegreyrabbit October 26, 2014 at 10:21 am

    “claiming that he had lost a job offer from the University of Mississippi ”

    Shouldn’t he be suing the University of Mississippi then?

    “on the same day, in the middle of the night; or drawing a reasonable inference from these facts, it’s the same person feigning a dialogue; or two persons working in concert with one another.”

    As I understand Pubpeer it works so that the most recent commented paper gets bumped to the top, so no conspiracy theory is required – it is not a reasonable inference.

    • Marco October 26, 2014 at 11:54 am

      I’d say that those two commenters would now have grounds to claim defamation, no?

      They are now being accused of working together to falsely accusing Sarkar of scientific misconduct.

      Or of sockpuppetry.

    • Scotus October 26, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Miss. Code Ann. §§11-46-1 et seq.: Immunity of State and Political Subdivisions from Liability and Suit for Torts and Torts of Employees.

      Shouldn’t he be suing the University of Mississippi then?

      Google “sovereign immunity”

      • Anon October 26, 2014 at 2:37 pm

        So tenure is worth nothing in Mississippi?

    • Miguel Roig October 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      I’m with littlegreyrabbit here with respect to the university’s behavior and raise the following question: Is it legal in the US to cancel someone’s employment contract merely based on allegations of questionable practices or of out-right wrong-doing but, I assume, without the benefit of any formal investigation?

      • Scotus October 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        I can’t comment about the ethical issues you raise. In plain terms, the state gets to decide what is in the state’s best interests. I read the complaint and it is quite vague about the series of exchanges that led to the rescinding of the offer of employment. I can’t imagine that he didn’t respond to their original letter with some explanation for the interest in his work on pubpeer. That might make interesting reading.

        • Scotus November 3, 2014 at 6:56 pm

          From Pubpeer- as I suggested Mississippi did ask Sarkar to respond but he declined to do so.

          Colleen Flaherty of Insider Higher Ed gives this very interesting quote:

          Tom Eppes, a spokesman for Mississippi, said that Sarkar was given the opportunity to explain the research-related allegations “before going forward with employment.” But Eppes said the professor “never responded or otherwise provided assistance in addressing the questions.”

          https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/11/03/cancer-researcher-says-anonymous-online-comments-cost-him-job

  • Scrutineer October 26, 2014 at 10:27 am

    This is the sort of thing that we are dealing with. (For what it is worth, it has not yet been shown on PubPeer.)

    http://i.imgur.com/gO58vGV.png

    Readers will observe for themselves that there is “no “sloppiness” of such magnitude that it calls into question the scientific value of the papers.” It would be absurd for anyone to be “falsely stating that the data were false and that the experiments were fabricated.” Not only has Dr. Sarkar “never been found responsible for research misconduct”, we can be confident that he never will be at any point in the future.

    More top quality science shown in the comments at this RW entry

    http://retractionwatch.com/2014/09/22/scientist-threatening-to-sue-pubpeer-claims-he-lost-a-job-offer-because-of-comments/

    • BB October 26, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Interesting. Have you ar anyone contacted the respective periodicals?

      • Scrutineer October 26, 2014 at 12:59 pm

        BB, I must confess that on this occasion I did not. Like some others who prefer to comment publicly on these issues, I have been there, done that but not got the T-shirt 🙁

        The way I feel is quite simple: Once these things are public, the more alert among the rank and file scientists are protected from wasting their time on false leads. Waiting several years while keeping quiet for “due process” to find out whether or not a paper will be corrected or retracted or – more likely – nothing happens gets demoralising after a while. PPPR from now on.

        • Leonid Schneider October 26, 2014 at 4:30 pm

          As long as you make your PPPR findings public on PubPeer or PubMed Commons (the latter one is particularly well visible), the journals may be forced to take notice eventually 😉

  • Dave Langers October 26, 2014 at 11:07 am

    I don’t suppose the esteemed dr. Fazlul Sarkar, obviously being aware that his work is mentioned on PubPeer, ever dignified himself to reply there and put his own viewpoints forward at least once? Normally, that would be a first avenue to take: better settle a scientific debate among scientists than in court, if you want other scientists to take you seriously. Should that be met with an obstinate unjustifiably critical crusade from conspiring peers, only then it would be a lot more credible to sue. Not that this seems a “reparable” case; in my personal view, this guy just pressed the self-destruct button on himself.

    On a different theme, would it perhaps be better if PubPeer were not hosted on a server in the USA? Perhaps go somewhere where freedom of expression is less easily curtailed by lawsuits, if that place exists. Or, host a couple of synchronised copies in different countries, that might make the whole effort of going to court with such nonsensical complaints somewhat more daunting and pointless to begin with? (I am no lawyer, but would be interested to learn if one could thus prevent a “simple” shutdown.)

    • tekija October 26, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      He did apologize for errors, at least once – as also mentioned by his attorney.

      • Anon October 26, 2014 at 3:43 pm

        So the comment in question must have been justified?

        • JATdS October 27, 2014 at 12:22 am

          I really struggled to find any errata or corrigenda on most data-bases for any of Prof. Sarkar’s papers. I did find one public apology in a “Brain” corrigendum [1]: “The authors would like to apologize for an error in Fig. 2A in the above manuscript. The images from the wild-type untreated mouse and the wild-type mouse treated with CO were inadvertently both taken from the same untreated animal. We now supply a corrected version of the figure in which the wild-type images are from the correctly labelled animals. We are embarrassed by our error. It has no bearing on the interpretation of the figure, which was that neither PCC nor CO had any direct effect on myelination of wild type or mutant animals.”
          [1] http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/09/16/brain.awu269

          If Prof. Sarkar is so apparently honestly genuine about his apology, and about addressing the concerns that scientists have about the errors in his papers’ figures, then why does he simply not respond to the ample evidence provided at PubPeer, or even here at RW (this page and [2])?

          [2] http://retractionwatch.com/2014/09/22/scientist-threatening-to-sue-pubpeer-claims-he-lost-a-job-offer-because-of-comments/comment-page-1/#comment-146429

          If Prof. Sarkar has some time, I wish to recommend some essential reading about blogs [3], and to encourage him to keep an open mind about the essential nature of anonimity and whistle-blowers, not only in science, but in society. Without these silently vocal individuals, perhaps we would not have some freedoms that we currently do, in our lives, and in society, because the voice of the anonymous whistle-blower is meant to counter the excessive power of those that hold it.

          [3] http://embor.embopress.org/content/12/11/1102

          Finally, it would be an excellent idea for someone to gather the e-mails of ALL co-authors, past and present, and to send them a shout-out about this blog story and about the PubPeer entries. It is possible that not all of them are aware, and given the nature of this conflict, they should all be made aware. Any volunteers ot take on this essential task?

  • Dan Riley October 26, 2014 at 11:12 am

    The timeline of Sarkar’s “firing” is strikingly similar to the Steven Saliata case. Will there be calls to boycott the University of Mississippi?

  • Leonid Schneider October 26, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Consider this: a scientist is a public person as soon as he/she accepts public fund or even publishes a paper. This should make his/her research and the associated papers automatically liable to public scrutiny or criticism. After all, it is perfectly legal to call any politician (also a public person) incompetent or accuse them of telling untruth.
    Unless this is agreed, and Sarkar’s claim is dismissed outright, it is goodnight for Pubpeer and the like as well as for any hope of honesty and decency in science.

    • Anon October 26, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Yes, it would certainly be interesting to test the theory that scientists are “public persons”, at least as far as their publications and publicly funded work are concerned. The comments in this case hardly rise to the level of the personal attacks that politicians have to put up with.

      In addition, surely there is a public interest angle.

      • Leonid Schneider October 26, 2014 at 1:18 pm

        Exactly, I think RW, Pubpeer etc must press this understanding, before the Sarkar’s expensive lawyers create a legal precedence. Imagine, film celebrities have not many legal rights to protect their personal life against paparazzi, while scientists like Sarkar want their publications (sic!) protected from public inspection! Seems brain-dead, but wait till fancy lawyers get to decide.

        • Narad October 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm

          I think RW, Pubpeer etc must press this understanding, before the Sarkar’s expensive lawyers create a legal precedence.

          That’s all fine and well, but Pubpeer isn’t being sued at the moment, the commenters are (as Does). Precedent is set after a decision by (a certain level of) a court, which is more often than not cripplingly expensive. RW and Pubpeer have the ability neither to cause the complaint to be withdrawn nor to press an understanding upon the court.

          • Leonid Schneider October 27, 2014 at 7:07 am

            I meant of course a campaign for public understanding (“awareness” for Americans) of what exactly a scientist is: a public person. RW and PubPeer are public websites with large audiences, Ivan and Marcus are often present to give their views in the mass media. It must be clear that published research and those responsible (i.e., corresponding authors) have no legal rights for privacy protection. With any luck, judges and lawyers may get to hear these viewpoints as well.

    • Narad October 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Consider this: a scientist is a public person as soon as he/she accepts public fund or even publishes a paper.

      Not in the slightest. It’s possible to argue that Sarkar is limited-purpose public figure, but not those simplistic grounds.

      • Leonid Schneider October 27, 2014 at 7:11 am

        Sarkar as scientist is a public person. He uses public funding and produces publications. Sarkar as a private person is different, but I am not aware his private life was criticised by anyone. Yes, but I see your point, what happens when lawyers get to define. The more reason to avoid this.

        • Narad October 27, 2014 at 6:02 pm

          Sarkar as scientist is a public person. He uses public funding and produces publications.

          I’m afraid that this is simply not the definition of a public figure under U.S. defamation law. Public officials and celebrities are public figures. Sarkar indisputably is not.

          His own complaint, by touting his publication record, lays the groundwork for the argument that he is a limited-purpose public figure, as described above. Even this, however, can be countered, precisely because he has not engaged the controversy (much) – one is thus in the position of having to contend that he is an “involuntary limited-purpose public figure,” which is a very hard sell (PDF). The closest parallel looks to be Hutchinson v. Proxmire, 443 U.S. 111 (1979) (“Those charged with alleged defamation cannot, by their own conduct, create their own defense by making the claimant a public figure. Nor is the concern about public expenditures sufficient to make petitioner a public figure, petitioner at no time having assumed any role of public prominence in the broad question of such concern.”)

          • Narad October 27, 2014 at 10:02 pm

            In any event, I hope these comments aren’t being interpreted as favoring Sarkar’s censorious lawsuit. There are strong defenses, such as whether the allegedly defamatory comments were protected opinions based on disclosed facts (one does not get to pretend that a commenter’s objectionable statement is divorced from his or her others), but “public person” does not strike me as being one of them. Moreover, invoking it as a first-line defense strategy would basically be conceding that the statements would be defamatory otherwise.

          • Leonid Schneider October 28, 2014 at 7:37 am

            Hi Narad, I understand what you mean, lawyers who get to decide this think very differently from scientists.
            But, for the sake of argument, if I were to publish a non-fiction book, let’s say on gardening, and it contained blatantly wrong assumptions and unproven claims, would I be able to legally silence the online criticism of my book and my pretended qualifications as gardener? Probably not.
            Thus, how different is a scientific publication from a book in this sense?

          • Narad October 28, 2014 at 5:07 pm

            Leaving aside the contrivance that no defamatory statements were actually made, it’s not — including the part where the author isn’t automatically a public figure.

          • nvichonestly October 31, 2014 at 11:48 pm

            I think Narad is right on both counts –
            A. That Sarkar is not automatically a public figure just in virtue of being a published scientist, though he could be argued to be a limited purpose public figure (that, too is not obvious).

            B. That there are other grounds available to his defendants to reject the libel suit (and potentially also reject the disclosure demand.

  • Kevin October 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I am siding with Prof. Sarkar here. It is entirely possible that the problems in his papers are due to actions by others working for him, as has often been the case in the past in such cases. The well-known ongoing situation at Iowa State is just one example. Pubpeer allows one to make anonymous accusations of the type made against Sarkar in a highly public way, and in a way that can be highly damaging to the PIs involved, as this case shows. He deserves a thorough investigation, and the nature of Pubpeer makes this much more difficult. Someone can point out discrepancies in papers coming out of a lab to everyone in the world, then the enemies of the person or people in charge of the lab can then use it to go after their enemies in a way where they have no means of defending themselves.

    • Anon October 26, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Kevin:

      https://pubpeer.com/search?q=sarkar

      ~15 years, ~50 papers… feel free to find the common denominator. Anyway, I disagree with the idea that PIs should normally be held innocent for what happens in their lab, especially if there are recurring problems, and especially if they do little or nothing to resolve any potential issues once they are pointed out.

      Note that many of the comments talk about images, not Sarkar, which is not really a personal attack.

      We can agree, however, that he deserves a thorough investigation.

      • JATdS October 26, 2014 at 3:57 pm

        I am of the opinion that a PI, or a professor, is the most responsible individual person in a laboratory. Even if errors are made by students, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the PI / professor to oversee the members of their laboratory. If there has been an error, or misconduct, then responsibility is held by all authors, especially the PI / professor. It is precisely for this level of responsibility that they are often paid a salary with many zero’s on it. It is precisely why the ICMJE changed its definition of authorship in July, to ensure this public responsibility. In that sense, Prof. Sarkar cannot escape, or hand-down, responsibility. He had an incredible salary and position, and indescribable funding for decades. Now he must face the music, and also take responsibility for his students, his collaborators, his laboratory, his results, and his papers. Even if he sues PubPeer, the errors still remain in ~50 papers, so, frankly speaking, what will suing achieve except trying to “obtain” 25K US$ as some sort of compensation?

        As to this case, it saddens me, actually, because I see fault by all parties. There are first of all, about 50 documented errors (i.e., in 50 papers) spanning 15 years, from what I can tell. Plain and simple, Prof. Sarkar and his co-authors are responsible.

        PubPeer also has some fault. Indeed, close scrutiny of the legal document does reveal several errors or problems with PubPeer, and the fact that it is run by anonymous scientists who are too busy is no excuse for these errors. Those errors do include some comments that do make personal judgments, validated or not. Unfortunately, now, what may have appeared to be an innocent set of comments has become a complex case. Not only should PubPeer management de-anonymize itself, and expand its board of advisors and professionals to do careful screening of comments, so too should it come forward here at RW to provide commentary. I understand that PubPeer is under-funded, so the first suggestion may be complex, but if the RW owners indicate who they are, while offering protection for their anonymous commentators, then why can’t PubPeer do the same? PubPeer is the target, but what about satellite sites like RW, or other blogs that have also seen considerable criticism of Prof. Sarkar?

        Will the lawyer start to sue every individual or blog that offers negative commentary about Prof. Sarkar? I understand that at the end of the day the lawyer also needs to pay his own bills, but is this the correct or reasonable way to go about it? In some ways, it is good to be poor: nobody wants to sue another who has no money or assets to give them.

        Once again, this brings into debate the rights of expression to criticize in public, such as blogs, and the protections that whistle-blowers have in this veritable war.

        • BB October 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm

          Good observations. PubPear apparently learned a few things from the mistakes that brought down Sciencefraud.org, but it still has its weak spots.
          I myself had the feeling that the anonymity of the PubPeer administrators is the Achilles-heel of the site. As long as they remain anonymous the risk is there that someone will try to reveal their identity or they make a mistake (its unfortunately very easy) that will ultimately blow their cover. Also a site with anonymous management looks suspicious/shady for many.

        • Narad October 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm

          In some ways, it is good to be poor: nobody wants to sue another who has no money or assets to give them.

          Au contraire: If one has the money, suing someone who doesn’t is an excellent intimidation tactic. This is why anti-SLAPP laws are important (PDF).

        • PJTV October 27, 2014 at 4:16 am

          The PI is indeed responsible ‘to oversee the members of their laboratory’. However, more importantly he must take responsibility of a culture of scientific integrity in his lab.

        • Dave Langers November 1, 2014 at 8:31 am

          In addition to the above commenters that the PI *is* responsible (or liable if you prefer), with which I agree: even if Sarkar were somehow mislead by all of his co-workers, then that is a defense that he can forward and try to substantiate himself. We don’t have to pre-empt all possible defenses for him, right? However, he hasn’t done that. In fact, it seems that he isn’t giving any defense at all, as far as I can see (or is he?). He doesn’t really seem to give any counterarguments against his alleged fraud; he is only pointing out that nobody should have been allowed to point out the alleged fraud in the first place. Which is why he doesn’t belong in science IMHO.

      • Kevin October 26, 2014 at 4:01 pm

        I easily found a person (not Sarkar) who is on 34 of these papers. Not that I know if he is guilty either. The point is that PubPeer is not an appropriate means for determining wrongdoing since the accused does not have any means of defending himself, unless you count arguing with anonymous commenters on the internet. As you said, he deserves a thorough investigation, and it’s too late for that to be done fairly since he has already lost his job.

        • Leonid Schneider October 26, 2014 at 4:13 pm

          Kevin, never mind the huge body of evidence in this case, but maybe you should look up what being “corresponding author” actually implies. Some may perceive it refers only to fame and funding, others may insist that it also includes full responsibility.

          • Kevin October 26, 2014 at 4:36 pm

            Some would say that if someone working for you succeeds in tricking you, then it’s not automatically your full responsibility. By the way, I’m not at all suggesting that I believe Sarkar is innocent here. I just am opposed to this process consisting of anonymous mudslinging and then let the tiles fall where they may. Eventually someone’s career can end out being unfairly destroyed if this is allowed to go on forever. Is there no way people can use their actual names when making these allegations? I think this can be done in a way that minimizes risk to oneself.

          • Anon October 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm

            Kevin:
            “Is there no way people can use their actual names when making these allegations? I think this can be done in a way that minimizes risk to oneself.”
            Just go right ahead and analyse one of Sarkar’s commented papers and give your real name.
            This case is proof, if ever it was required, of the need for anonymity. How on earth can you think otherwise?
            I also disagree that pointing out potential problems in papers is “mudslinging”. I think the right of scientists to examine work in public outweighs the right of scientists to avoid public discussion of their published work. If your publications have problems that are suggestive of misconduct, that is your problem for publishing, not mine for pointing out the bare facts. In case you have forgotten, “publication” means make public.

          • PedroS October 27, 2014 at 7:03 am

            “Some would say that if someone working for you succeeds in tricking you, then it’s not automatically your full responsibility.”
            I agree. However, if I had been tricked I would be as willing as any anonymous commenter to get to the bottom of the question and to assist in identifying the real culprit. Starting a lawsuit against unknown commenters would NOT be on my list of priorities.

          • bystander effect October 27, 2014 at 9:59 am

            “Some would say that if someone working for you succeeds in tricking you, then it’s not automatically your full responsibility.”

            Some would say that the person running a lab where researchers are either passively or willfully ignorant of sloppiness or dishonesty, or where the environment otherwise enables “trickery” should be held accountable for the actions of the entire team.

            In my opinion, if nobody caught these “mistakes,” there are likely to be much larger laboratory/research management issues at play.

          • KK October 28, 2014 at 6:30 pm

            i am bringing in another possibility here. Some corresponding authors have the habit of submitting papers without discussing with the co-authors especially within their laboratory or sometimes even the collaborators. This is not a good culture at all. Sometimes, co-authors would get a surprise after seeing their names in the pubmed! They might keep quiet as they got one paper in their name. Everybody is happy and life goes on. But co-authors will be dragged into the discussion when something like this happens.

        • Anon October 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm

          “since the accused does not have any means of defending himself”

          That’s just not true. I’ve seen authors post quite a few original gels that basically exonerated the authors. With that support, they were quite successful in “arguing with anonymous commenters on the internet”.

          Anyway, what is your opinion of the issues raised (check out the nice image from Scrutineer in this very thread)? If the issues are valid, working scientists are entitled to know as quickly as possible that there is a potential problem. The institutions can sort out who if anybody is actually at fault.

          • SaG October 26, 2014 at 4:35 pm

            “since the accused does not have any means of defending himself”
            Of course he does. He can leave a comment on pubpeer. He can explain all of these errors easily there. The fact that he doesn’t and instead files a lawsuit speaks volumes. And before you state “innocent until proven guilty” that only works in criminal law. That is not how science works. If someone clearly disputes your data you should defend it. I mean isn’t that what scientists do all of the time with anonymous publication reviewers and anonymous grant reviewers?
            In fact, now that i think of it, pubpeer exactly follows the model of science as practiced in the USA.

          • JATdS October 26, 2014 at 4:41 pm

            I wish to dot a few more i’s.

            Prof. Sarkar and his group were working at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, which has recently been in a series of important legal battles. These may or may not have some influence on this case, but ultimately, it indicates that there could be much more than just Sarkar’s image at stake:

            1) http://www.theoaklandpress.com/general-news/20131210/dmc-mclaren-battle-over-rights-to-karmanos-cancer-institute

            “Flint-based McLaren Health and Detroit-based Karmanos announced Oct. 30 they would partner and become the largest cancer research and provider network in Michigan. McLaren planned to provide capital for Karmanos’ facilities and cancer research in exchange for an affiliation with the nationally-acclaimed program. But, according to DMC, that partnership would violate the sale agreement made in 2005 when Karmanos split from DMC and became an independent hospital.”

            2) http://www.freep.com/article/20131210/BUSINESS06/312100027/Karmanos-Cancer-DMC-McClaren

            It makes for very interesting reading, with a resolution here in February, 2014:

            3) http://archive.freep.com/article/20140227/BUSINESS06/302270224/DMC-Karmanos-McLaren-lawsuit-update

            Interestingly, this institute initiated a business venture based on the INHALE study:
            4) http://www.thestreet.com/story/11984208/1/karmanos-cancer-center-launches-lung-cancer-screening-program-to-help-detect-lung-cancer-early.html

            And Prof. Sarkar was up front and public about his opinions on this venture based on his results:

            5) http://www.karmanos.org/News/soy-pancreatic-cancer

            Thus, a key question that needs to be asked and link that needs to be established is: are any of the faulty images associated with this commercial venture?

            In some ways, one could imagine WSU as having a really large headache, and not wanting to provide too much commentary about the Sarkar case, already having its hands full with this separate legal battle.

          • herr doktor bimler October 26, 2014 at 8:04 pm

            And Prof. Sarkar was up front and public about his opinions on this venture based on his results:
            Ah, so his research path is a search for natural compounds which work as adjuvants with existing chemotherapy drugs. This goes some way to accounting for his list of publications. Try one natural compound… report promising results from the petrie dish… results do not replicate or carry over to in vivo effects… move on to the next combination compound / chemo-drug combination. Rinse and repeat.

          • JATdS October 27, 2014 at 2:40 am

            Herr doktor! I was in no way being complimentary. I was being facetious, in fact. I agree with you, I have alll too well seen this trend using “plant-based” extracts and compounds. Such studies, which tend to follow the exact same “template” protocol, simply change the compound. But no editor can claim foul because there is indeed one element of originality. I think it is an honest way to game the publishing system to gather papers and pad a CV. Of course, I am not implying this about Prof. Sarkar, simply following the thread of your thought.

          • Kevin October 26, 2014 at 4:47 pm

            I don’t think a scientist should be obligated to argue with every grad student who decides he/she is behaving dishonestly and posts an anonymous accusation on PubPeer. Even if it helps clear his/her name.

            I am not in Sarkar’s field, so I can’t comment on the issues raised. I am just commenting on the process.

          • SaG October 26, 2014 at 5:00 pm

            But most of the issues raised were not unsubstantiated accusations. They were obvious alterations of gels that are improper and unscientific no matter how you argue it. I would agree with you if the only accusations were that he was a liar and cheat with nothing to back it up. But, at least some of the concerns are backed by data. He needs to explain that and correct the scientific record. Also, I have no sympathy for the “it wasn’t me it was the grad student, or postdoc or tech,” excuse. Even if it was, it happened on your watch and it is also your failure. At least apologize.

          • SaG October 26, 2014 at 5:05 pm

            I should also add that the way the University of Mississippi treated him was awful. Not sure how they can be allowed to do what they did.

          • Morty October 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm

            I really don’t understand what’s going on at research institutions in the US. First of all: why do they not investigate cases where scientists are accused of misconduct and where there are many clear indications of irregularities in published articles? Secondly: if there eventually is an investigation, why is the conclusion of the investigation not officially known to the public?
            I have several examples from scientist that have sent concerns to research institutions in US and never got any feedback at all. I have sent some concerns to journals and institutions myself (only the worst cases of irregularities) and the usual ending is completely silence. Only rarely I notice a “mega-correction” in the journal light-years later. It is very frustrating. Maybe one should try to lift these discussions to a higher political level? I really don’t know.
            In this particular case we have several accusations, many illustrations indicating irregularities in a substantial number of articles. It would be to the best for the accused scientists, the university and the grant provider to initiate an investigation by an external committee and conclude from that. However there seems to be no precedence for a thorough investigation in this case or additional similar cases. Why?
            If I was accused of wrongdoing in any of my publications at Pubpeer I would post the raw data to clarify to the peer. This is how science should be! Pubpeer is a brilliant open discussion forum for scientist. Honest and responsible scientists that have nothing to hide should reply to any posted questions at Pubpeer.
            As far as I know, Sarkar has never replied to any Pubpeer posts, which in my view is unusual. Post-publications discussions are the future in science and journals and scientist that do not accept this will lose.
            I will encourage scientists to continue to use Pubpeer and other science blogs to discuss science (and pseudo science) to the best for the scientific progress. Don’t let this ridiculous lawsuit stop us from continuing what has always been the core of science: openness, peering and sharing. Peering or perish!

          • aceil October 27, 2014 at 4:40 am

            “… why do they not investigate cases where scientists are accused of misconduct and where there are many clear indications of irregularities in published articles? Secondly: if there eventually is an investigation, why is the conclusion of the investigation not officially known to the public?……..Maybe one should try to lift these discussions to a higher political level?”

            Totally agree with you. Accountable governments should fulfill their obligations to protect the public interest against abuses; It is public money and resources that are being wasted in research misconduct. The STAP study is an example!

          • Dave Langers October 27, 2014 at 6:22 am

            “I really don’t understand what’s going on at research institutions…” I agree, but I also feel ‘we’ as a scientific community fail. Where are all the co-authors, colleagues from the same department or research school, collaborators, room mates and lunch buddies, etc., voicing their disagreement about how untransparent such investigations into misconduct are carried out? Where is the outcry? Surely, people who work at (/for) the same institute should together have some leverage, more than a random collection of commenters on PubPeer or RW? Furthermore, if my direct colleague were a fraudster, I would feel compelled to distantiate myself from that behaviour (I hope). Why isn’t that happening; why aren’t we – as a community – pushing for more “openness, peering and sharing” ourselves? We ARE the research institutes.
            (Of course I realise that on this site I am preaching to the few who are vocal exceptions.)

          • herr doktor bimler October 26, 2014 at 8:10 pm

            I have no sympathy for the “it wasn’t me it was the grad student, or postdoc or tech,” excuse. Even if it was, it happened on your watch and it is also your failure

            The job offer from Mississippi was based on Sarkar’s record of publications, which they hoped he could continue at a new university. Upon closer scrutiny of those publications, Mississippi realised that they did not want him continuing that record. From that perspective, it is irrelevant whether the result collages were assembled by a grad student, or postdoc, or tech.

          • Anon October 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm

            Kevin:

            Is there evidence that this was done by graduate students?

          • BB October 26, 2014 at 5:13 pm

            No one is obligated to argue with lowly grad students, but no one is obligated to sue them either – which takes a little bit more time and money if I’m right. I find it hard to see why they are less likely to come up with valid concerns about the fundamental aspects of any given study.

          • Kevin October 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm

            I’m repeating myself so I won’t comment after this one. My objections are entirely unrelated to whether or not the allegations are true or not (this is not my area), but rather the procedure being used here. It is entirely possible a graduate student could present valid concerns of the type being discussed here. I am saying that when faced with a litany of anonymous accusations on a website, someone may elect not to engage in an endless dispute with strangers who may or may not be qualified (forget I mentioned graduate students), and in a venue in which it might be difficult to have the proper discussion of the research, in part because most of the participants might not be entirely unbiased. The result of this lack of participation may be unfair. I feel a more official procedure would be more appropriate.

          • genetics October 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

            Generally, what you see on pubpeer are open scientific questions. Questions like “how come the same lanes appears twice, while the figure legends claim two different experiments?” So usually you don’t have anonymous accusations out of thin air. It is all based on data that the authors opted to publish, it is out there in the real world and of course it is open to discussion. It really doesn’t make much difference who points out the weaknesses of a paper.

            Some of the finger pointing I also find unsubstantiated, meaning I cannot really follow the reasoning of the peer. These instances quite often resolve themselves. Other peers (anonymous or not) dispute that the data looks fishy. Or the authors themsselves post the raw data in order to settle any questions.

            But you don’t need to be an expert in the field to know that what the authors claimed in the paper (different experiments shown) doesn’t hold due to the obvious reuse of images.

            A very different question ist who is responsible? Is it fraud or neglect or anything inbetween? This is something we (and pubpeer) should be careful with. In general, I do believe that the PI holds responsibility for anything that leaves his lab with his name on. He/she should know the blots and experiments, the raw data…….

            I think more questionable is the role of the University of Mississippi here. I agree that any job consequences should only arise after a thorough investigation. But that is really not the problem of peers (regardless of their position or standing!) discussing the science in a paper…..

          • Dave Langers October 26, 2014 at 7:00 pm

            “I don’t think a scientist should be obligated to argue with every grad student”. Perhaps not (although current authorship guidelines do state that you have to be willing to respond to inquiries; but I agree PubPeer isn’t an inquiry like that).
            However, if you have the time to start a lawsuit, you should have the time to respond to motivated factual allegations too. In my view, you can’t say you “can’t be bothered in science” if you “can be bothered in court”. Perhaps that is not your legal duty as a citizen, but it is your moral duty as a scientist.

          • FooBar October 26, 2014 at 9:50 pm

            A scientist should have no problem arguing the validity of his work with anybody. Note that we’re not talking about wild, incoherent accusations but factual ones.

            Maybe I am missing something, but why do you think the name or social status of the person asking the questions relevant?

    • herr doktor bimler October 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      It is entirely possible that the problems in his papers are due to actions by others working for him
      Within the legal complaint itself, Sarkar claims credit for his “prodigious” output; I assume that he also accepts responsibility for them.

    • Narad October 26, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      He deserves a thorough investigation, and the nature of Pubpeer makes this much more difficult.

      How? The very import of Sarkar’s lawsuit is that the scrutiny requisite for a thorough investigation never should have happened. It’s up to ORI to decide whether one is merited.

      • Kevin October 26, 2014 at 5:53 pm

        I don’t speak for Sarkar, and I certainly am not going to defend anything that shows up in his lawsuit. But surely there can be a better way for the scrutiny to occur. One place to start: people using their actual names when making these accusations, and preferably contacting Sarkar directly before going public.

        • herr doktor bimler October 26, 2014 at 6:09 pm

          I assume from your earlier comment that this ideal mechanism would show the full titles of people (as well as their names), to ensure that no-one wastes time “argu[ing] with every grad student”.

          • Narad October 26, 2014 at 10:27 pm

            I assume from your earlier comment that this ideal mechanism would show the full titles of people (as well as their names), to ensure that no-one wastes time “argu[ing] with every grad student”.

            Do you really want to invite the tedium of ORCID proselytizers?

        • Narad October 26, 2014 at 6:10 pm

          One place to start: people using their actual names when making these accusations, and preferably contacting Sarkar directly before going public.

          So, no collaborative scrutiny should occur unless each bit is run past Sarkar first? I’m having difficulty deriving any other outcome from this recipe. As for complaining about anonymity, it has a long and respected history.

      • Narad October 26, 2014 at 5:58 pm

        I should correct my previous comment: If the complaint is to the institution, that determination would be up to them. (I have had Andrew Wakefield’s recent complaint to the ORI on my mind; a quick review of Mauvais-Jarvis v. Wong, cited in Sarkar’s complaint, however reveals that Northwestern, e.g., has its own ORI.)

  • Leonid Schneider October 26, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Evidence somehow beating eminence, sad times for respectable and influential scientists like Sarkar 😉
    In the good olden days, those who knew what was wrong with a big-shot’s paper knew to keep quiet unless they wanted to see their careers, papers and funding squashed. Now every “grad student” can run a software for “peculiarities” (which journals somehow rarely wish to use) and expose anonymously on the internet a big-shot scientist whom they would normally be too afraid to breathe in the same room with. Where is the world coming to, with this PPPR…. 😉

  • ferniglab October 26, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    @Narad, basic problem, institutions generally sweep complaints under the carpet, they need the grant funding overheads. Journals, as @Scrutineer noted, often take no or little action. For the honest, this is not a issue, because when colleagues alert them to problems with their papers they investigate and then either correct or retract. However, for those with lower standards, they plough on regardless. Anonymity has a very long history and has been a key tool both in slandering the honest and in bringing the powerful and corrupt to heel – consider pamphleteers in the ~17 Century.
    @Kevin, people who work in PI’s research team are just that – members of a team, with the leader in front. In such a lab the PI is training graduate students and postdocs. In this culture bad practice is rooted out. Dishonest practice could well pass the PI by first time, but it will come to the notice of the PI and other members of the team, because the experiment is not reproducible. There is much that is not reproducible not due to dishonesty, but because of variability. This is unpublished in all labs, stuff we keep coming back to try to figure out the source of variability. However, and it is a BIG however, if the lab is a pyramid, with the boss at the top, then a culture develops where fraud breeds. New members either join or leave and this has been well documented here on RW.
    Pubpeer has been remarkably “clean” in the commenting and people have been very, very restrained – the anger is there, because dishonesty is apparently paying off, at least for some. Cracking the anonymity of commenters will reduce to amount of comments, though there is a way around that, it is too “heavy” for most of us. I stay anonymous on Pubpeer, not because I feel insecure, but because I wish to preserve the respectability of those who, by necessity of their precarious position, require anonymity.
    Is there a PubPeer legal fund we can chip into? Even if they are getting pro bono legal help, this might be a good time for some cash to head their way. If (as they should) win the case, they certainly deserve a beer at the community’s expense and the rest of the cash could be used to upgrade the site.

    • herr doktor bimler October 26, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      I would contribute to the Beer Fund if PopeHat gets involved and we are treated to a few more of Ken White’s trenchant choices of words.

    • Narad October 26, 2014 at 10:19 pm

      @Narad, basic problem, institutions generally sweep complaints under the carpet, they need the grant funding overheads. Journals, as @Scrutineer noted, often take no or little action.

      Sure, but my point was that here, public scrutiny seems to have been a prerequisite to so much as an inquiry. The weaknesses of that are pretty clear: “Institutions must keep sufficiently detailed documentation of inquiries to permit a later assessment by ORI of the reasons why the institution decided not to conduct an investigation.” 42 C.F.R. § 93.309(c) (emphasis added). But good- versus bad-faithiness doesn’t even arise until that point.

  • Potato Farmer October 26, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    This whistleblower’s hoping you don’t get a subpoena:

    Elio Vega Munguia is a published researcher from Mexican National University (2011):
    Visualization and 3D Reconstruction of Flame Cells of Taenia solium (Cestoda). PLoS ONE 6(3): e14754. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014754

    In October 2013 Mr. Vega published under his name A DIFFERENT article in Spanish with an English abstract, “Consejos para crear APPs de juegos exitosas en dispositivos móviles” (“Tips For Creating Successful Apps Games On Mobile Devices”).
    This article appears to be mostly a word for word TRANSLATION of an article by Jeana Lee Tahnk: “HOW TO: Create a Blockbuster Mobile App” published in Mashable on March 18, 2011.

    This is Ms. Tahnk second paragraph, written in 2011:
    “So, what exactly does it take to create a killer app? A good idea, focus, determination and lots of luck certainly help. But there are other factors that up-and-comers can glean from seasoned developers who have been there, done that, and done it well.
    I had the opportunity to speak with a handful of leading app developers in the mobile marketplace […] Here’s what they had to say.”

    This is Mr. Vega’s second paragraph from his English abstract, in 2013:
    “Well, but what needs to be done to create a successful application? : A good idea, focus, determination and … very lucky indeed. But there are several factors that people who do not know anything about programming or just starting to develop apps for mobile devices, can be collected from experienced developers who have already done this, and have done well.
    So then, basing on my experience, I give the following advices.”

    Mr. Vega version can be read and downloaded from Revista Digital Universitaria (OCLC Number: 643238832), a digital journal indexed by the Mexican equivalent of NSF (search for either the Spanish or English title, in quotes). Search both articles for “au contraire”.

    • Guido B October 31, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Wow, this is serious indeed… Not only does he appear to claim authorship of a translation of Jeana Tahnk’s article, he also seems to have systematically left out the attribution of ideas to the people who ms. Tahnk’s interviewed. For example, “…according to Jason Kapalka, co-founder and chief creative officer at PopCap Games, Inc. …” became “… according to the experience that has been gathered using multiple devices…” (Google’s translation).

  • herr doktor bimler October 27, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Is it relevant that when the diagrams published under his name were first criticized, Prof. Sankar was cc:ed into those critiques, but evidently did not think that they deserved a response? Does this bear upon his later claim that they impacted on his reputation?
    I am not really sure here whom he intends to sue. Is it the post-publication reviewers at Pubpeer? Or the unknown individual who forwarded them to various people at U.Miss and the National Center for Natural Products Research? It seems to be the latter individual who directly affected Sankar’s career, but there is no reason to believe that he or she was among the PubPeer commenters whom Sankar ignored at the time and now wishes to de-anonymise.

    I note in passing that the lawyer’s complaint does not present U. Miss in a good light.

    Walker wrote:
    At this point, we cannot go forward with an employment relationship with you and your group. With these allegations lodged in a public space and presented directly to colleagues here (I am not sure of the scope of the anonymous distribution), to move forward would jeopardize our research enterprise and my own credibility.

    This seems pusillanimous: “We cannot employ someone who has been criticized, and who is known to have been criticized.”
    OTOH, for Walker to venture an opinion into the *validity* of those criticisms (absent a full inquiry) would open a whole nother can of legal worms. And is it possible — question for the employment lawyers — that the initial offer of employment from U.Miss was conditional on full disclosure of any relevant issues? In which case, would Sankar’s failure to mention the PubPeer critiques be a breach of that condition?

    • SaG October 27, 2014 at 7:53 am

      I have heard these exact excuses from other scientists in a similar position. (http://www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday/201409/PresidentsMessage/)

    • Narad October 27, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      I am not really sure here whom he intends to sue. Is it the post-publication reviewers at Pubpeer? Or the unknown individual who forwarded them to various people at U.Miss and the National Center for Natural Products Research?

      Both, and whoever “had widely distributed – in mailboxes throughout the Medical Center there – a screen
      shot from PubPeer showing the search results and disclosing the number of comments generated
      for each research article listed on the page” (which, if substantiated as set forth in complaint ¶¶ 71–73, would easily rise to actual malice).

      This is the magic of a fishing expedition — sue everybody and make them sort it out.

    • CR October 31, 2014 at 11:16 am

      An important missing piece in this puzzle is summarised in the link given below:

      http://chemjobber.blogspot.ch/2014/10/someone-really-doesnt-like-fazlul-sarkar.html

      This is probably what sparked him into seeking lawyers,etc, and the person behind this carefully tailored campaign against him is most probably who he would really like to sue. I fear, however, that this person cannot be legally (he probably knows well the name but cannot prove it) reached by his splashy, expensive approach.

      • herr doktor bimler November 3, 2014 at 7:59 pm

        If there is any reason to link Sarkar’s enemy at Wayne State (who used images from PubPeer comments into defamatory documents and distributed them) with the PubPeer commenters themselves, his lawyer hasn’t bothered explaining it.
        And for the lawsuit to have any point, there would have to be some mechanism whereby knowledge of the commenters’ identities would enable Sarkar to identify and prove the guilt of defamation-distribution person. It’s hard to imagine such a mechanism, and again, his lawyer isn’t bothering to explain it.

  • Paul Brookes October 27, 2014 at 8:47 am

    There are 2 kinds of defense available here – back off and shut it down (like I did), or stand-your ground. The main issue with the second strategy is that it doesn’t work in isolation. You have to go on the offensive also. It is not enough to simply sit back and wait to see how deep your opponent’s pockets are – that’s a one way ticket to bankruptcy.

    The ideal solution here would be one of “safety in numbers”. If each of the commenters here at RW would simply go over to PubPeer, find one of the problem papers and cross-post the accusations to PubMedCommons, this legal problem would disappear. Nobody in their right mind would attempt to sue NCBI which owns the site. If 50 people took one paper each and all used their real names, what’s the combatant gonna do… launch 50 separate lawsuits? The danger to the individual from posting a single comment using their real name on a government owned website is utterly miniscule. This is a run-out-the-clock situation – make it so the combatant has no other option than to launch hundreds of individual lawsuits, costing lots of money. Eventually the legal bills will become too much to bear. Coupled with the resulting Streisand effect (which is already underway here at RW), it won’t take long.

    The other thing that needs to occur if it hasn’t already, is for the ORI to be informed. Once they get their (admittedly not very sharp) teeth into a case, the lawyers have a habit of backing off.

    • JATdS October 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Good points. I think it is extremely important, at this juncture, that an anonymous – or preferably a non-anonymous – representative from PubPeer come forward to RW to address a few lingering questions:

      a) How safe are commentators’ identities? If unsafe, what sort of personal information is at risk? IP addresses, names, security numbers? It is not absolutely clear, what exactly is at risk?
      b) How does this case affect US vs non-US commentators? How much reach does this, or any other lawyer, have in trying to prosecute each ” geographic type” of commentator?
      c) Why have small errors, like the discrepancy between actual number of comments and documented number of comments, not been corrected yet? One would think that when a lawyer points out such small, but clearly nagging problems, that PubPeer would put new comments on ice for a few days to resolve these issues.
      d) The fact that PubPeer apparently (from what I can discern from the lawyer’s document) wiped out several comments after the claim was brought forward, but has not archived them, or indicated clearly what it has removed, is of concern. This suggests something in PubPeer that exceeds moderation, or variable quality control. Commentators want to know that their comments, and thus intellectual contribution, is being respected, and preserved. What guarantees does PubPeer provide the scientific community of this?

      In general, I believe that it is going to be difficult – if not impossible – for Sarkar and his lawyer to try and prosecute commentators, because where does one draw the line? For example, one “apparently libelous” statement (libelous in my sense implying critical of his personal character through interpretation of his work, or research-related actions) = XYZ US$ compensation? Or is the only objective to try and smoke out the real-world names and identities? When they try to sift through this list, and hopefully the number of comments will increase at PubPeer now, it will be difficult to point the finger and to try and assign blame to those scientists who are practicing their “scientific amendment rights”.

      I think that the lawsuit is misdirected, although I should note that I know nothing about law. I comment only only what I see or perceive. Surely, the center of attention should be the employer or potential employer that rescinded the contract based on what only came to light at a later stage. In other words, a new employment contract appears to have been signed in GOOD FAITH. However, it appears as if Prof. Sarkar (actively, or mistakenly) forgot to bring up the issue of concerns in PubPeer about at least 50 of his publications. If so, then this is a serious miss by Prof. Sarker, and in that case, would the potential new employee be right to terminate such a contract? If in fact, Prof. Sarkar failed to declare this information, would that not in fact invalidate this entire legal challenge on PubPeer?

      Finally, where does the ORI stand on this case? I find it hard to believe that no investigation has been initiated, and I find it even harder to believe that ORI is unaware of such a high-profile case: it’s not as if we are referring to questions about 3 or 4 papers, we are talking about concerns in 50+ papers.

  • D Cameron October 27, 2014 at 11:56 am

    “He [Sarkar] received tenure from Mississippi on May 15, and submitted a resignation to Wayne State on May 19, with an anticipated start date at Mississippi of August 1”

    So did Wayne State accept or reject Mr. Sarkar’s alleged resignation letter? And who precisely at Wayne State made that decision?

  • Nate October 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    A lot of commentators seem to be debating the extent to which the corresponding author is (1) responsible for the content, and (2) is required to respond to criticism of the content. First, let me state that the corresponding author is ultimately accountable for all of the content in the paper. That, of course, does not mean that other authors don’t share responsibility and culpability for inaccuracies or fraud. But this debate seems to be skirting what I believe to be the real issue: data integrity.

    Academic and Industry labs tend to suffer from a lack of sufficient data integrity. There is low traceability, both in terms of experimentation and manipulation (even legitimate) of data. There are multiple programs that capture raw data, and track each individual manipulation. The fact that more unified standards of data integrity that take advantage of these systems have not been adopted by universities (and industry) is a failure of the principal investigators, the researchers, the institutes, and the journals themselves who don’t demand it. These tracking systems are not complicated, and on the contrary, make data more accessible in the long-term. Adoption of these systems would increase the responsibility for content mentioned above, and would make responding to criticism much easier. As several readers have pointed out, if raw data is produced for images, the criticism often vanishes when manipulations are legitimate or based on errors during preparation. If data was properly archived, retrieval of such images would be trivial.

    Regarding responsibilities to address criticism, no PI is required to engage in intellectual debates about their work (although it would obviously be beneficial for them to do so). However, everyone who publishes has a responsibility to produce raw data to anyone questioning the work. Again, if data is properly archived, this is not an unduly burdensome expectation.

    • tekija October 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      “I don’t think he has any obligation to provide the data [behind the papers called into question] to anyone other than a journal”

      Said the attorney of Dr Sarkar in Science News.

      • Leonid Schneider October 27, 2014 at 5:23 pm

        So this is where the legal argument will go: Sarkar’s publications were actually commercial/business transactions between him and the journals, and no-one else has any right to stick their noses into it. Sadly, with such a threat to Pubpeer and its commenters, this all is too serious to be laughed at.

        • Joe October 28, 2014 at 5:42 am

          Of note, an intellectual martial developed by an employee belongs to the Institute and are not private property of the employee

      • SaG October 27, 2014 at 8:29 pm

        If it was NIH funded research he is obliged to share the data.

        • herr doktor bimler October 27, 2014 at 8:46 pm

          Also a condition of publication for an increasing number of journals.

  • Jean October 27, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Am I the only one a bit disturbed by these two tweets by pubpeer that appear to have been deleted?

    http://imgur.com/GM8NaSe

    • CR October 28, 2014 at 4:53 am

      Other comments on Pubpeer suggest that originally there were many dozens of challenged papers by Sarkar on the website. A full list was originally provided somewhere. After this whole suing business it seemed to me that most posts on Sarkar’s papers and this full list were carefully removed, and some “Peer 0” comments imply that readers should loose interest in these papers.

    • Ivan Oransky October 29, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      Not sure where the idea they were deleted came from, they’re still there:

      https://twitter.com/PubPeer/status/478986396267737089
      https://twitter.com/PubPeer/status/480420894821842945

      • Jean October 31, 2014 at 10:46 am

        Strange, I found them originally just by searching “sarkar pubpeer” on twitter, but then searched in their twitter stream and they weren’t there. I stand corrected.

  • Paul Brookes October 27, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Another nugget from this case… The lawyers representing Sarkur are responsible for this rather amusing headline… http://www.michiganemploymentrights.com/2014/10/whistleblowers-are-key-to-promoting-corporate-transparency-and-accountability-at-home-and-abroad.shtml

    Apparently whistleblowers only matter when their actions facilitate someone bringing a lawsuit?

    • Scrutineer October 28, 2014 at 4:37 am

      And another nugget from the Intarwebs, this one commenting on how unfairly Sarkar has been treated. Seems to be an exciting new web resource set up in favour of non-PPPR. It appears to be the inverse of everything PubPeer and RW stand for. Ivan and Adam get star billing.

      http://scienceretractions.wordpress.com/

      Might this be an example of Newton’s 3rd Law at work? Even so, regarding the rise of PPPR, perhaps it is now a bit late to put the cat back in the bag?

  • Klaas van Dijk October 28, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I tend to think that Dr Sarkar and (some of) his co-authors (co-workers) are reading / following RW and that they will be aware of the figure which Scrutineer has presented in this thread. I tend to think that Dr Sarkar and (some of) his co-authors (co-workers) are also aware of the other figures prepared by Scrutineer in another thread at RW http://retractionwatch.com/2014/09/22/scientist-threatening-to-sue-pubpeer-claims-he-lost-a-job-offer-because-of-comments/
    .
    I would like to invite Dr Sarkar and/or his co-authors / co-workers to comment over here on the details of these figures of Scrutineer. Please inform all readers of RW as extensive as possible about any faults / errors made by Scrutineer during the preparation of all these figures. Thanks in advance for such a response.

    • JATdS October 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      The situation is much worse than I originally thought. I decided to explore the PubPeer comments in more detail over the past few days because there have been conflicting statements on PubPeer about the exact number of papers commented on. Below please find a more detailed summary of the first 8 papers listed at PubPeer. This may make facts easier to interpret and to centralize the information at RW. In total, I can identify 67 additional papers that have identified, with proof, concerns or errors in papers in which Prof. Fazlul H. Sarkar is a co-author. That would make, based on my best analysis and estimates, 75 papers with expressions of concern at PubPeer. This is therefore, no mere coincidence. One shoot take care, however, on the root “menu” page at PubPeer, since there are about a dozen papers that list other authors with the family name Sarkar, so please take note how to interpret the list. Most certainly, someone needs to compile information, as I have done for these 8 papers, and publish an open access compilation of all 75 papers being commented on at PubPeer. This is urgent and needs to be done ASAP.

      Very importantly, immediate attention of Prof. Sarkar’s co-authors and university colleagues should be drawn to these cases. So, too, should the publishers and editors of the journals that have published these papers, because there is a massive amount of cross-referencing and cross-checking that is required.

      Paper 1
      Zhiwei Wang1, Yuxiang Zhang2, Yiwei Li1, Sanjeev Banerjee1, Joshua Liao1 and Fazlul H. Sarkar1 (2006) Down-regulation of Notch-1 contributes to cell growth inhibition and apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells. Mol Cancer Ther 5; 483-493
      Author Affiliations: 1Department of Pathology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan and 2Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Capital University of Medical Science, Beijing, China
      doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-05-0299
      Received 8/3/05; revised 10/31/05; accepted 1/5/06. E-mail: sarkarf@karmanos.org
      “Grant support: National Cancer Institute, NIH grant 5R01CA101870-02 and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center subcontract award (F.H. Sarkar) through Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Pancreatic Cancer grant 1P20-CA010193-01 (J. Abbruzzese).” It is unclear why the grant to Dr. Abbruzzese is being acknowledged if he is not an author of the paper.
      PubPeer entry: https://pubpeer.com/publications/8EB4592F23B61CC3EE7CF29A7522AF
      Claims being made: Comments relate to concerns about Fig. 1D, 5, 6A-C, 7E, 8D. One of the claims is that Fig. 6D has striking similarity to Fig. 3A of Paper 2, while Fig. 8A is also strikingly similar to Fig. 5A of Paper 3. Finally, Fig. 7B is strikingly similar to Fig. 5A of Paper 2.
      There are only 4 factual comments relating to the papers. The other two comments pertain to the frequency of appearance of Sarkar on PubPeer while the sixth comment makes the suggestion that all concerned journals should be contacted. Comments date from November 9, 2013 to August 3, 2014. PubPeer incorrectly states (top page) that there are 18 comments (where are the remaining 12?).

      Paper 2
      Zhiwei Wang1, Radha Sengupta3, Sanjeev Banerjee1, Yiwei Li1, Yuxiang Zhang4, K.M. Wahidur Rahman1, Amro Aboukameel2, Ramzi Mohammad2, Adhip P.N. Majumdar3, James L. Abbruzzese5, and Fazlul H. Sarkar1 (2006) Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor–Related Protein Inhibits Cell Growth and Invasion in Pancreatic Cancer. Cancer Res August 1, 2006 66; 7653
      Author Affiliations
      1Departments of Pathology and 2Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University; 3Department of Internal Medicine, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Detroit, Michigan; 4Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Capital University of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China; and 5Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
      doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-06-1019
      http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/15/7653; http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/15/7653.full.pdf+html (full text, open access)
      Received 3/20/2006; revised 5/8/2006; accepted 5/24/2006. E-mail: fsarkar@med.wayne.edu.
      “Grant support: National Cancer Institute/NIH grant 1R01CA101870-02 (F.H. Sarkar) and subcontract award (F.H. Sarkar) from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center through a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence grant SP20C A 101936-02 on pancreatic cancer awarded to James Abbruzzese. The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked advertisement in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact. We thank Carrie Koerner for editorial assistance and the Puschelberg Foundation for their generous contribution.”
      PubPeer entry: https://pubpeer.com/publications/7EF6F12D84A3BC8F98FC8809FD4FD1
      Claims being made: Apart from the claim of similarity between Fig. 6D of Paper 1 and Fig. 3A of this paper, there are also concerns with Fig. 2C, 4, 5C, and 6C.

      Paper 3
      Zhiwei Wang, Yuxiang Zhang, Sanjeev Banerjee, Yiwei Li and Fazlul H. Sarkar (2006) Notch-1 down-regulation by curcumin is associated with the inhibition of cell growth and the induction of apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells. Cancer 106(11):2503-2513
      Received September 6, 2005; revision received December 19, 2005; accepted January 11, 2006. Article first published online: 20 APR 2006; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.21904
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.21904/abstract
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.21904/pdf (full text, open access)
      Affiliations and e-mail contact: as for Paper 1.
      “Supported in part by grants from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (Grant 5R01CA101870-02, to F.H.S.) and in part by a subcontract award (F.H.S.) from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center through a grant from the Specialized Program of Research Excellence (grant 1P20-CA010193-01) on pancreatic cancer awarded to James Abbruzzese.” It is unclear why the grant to Dr. Abbruzzese is being acknowledged if he is not an author of the paper.
      The link from the criticisms in Paper 1 to the comments on and critique of this paper is dead: https://pubpeer.com/publications/16628653 and is redirected to another page on “recent comments”. This is problematic for PubPeer as it reduces confidence in the reliability of the site and the comments.

      Paper 4
      Jun Xia 1, Youjian Li 2, Qingling Yang 3, Chuanzhong Mei 1, Zhiwen Chen 1, Bin Bao 4, Aamir Ahmad 4, Lucio Miele 5, Fazlul H Sarkar 4, Zhiwei Wang 1,6,*. 2012. Arsenic Trioxide Inhibits Cell Growth and Induces Apoptosis through Inactivation of Notch Signaling Pathway in Breast Cancer. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 13, no. 8: 9627-9641.
      1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bengbu Medical College, Bengbu 233030,China;
      2 Laboratory Medicine, Taixing People’s Hospital, Taizhou 225400, China;
      3 Research Center of Clinical Laboratory Science, Bengbu Medical College, Bengbu 233030, China;
      4 Department of Pathology and Oncology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201, USA;
      5 University of Mississippi Cancer Institute, 2500 N State St, Jackson, MS 39216, USA;
      6 Department of Pathology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA
      Corresponding author: Zhiwei Wang: zwang6@bidmc.harvard.edu
      Funding: “This work was supported by funding from the NSFC (81172087) and the Natural Science Research key Project of Education Office of Anhui Province (KJ2012A196).” However, there are multiple authors and 6 affiliations but who the funding actually belongs to is not specified. This is problematic, I believe.
      PubPeer entry: https://pubpeer.com/publications/87FC275FD77976DE36E4A0267B4119
      Claims being made: There were concerns about Fig 5. Comments span from October 17, 2013 to October 19, 2014.
      An erratum was published: http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/15/8/14907
      It states: “The authors wish to change Figure 5D of the paper published in IJMS [1]. In Figure 5D, the bands for NF-κB and Bcl-2 are similar with Notch-1 bands. The authors have carefully checked the original files and found that it is an inadvertent mistake in the published version of Figure 5D. Figure 5 is revised as follows. The authors would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused to the readers by these changes.”
      It is not clear if the PubPeer comments had any influence on the issuing of this erratum.
      Reference to an erratum in another paper (Paper 5) indicates that moderation and quality control at PubPeer is in fact, sub-optimal.

      Paper 5
      Dejuan Kong, Elisabeth Heath, Wei Chen, Michael Cher, Isaac Powell, Lance Heilbrun, Yiwei Li, Shadan Ali, Seema Sethi, Oudai Hassan, Clara Hwang, Nilesh Gupta, Dhananjay Chitale, Wael A Sakr, Mani Menon, Fazlul H Sarkar (2012) Epigenetic silencing of miR-34a in human prostate cancer cells and tumor tissue specimens can be reversed by BR-DIM treatment. Am J Transl Res 4(1):14-23.
      Departments of Pathology, 1Oncology, 2Urology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan; Departments of 3Oncology, 4Pathology, 5Urology, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI, USA
      Received November 30, 2011; accepted December 21, 2011; Epub January 5, 2012; Published January 15, 2012
      “This work was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, NIH (5R01CA108535-06 and 5R01CA083695-09 to FHS, and Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA-22453).”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275434/
      http://www.ajtr.org/files/AJTR1111004.pdf
      PubPeer entry: https://pubpeer.com/publications/3A850CD8D5CCA59AC351D40EAE386F
      Claims being made: There were concerns about Fig 5. Comments span from October 11, 2013 to October 27, 2014.
      An erratum was published: http://www.ajtr.org/files/ajtr1310005.pdf. The erratum pertains to Figure 4.
      Reference to this erratum was made erroneously by a commentator on another PubPeer entry (https://pubpeer.com/publications/87FC275FD77976DE36E4A0267B4119), related to another paper, serving only to cause confusion among readers at PubPeer.
      There is no affiliation for Seema Sethi, Oudai Hassan. This is of concern. What was the function of these two authors in this research and why has no address been published with their names?

      Paper 6
      Bin Bao1, Shadan Ali2, Sanjeev Banerjee1, Zhiwei Wang1, Farah Logna1, Asfar S. Azmi1, Dejuan Kong1, Aamir Ahmad1, Yiwei Li1, Subhash Padhye3, Fazlul H. Sarkar1,2 (2012) Curcumin Analogue CDF Inhibits Pancreatic Tumor Growth by Switching on Suppressor microRNAs and Attenuating EZH2 Expression. Cancer Research 72; 335-345
      doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-2182
      “This work was financially supported by Puschelberg and Guido Foundations; National Cancer Institute, NIH grants 5R01CA131151, 3R01CA131151-02S1, 5R01CA132794, and 1R01CA154321-01A1 (F.H. Sarkar). The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked advertisement in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact. Received June 29, 2011; revised October 12, 2011; accepted October 30, 2011; published OnlineFirst November 22, 2011.”
      http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/72/1/335.full.pdf+html
      PubPeer entry: https://pubpeer.com/publications/2D67107831BCCB85BA8EC45A72FCEF
      Claims being made: Claims apparent band re-use in two separate 2012 papers.

      Paper 7
      Yiwei Li1, Dejuan Kong1, Zhiwei Wang1, Aamir Ahmad1, Bin Bao1, Subhash Padhye2, Fazlul H. Sarkar1 (2011) Inactivation of AR/TMPRSS2-ERG/Wnt Signaling Networks Attenuates the Aggressive Behavior of Prostate Cancer Cells. Cancer Prev Res 4; 1495-1506; doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-11-0077
      http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/9/1495.full.pdf+html
      “This study was supported by National Cancer Institute, NIH (5R01CA108535 to F.H. Sarkar). The Guido and Puschelberg Foundation provided generous contribution for the completion of this study. The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked advertisement in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact. Received February 7, 2011; revised May 4, 2011; accepted May 26, 2011; published OnlineFirst June 16, 2011.”
      PubPeer entry: https://pubpeer.com/publications/0323CD06790C46D0EFFD75D0413971
      Claims being made: Raises concerns with Fig. 1, 3, 4 and 6.

      Paper 8
      Zhiwei Wang, Aamir Ahmad, Sanjeev Banerjee, Asfar Azmi, Dejuan Kong, Yiwei Li, Fazlul H. Sarkar (2010) FoxM1 is a Novel Target of a Natural Agent in Pancreatic Cancer. Pharmaceutical Research June 2010, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 1159-1168
      http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11095-010-0106-x
      DOI: 10.1007/s11095-010-0106-x
      Not open access, so no other details could be obtained such as submission dates, etc.
      PubPeer entry: https://pubpeer.com/publications/0189A776A6094A60759DB718F9C535
      Claims being made: Raises concerns that bands in Fig. 3A show similarities with bands in Fig 1B of a 2011 paper:
      Zhiwei Wang, Yiwei Li, Aamir Ahmad, Sanjeev Banerjee, Asfar S. Azmi, Dejuan Kong, Christine Wojewoda, Lucio Miele and Fazlul H. Sarkar (2011) Down-regulation of Notch-1 is associated with Akt and FoxM1 in inducing cell growth inhibition and apoptosis in prostate cancer cells. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry Volume 112, Issue 1, pages 78–88
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jcb.22770/abstract

      Notes:
      1) Papers 1-3 were all published in 2006. Consequently, the submission and acceptance dates need to be carefully examined.
      2) In Papers 1 and 3, it is unclear why the grant to Dr. Abbruzzese is being acknowledged if he is not an author of these papers.
      3) Papers 1, 2, 6 and 7 are published by the American Association for Cancer Research while Paper 3 is published by the American Cancer Society. Paper 4 is published by MDPI. Paper 5 is published by e-Century Publishing. Paper 8 is published by Springer Science + Business Medium.
      4) Why has Prof. Sarkar not only used two different names, but also two different e-mail addresses as corresponding author?

      • JATdS October 28, 2014 at 1:12 pm

        That said, I believe that there is one error on PubPeer related to Prof. Sarkar and/or one of his papers.
        https://pubpeer.com/publications/ECBEA0A5F331EF8316EE4BA65D1568 lists a paper about Azmi et al. in Oncogene (2011), but not a single comment actually indicates what is wrong about that paper. Instead, there appears to be a rather personal back and forth between a critic and someone defending Prof. Sarkar. Unless that entry actually refers to specific factual problems, I think PubPeer would do well in removing that entry. But then, would it be correct to also remove the comments, too?

        • Scrutineer October 28, 2014 at 4:50 pm

          JATdS, regarding the Oncogene 2011 paper, remember that Peer 0 has deleted some comments for some of the Sarkar papers. That discourse now makes no sense. This is almost certainly because one or more of the first comments have been deleted. As it stands, I have no idea if there are any identifiable problems with the paper. (I haven’t looked hard it at myself.)

      • Marco October 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm

        Re point 2: Abbruzzese got the money, Sarkar was hired, and he and his team did the actual research. Abbruzzese thus did not deserve the role as author, but the project was performed using the grant he received and therefore needs to be acknowledged.

        • JATdS October 28, 2014 at 1:49 pm

          So, are you suggesting that funding for one purpose is being used for another purpose? I thought that acknowledgement to funds had to be specific for specific individuals that are directly related to that research. In other words, I could interpret this in two ways, and both interpretations could be wrong (but remain valid until we get an explanation from the authors): a) Abbruzzese should have been a co-author, but was not; b) should Abbruzzese’s funding which was probably received for Abbruzzese’s research, have been used by other laboratory members, including Prof. Sarkar, if Abbruzzese was not actually doing any reseach that used that funding? Another optiion cold be that the Acknowledgements was badly phrased.

          • Narad October 28, 2014 at 2:40 pm

            Another optiion cold be that the Acknowledgements was badly phrased.

            A further option would be simply looking up the grant. It’s a SPORE grant, so it’s for the entire program.

      • Narad October 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm

        There is no affiliation for Seema Sethi, Oudai Hassan. This is of concern. What was the function of these two authors in this research and why has no address been published with their names?

        Read the affliations more carefully: those without explicit notes are in the Wayne State pathology department.

        • JATdS October 28, 2014 at 6:56 pm

          Please indicate the exact page that states that. I have rechecked both the original AMTR PDF file and NCBI entry, and I simply cannot find any explanation for the affiliations “without explicit notes”. As for the SPORE grant, thanks for the clarification. That puts one peripheral doubt to rest.

          • Narad October 29, 2014 at 1:51 am

            Please indicate the exact page that states that.

            It’s not in the AJTR author instructions. I am disinclined to scour their TOCs in order to ferret out whether they even have a consistent style, given that it takes seconds to verify that the assertion is correct.

        • Narad October 28, 2014 at 8:00 pm

          Allow me to be more specific: In addition to Sethi and Hassan, there is also “no affiliation” for Kong, Li, Sakr, and Sarkar.

      • tekija October 28, 2014 at 3:34 pm

        I suspect that the discrepancy between shown and existing numbers of comments, dead links etc stem from the comments abruptly retracted after publication. The system may not have been programmed to allow such an event, which thus would necessitate manual corrections to the underlying database, which may not be easy to make.

      • Narad October 28, 2014 at 7:50 pm

        4) Why has Prof. Sarkar not only used two different names, but also two different e-mail addresses as corresponding author?

        JATdS, could you identify the two different E-mail addresses? I didn’t see them in your comment, but it can be hard to parse a wall of mainly copied and pasted text.

        As for the “different names,” it’s not so uncommon as to demand some sort of explanation. A keen manuscript editor might notice a discrepancy with the references and ask whether it should be changed to the more common form, but one might want to keep in mind that if somebody else has written the bulk of a paper on which one is a coauthor, such purely syntactic matters (I would include here canonicalization of affiliations) may not be what one is really attending to when reviewing the content.

        • JATdS October 29, 2014 at 4:02 am

          Sure, for example, compare paper 1 vs paper 2, both published in 2006, when Sarkar was in the exact same research institutes:
          In Paper 1: sarkarf@karmanos.org
          In Paper 2: fsarkar@med.wayne.edu
          As for the name, irrespective of a journal or editor’s personal preferences or policies, a scientist should strive for consistency throughout their literature.

          • Narad October 29, 2014 at 8:23 pm

            OK, thanks. He actually listed both on this paper. I’m not seeing how this is a big deal.

    • Scrutineer October 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Thank you Klaas! Perhaps of interest, the image of many coloured arrows posted above has made a soft focus cameo appearance at the widely read blog “In the Pipeline”. As a consequence, I can’t get out of my mind the spectre of thousands of chemists now being utterly baffled by the mysteriously molecular biological dark arts of Western Blotting 😉

      http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2014/10/27/fazlul_sarkar_subpoenas_pubpeer.php

      The figures so far being highlighted in the RW comments by Scrutineer were in papers published a few years ago. Normally the ORI has a six year limitation on what they will investigate. So, while the 2005-2008 Notch-1 period proved unusually fertile for when I had my figure-sleuthing hat on (and plenty of that stuff was not yet on PubPeer), these issues might never feature in an institutional investigation. That’s not good people. Perhaps we should be focussing on more recent papers?

      Today’s more modern example (comfortably within ORI timeframe of interest) was first commented at PubPeer by John or Jane Doe on October 19th, 2013.

      http://pubpeer.com/publications/A3845DA138FC83780CB5071ED74AEC

      How time flies. The image below adds a little more to what has so far been shown in that link

      http://i.imgur.com/VxHU8Ro.png

      • Ryan October 31, 2014 at 10:09 am

        “Normally the ORI has a six year limitation on what they will investigate.”

        Please note that there are EXCEPTIONS about the ORI’s 6-year statute of limitations as Alan Price mentioned in RW on May 30, 2014 at 10:53 pm:
        (http://retractionwatch.com/2014/05/29/science-retracts-two-papers-for-image-manipulation/#more-20695)

        “Sec. 93.105 Time limitations.
        (a) Six-year limitation. This part applies only to research misconduct occurring within six years of the date HHS or an institution receives an allegation of research misconduct.

        (b) Exceptions to the six-year limitation. Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply in the following instances:
        (1) Subsequent use exception. The respondent continues or renews any incident of alleged research misconduct that occurred before the six-year limitation through the citation, republication or other use for the potential benefit of the respondent of the research record that is alleged to have been fabricated, falsified, or plagiarized.
        (2) Health or safety of the public exception. If ORI or the institution, following consultation with ORI, determines that the alleged misconduct, if it occurred, would possibly have a substantial adverse effect on the health or safety of the public.
        (3) ‘Grandfather’ exception. If HHS or an institution received the allegation of research misconduct before thettp://retractionwatch.com/2014/05/29/science-retracts-two-papers-for-image-manipulation/#more-20695

        • Ryan October 31, 2014 at 10:12 am

          (3) ‘Grandfather’ exception. If HHS or an institution received the allegation of research misconduct before the effective date of this part.”

  • Morty October 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Due to the long list of published papers with major irregularities, I did send my concerns two times to Wayne State University administration. They did not even respond by a formal acceptance of the e-mail. I hereby encourage all readers of RW and PubPeer to send concerns, if possible with illustrations, to Wayne State University administration, to the NIH and to the members of the House of Representants of Science and Technology (please see the following link for e-mail addresses):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_Committee_on_Science,_Space_and_Technology).

    We definitively need a THOROUGH INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION of this case and some other similar cases (e.g. B.B.A….), to the best for science and for the safety of patients.

    • Tom October 28, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      I only gave you a thumbs-down because I don’t believe we should ask the House Science and Technology committee to do, well, anything really.

  • maria October 28, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Out of curiosity: has RetractionWatch ever been sued? Thanks for any clarification.

    • maria October 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      Let me explain why I ask: i commented on this site and while my comments are not, IMO, particularly critical or problematic (and never related to this specific case which is outside of my area) the site has some of my information. Perhaps I am the only person worried about the potential fallout from this legal challenge, but I doubt it.

      • maria October 28, 2014 at 6:47 pm

        As far as I can tell, RetractionWatch has not been sued though some threats had been made in the past. I am sorry if my question was somehow inappropriate (or off-topic).

        • JATdS October 28, 2014 at 7:19 pm

          Maria, your question is perfectly valid because there is a culture of intimidation by those in power across the globe meant explicitly to silence the voice of those who complain, who speak out or who rebel. So don’t be put off by the number of thumbs-down and if you have a thought to share, do so fearlessly: don’t be intimidated by the bullies. Making public criticisms of Prof. Sarkar’s papers is perfectly valid, as are analysis and discussion of his career, and science-related activities, such as editorial positions, public interviews, etc. Those who seek to stifle dissent, and valid criticism, may win the near-term battle by spending millions (simply because they can spend millions!) in prosecution fees to smother dissatisfied voices, but in the long-run, they will lose the war. Because the spring of discontent has settled upon the globe, and is here to stay, and that discontinuity between the haves (or the haves which obtained what they have unfairly) and the have-nots runs deep in science, and society.

          Scientists who are concerned about issues in the literature have great reason to fear, because we are the “hunted” minority, even though perceptions are created, as by Sarkar and his lawyer, that it is in fact the opposite that is true (although, as I indicate above, some element of truth in some of their claims). And this can be explained quite simply by the traditional peer review: when submitting to a paper, do you not answer the peer reviewers’ comments or editors’ comments if you want your paper published? So, PPPR simply raises questions that were clearly amiss in the pre-publication peer review, nothing else. The only difference is that the number of peers is unlimited and their identities can be known, or unknown. The very thought of this open-ended “peer review” is frightening to most scientists, I guess, because it means that they will potentially be under scrutiny forever, possibly even past their grave. Which would make this period of scrutiny one of the most revolutionary in science history. So, fear not, because you are now part of one of science’s great revolutionary moments.

    • Ivan Oransky October 29, 2014 at 1:08 am

      Retraction Watch has never been sued. We have had several vague legal threats. These two are representative:
      http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/11/dr-bharat-aggarwals-attorneys-make-bumptious-legal-threats-against-retraction-watch-blog/
      http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/23/today-in-unusually-stupid-legal-threats-you-cant-write-about-me-because-of-your-blogs-name/

      We are confident that shield laws, as we note in the post, protect us against ever having to reveal any information about our commenters, whom we treat as confidential journalistic sources.

      • aceil October 29, 2014 at 3:28 am

        “…….whom we treat as confidential journalistic sources.”

        What a clarification. Thank you Retraction Watch.

      • Toby White October 29, 2014 at 12:08 pm

        “our commenters, whom we treat as confidential journalistic sources.”

        I wonder if that’s really the best approach. Journalistic privilege is a complicated subject, because there’s a lot to be said on both sides. However, whatever the boundaries may be, this is the first time I’ve seen a blanket privilege extended to a whole class of people who have not even requested confidentiality and/or have no need of it. Many commentators on this site are easy enough to identify, mostly because they aren’t trying to be anonymous. The risk in claiming an over-inclusive privilege is that the legal system will then determine its own place to draw the line, a place which will not necessarily reflect the representations you may make to sources. is putting their name

        Maybe it would be better, for example, to allow commenters to opt out of disclosure. That may be an easier position for journalists to defend. It also tells the reader whether someone is putting their name where their mouth is, so to speak. Don’t misunderstand me. Anonymous comments absolutely have a critical place in the blogosphere. My concern is that we may lose that resource if journalists get unreasonable and hyper-aggressive about it.

        Ordinary, day-to-day business confidentiality is one thing; but there ought to be some, more special reason before someone should be able to thumb their nose at a valid subpoena. Sure, the particular subpoena we’re discussing looks bad. However, it is much easier to quash such a subpoena if the recipient has a limited, articulated reason for withholding information and isn’t just claiming blanket immunity from judicial process.

  • Klaas van Dijk October 30, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Scrutineer, I tend to think that chemists and others who follow the weblog columns of Derek Lowe can easily judge your nice illustration ( http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2014/10/27/fazlul_sarkar_subpoenas_pubpeer.php ). Some of their comments:

    Vader (#7): “I’m going to guess the John and Jane Doe plaintiffs will never be identified, and that Sarkar and his lawyers will be lucky if that is the outcome. Because if a real defendant is ever brought into court, it’s going to become a question of whether the statements the defendant made were objectively false and defamatory, and … geez, look at the figures!”

    Ted (#14): “Given the relative crudeness of the alleged data falsification, it is hard to see how this will turn out well for Sarkar. I don’t understand why he is pursuing it.”

    Reed (#30): “If anonymous rebuttals are scientifically invalid, they will have little weight; and if they are scientifically sound, they will be taken seriously. I think it is telling that the criticisms of Sarkar’s papers are being taken very seriously – seriously enough to cost him a job.”

    SP (#1): “I just don’t get who thought they’d get away with something this obvious. I mean, there are more advanced photoshop techniques like rubber stamp tool, noise generation, blur, etc. that can be picked up by an expert who examines individual pixel patterns, but the things here are obvious to the naked eye.”

    Derek Lowe himself: “Let’s be real – a university does not suddenly throw the brakes on a big tenured hire just because of a bunch of misty allegations and unsourced grumbing. No, one of the comments at Retraction Watch provides an example (at left) of the sort of thing that appears to be at the root of the problem, (…)”

    Scrutineer (and others), great work and please continue with your investigations.

    • Scrutineer October 30, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      @Klaas – In the Pipeline has now followed up by posting an article “Down with the Western Blot?”

      http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2014/10/30/down_with_the_western_blot.php

      The comments are really quite thoughtful.

      As has often been discussed, simply posting high resolution gel originals in the supplements would stop most of the nonsense. Several journals do now require originals in the supplements and are to be thanked for this. But there are two recurring problems with these supplements.

      1. They are NEVER high resolution i.e. the original un-downsized and unadulterated image file or something equivalent to it (e.g. scanned at appropriately high resolution from a film in a lab ring binder folder).

      2. Disturbingly often, they ain’t nothing like an original gel-based image.

      As is increasingly the case nowadays, PubPeer provides an appropriate example

      http://pubpeer.com/publications/8CA4CBD749CF518FC917985AAE1736

  • Anon October 30, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I read through the complaint filed in Michigan Circuit Court by Prof. Sarkar’s lawyer off the link provided at the top by RW. I do not know how legal complaints go, but it seems to be replete with assumptions, presumptions and accusations at PubPeer reviewers. And the section on this alleged forged letter of an Iowa Senator leaves us scratching our heads. I work at the Cancer Institute where Prof. Sarkar works, and I have never heard of anyone receiving such a letter in our mail boxes. If it came by mass mail, it should have raised red-flags at the central mail facility-and they should have been able to track the sender down. If the lawyer is referring to mail boxes at the Pathology Dept – Prof. Sarkar’s primary Dept., we still should have heard about it, although everyone at the University is quite tight-lipped about the whole thing. If it was a mass e-mail, we should have seen it, and it should have been a simple matter for the University’s IT folks to track the sender down. If true, it is a pretty infantile thing to do – impersonating a Senator is a dangerous thing!

  • aceil October 31, 2014 at 4:34 am

    If the statements were mere scientific discussions between scientists exchanging opinion about the validity of data which is a matter of public interest, the only expected outcome would be ( in my humble opinion) a Striesand effect and an official investigation involving expert witness testimonies.

  • YouKnowBestOfAll November 1, 2014 at 4:25 am

    This case illustrates most of the current problems with academic publishing:

    1) Should the academic publishing be subject to public scrutiny, given that it is based mainly on public grants? (or is it entirely and solely academia’s own business, i.e. self-regulation)
    2) Who should investigate the cases of possible authors’ misconduct? (the authors’ institutions, or the editor, or the publisher, or an independent body)
    3) Who will be held accountable for NOT Doing_the_Right_Thing in cases of misconduct? (the authors, or the authors’ institutions, or the editor, or the publisher, or all of them jointly)
    4) What will be the remedy in cases of misconduct? (i.e. fraud, attempted fraud and general dishonesty in obtaining gain from or causing a loss to a commonwealth entity)

    This is not anymore about “Leave it to us, the academia is self-cleansing”.
    It’s time for a COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF THE WHOLE SYSTEM!

    • herr doktor bimler November 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      One is not allowed to criticized any one

      So instead of people searching for this pianist’s name [if in Europe] and being directed to a negative review, they will be directed to the pianist’s legal attempt to have his negative review forgotten. Well done sir!

  • Michael November 2, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    A few weeks ago, the White House requested input from the scientific community on ways to crack-down on irreproducibility in scientific research – biomedical research in particular. I wrote the WH indicating there should be Federal support and backing for entities such as Retraction Watch and PubPeer, and for increased funding for NIH/ORI. I think next time such a request comes along, all like-minded folks in the research community should provide input to the WH so that the lawmakers know there is there is serious backing by the scientists themselves for reducing issues related to reproducibility.
    Old timers on this forum will remember how ORI went after MIT over research irregularities, and how they forced NIH to gut the indirect cost structure over the Stanford Yacht business. Current ORI is a ghost of its former self – when research issues are reported to them, they in turn, turn it over to the respective university to investigate, and things usually go nowhere. The old ORI had the funds and the backing of John Dingell, the powerful US congressman from Michigan. In a strange twist of fate, this is now happening right in his backyard. The old ORI would have made very short work of this lawsuit and the irregularities in the publications.
    In this forum or another, someone remarked that PubPeer and Retraction Watch are two of the best things to happen to scientific publishing; I agree, despite all the birthing hiccups we see now.

  • anon November 18, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Kevin
    I’m repeating myself so I won’t comment after this one. My objections are entirely unrelated to whether or not the allegations are true or not (this is not my area), but rather the procedure being used here. It is entirely possible a graduate student could present valid concerns of the type being discussed here. I am saying that when faced with a litany of anonymous accusations on a website, someone may elect not to engage in an endless dispute with strangers who may or may not be qualified (forget I mentioned graduate students), and in a venue in which it might be difficult to have the proper discussion of the research, in part because most of the participants might not be entirely unbiased. The result of this lack of participation may be unfair. I feel a more official procedure would be more appropriate.

    He has a point. This is why court cases in most all countries do operate quite differently from an online forum free-for-all. In particular there is the presence of a judge who is supposed to assure some level of fairness in the proceedings. There is also an oral back and forth which allows the accused (or his lawyers) to quickly respond to misrepresentations before they are endlessly expanded upon. Further, the accused does not have to respond to potentially hundreds of anonymous accusations which may be based on false information. Sardar should be able to respond to accusations a setting where some level of fairness is assured. If Sardar is truly guilty, then a guilty verdict handed down by a jury of his peers in a courtroom-type setting would mean a lot more to the scientific community than a hodgepodge of mudslinging accusations from anonymous posters (like this one) made to a web site.

    • Narad November 18, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      If Sardar is truly guilty, then a guilty verdict handed down by a jury of his peers in a courtroom-type setting would mean a lot more to the scientific community than a hodgepodge of mudslinging accusations from anonymous posters (like this one) made to a web site.

      How would voir dire work? The issuance of summonses?

      • anon November 18, 2014 at 8:26 pm

        Narad,

        I’m not sure what you’re suggesting; perhaps I could clarify. Nobody is saying that a Univ of Miss “trial” must exactly mirror U.S. courtroom procedures. However, some of the same concepts regarding fairness should be present. I suspect that such procedures are already in place in Oxford, and should be utilized. Trial by internet forum is not generally how issues of misconduct are handled by universities, nor should it be.

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.