November 29, 2021, 01:05:57 PM
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Topic: University Of Utah Concludes Investigation Of Controversial 'Nanochopsticks'  (Read 4240 times)

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Offline Mitch

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Officials at the University of Utah have concluded that a former graduate student, Rajasekhar Anumolu, is solely responsible for manipulated images that appeared in two American Chemical Society publications. ACS also publishes C&EN. The principal investigator in the case, Leonard F. Pease III, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the school, was cleared of any misconduct.

Rest of story @ C&EN: http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/web/2014/11/University-Utah-Concludes-Investigation-Controversial.html
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Offline Corribus

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Cleared or not, those images were so obviously doctored that it's hard to believe a professor who read the manuscript could miss it. Talk about out of touch with what's going on in your own laboratory.

(And for that matter: who the heck reviewed those papers?)
« Last Edit: November 12, 2014, 11:19:37 PM by Corribus »
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Offline Borek

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Cleared or not, those images were so obviously doctored that it's hard to believe a professor who read the manuscript could miss it.

That was my first thought as well - how it could be missed at any stage?

Quote
The manipulated images came to the attention of the larger chemistry community when they were reported by Mitch André Garcia on Chemistry Blog on Aug. 13, 2013. Garcia, who now works at C&EN

Yay. Now I remember I read about it.

http://www.chemistry-blog.com/2013/08/13/alleged-data-manipulation-in-nano-letters-and-acs-nano-from-the-pease-group/
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Offline Dan

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Cleared or not, those images were so obviously doctored that it's hard to believe a professor who read the manuscript could miss it.

Yes it's worrying. As an author you are publicly responsible for the content - you should be confident of the results and claims. I'm not saying you should distrust your coworkers as a rule, but you should at least double check the data to make sure you are convinced by them.

The amazing thing is that manipulated images such as this, and NMR spectra in supporting information for example, do sometimes slip through even when the manipulation is so blindingly obvious that it is quite clear the PI (and the reviewers) never checked it. If you're going to fake data, at least learn how to use photoshop.

I suspect that the "publish or die" culture is at least partly responsible for this (both manipulation and hasty proof reading, not to mention yield inflation, cherry picking etc.).
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Offline curiouscat

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There's a couple of factors:

(a) There's zero penalties for a reviewer for sloppy reviewing. Even after the most egregious scandals the reviewer names are always secret.

(b) I'm not sure if the PI here is just the innocent, credulous dupe he's playing in hindsight. It is entirely possible that he tacitly approved the doctoring

(c) Most readers (ok, Mitch excepted) read papers so passively that the chance of getting caught is minimal. Firstly, you are lucky if ten guys ever read your article. Most of them are just looking for a citation to add to their list of references. And even if you come across some obvious stupidity how many have access to forums or the motivation to publicize the issue.

Offline Mitch

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Quote from: curiouscat
And even if you come across some obvious stupidity how many have access to forums or the motivation to publicize the issue.

If you do post something negative regarding a paper, there is also a threat of being sued or professionally black-listed. It is usually better to not say anything.
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Offline Corribus

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As an author you are publicly responsible for the content.
I think this is hitting the nail on the head. Even if you aren't the one who did the image manipulation, if you're putting your name on something then there's an ethical responsibility that goes along with it. I have been in situations before where an author's name has been put on a paper at like the fourth or fifth position but the individual never given a chance to read the draft before it was submitted. When they complained, the primary author was like, "Why would you want to read it? You only had a small role in the project and are way down the author list." HELLO?! My name's on the damn thing, that's why! Even if there was no ethical shenanigans, if the work was simply done poorly, that reflects on everyone who is listed as a contributer.
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Offline Yggdrasil

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If you do post something negative regarding a paper, there is also a threat of being sued or professionally black-listed. It is usually better to not say anything.

The website, PubPeer, allows anonymous commenting on scientific articles, so this may be a way to alert readers about potential problems with a paper's findings without jeopardizing one's career prospects.

Offline Corribus

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Following Y's link to PubPeer, a website with which I was unfamiliar, and wasting a whole lot of time there, I found the following story, which is really just incredible.

http://www.psblab.org/?p=167

(Thankfully, it looks like she was finally canned. Still, the story is quite amazing, that such obvious image manipulation could be ignored by journals for so long... and all the conflicts of interest involved. Geez. Really paints a sad picture about the state of scientific ethics.)
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