PubPeer Selections: PubPeer comments lead to Science correction; crystal structure in triplicate

pubpeerHere’s another installment of PubPeer Selections:

  • “Hello. I am the first author and thank you for pointing out this issue,” writes an author of a Science paper. “Since your posts, we have carefully investigated what happened. During preparation of multiple drafts and revisions I inadvertently used the same image twice.” The author continues: “I hope this clarifies the mistake for which I deeply apologize. My co-authors and I will bring your concern and our response to the attention of Science and provide a correction.”
  • “Despite the tone of your message, I will tell you that your work and your contributions to this field as well as your comments are much appreciated by myself and my research group.” Readers can judge the tone of the comment for themselves, but an author of the critiqued paper gives a thorough response.
  • “The single crystal structure reported in this paper was previously published. Twice.”
  • Figures in a PLOS Genetics paper about a “Dark Knight” draw scrutiny.
  • Commenters disagree on whether bands have been duplicated in a FASEB Journal paper.

20 thoughts on “PubPeer Selections: PubPeer comments lead to Science correction; crystal structure in triplicate”

  1. In two papers from Luca Scorrano’s lab an image was inadvertently and entirely accidentally rotated, contrast-enhanced and copy-pasted. Happens to all of us all the time, doesn’t it? The papers in question appeared not somewhere, but in Nature and Science, who fully accept this ridiculous explanation for duplication. Shows what’s wrong in research in the nutshell.

    1. ACS Nano has an impact factor of 12 (!). Even if one may ask if high IF of bio- and nanotechnology journals are justified at all, one would assume a certain level of seriousness. But no, they weren’t bothered with being entirely out of their element. What next? A ACS Nano paper on iPS generation using telepathic brainwaves (in nanometer wavelength range)?

      1. After some point, the probability of a paper being correct decreases with the impact factor of the journal it was published in.

        1. Actually, it may be the case. Small impact-factor journals, not only “predatory” ones, do publish lots of unreliable bold claims as well, which however can be easily found out as such, due to their poor data. This was the case with Obokata-Vacanti first STAP paper, in Tissue Engineering Part A. With the “Big ones”, the data must appear very solid and very convincing, and Obokata did put a huge “creative” effort into her next Nature double-paper. The ACS Nano looks like it was a big effort of a kind as well.

          1. That’s why I wrote “after some point”. Low-impact journals have a lot of incorrect stuff because nobody cares and high-impact journals are bad because people cheat and oversell, and because referees are typically bigshots who don’t have time and are too disconnected from actual research to qualify as expert referees.

    2. Important notice: the authors do not reprogram cells by EM field alone, they claim EM fields tremendously enhance iPS-reprogramming by OKSM/Yamanaka factors/4-gene (which is normally rather low-efficiency and relatively stochastic)

  2. The “Dark Knight” paper is one of a group of eight that have been tagged in PubPeer for image questions, all with the same two last authors – Irene and Kenneth Soderhall.

    1. I’ve been a little slow to pick up on the PLOS Genetics Dark Knight paper with the PubPeer link above.

      Don’t people realise that the Joker has taken over Bruce Wayne’s research program??? With the Dark Knight in such a diminished state, Gotham City will be in great danger 🙁

      A glimmer of hope has been provided by award winning journalist Vicki Vale (aka Peer 1). She has called out figures 2,3,5,6,7,8,s3 and s4. As might be expected from the Joker, that’s most of them.

      Rarely have the following apparent manipulations been seen in such manifold abundance. I think I see flipping gel slices; pasting the same band; reusing lanes with the same background in the same gels; rampant use of the cloning tool in the same gels; flipping cloned elements in the same gel; creation of false gel lanes; covering up bands in a gel; reuse of different exposures of the same image; reuse of images between papers.

      Figure 9 has not been reviewed so far, so perhaps I can help out a little

  3. Just for the record: the X-ray structure published 3 times is now a quadruplicate. A fourth paper appeared last year, which obviously omit previous references:

    “Crystal Structure Studies and Thermal Characterization of Novel 4-Hydroxychalcone Derivative”; Shubhalaxmi, Stephanie Hahne, Carl Zschille, A. Jayarama & K. Subrahmanya Bhat.
    Chem. Sci. Trans., 2013, 2(3), 841-846.

    The only “novel” information found in this paper is a DSC curve confirming that the melting point of this chalcone is 186 °C. On the other hand, Stephanie Hahne and Carl Zschille, who supposedly work in German technical universities, seem to be fictitious investigators. I was unable to trace their publications neither in the Web of Science nor in Google scholar.

    Chemical Science Transactions ( ) is listed as a probable predatory journal on the Jeffrey Beall’s page.

    1. According to the conference notes linked below, a “Carl Zschille” at Manipal did work on a chalcone.
      I also found reference to a Carl Zschille as a student at the TU Berguniversität Freiburg in 2011, so there is a chance he was in India as an exchange student (see below).

      There also actually *is* a Stephanie Hahne at the TU München – again as a student. Just search for her last name on this page:
      In fact, she is co-author on another paper that specifically states “Stephanie Hahne thanks IAESTE for providing an internship at MIT, Manipal”

      You will thus likely have to retract your suggestion they are fictitious investigators.

      1. Thank you for these links. You obviously did a better web search than I did, and I take back my statement about possible fictitious co-authors. I apologize to Stephanie Hahne and Carl Zschille, if they read this thread.

        1. I am sure they appreciate that, Sylvain. Still, there remains the fact they are co-authors on a paper that ignores prior literature.

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