Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Media Science

Phantom Authors Publish Real Research Paper 52

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the probably-nsa-sponsored-ghosts dept.
ananyo writes "Ghost writing is taking on an altogether different meaning in a mysterious case of alleged scientific fraud. The authors of a paper published in July, which reported significant findings in obesity research, seem to be phantoms. They are not only unknown at the institution listed on the paper, but no trace of them as researchers can be found. The paper, published in the Elsevier journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, is not the kind of prank that journals have encountered before, in which hoaxsters have submitted dummy papers to highlight weaknesses in the peer-review process. The paper's reported findings — that overexpression of two novel proteins in fat cells leads to improvements in metabolic processes related to diabetes and obesity in mice — are, in fact, true. Too true, in the opinion of Bruce Spiegelman, a cell biologist at Harvard Medical School's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He says that he has presented similar findings at about six research meetings, and is preparing to submit them to a journal. He suspects that the BBRC paper was intended as a spoiler of his own lab's work."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Phantom Authors Publish Real Research Paper

Comments Filter:
  • by stewsters (1406737) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @02:44PM (#44951215)
    Or there are some biologists out there working for a corporation that requires patents on all research. For some reason they don't agree with this. They are sticking it to the man by preempting their corporate master and posting anonymous coward.
    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @02:55PM (#44951341) Homepage

      Or there are some biologists out there working for a corporation that requires patents on all research. For some reason they don't agree with this. They are sticking it to the man by preempting their corporate master and posting anonymous coward.

      Apparently not. From the comments in the linked article [nature.com]:
      "Spiegelman said patents weren't an issue here as he had filed patent applications on this before giving any presentations at scientific meetings on the findings (presenting something publicly before filing would itself invalidate patent applications)."

      • by OneAhead (1495535)
        Sure, but did the hypothetical corporate researchers know about Spiegelman's results and patent at the time they submitted their paper? It's a competitive world...
    • I don't know the field, or the paper ... but supposedly this guy gave talks at other places.

      *If* thhe said enough that would've let someone write this paper (ie, didn't require knowledge that he didn't aldeady leak), then I'd put the odds on some other company doing it, rather than a disgruntled employee.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @03:03PM (#44951441) Homepage

      Nah, pissed off grad students and research assistants who weren't going to get any credit. :-P

      • Credit as in real $.

      • Nah, pissed off grad students and research assistants who weren't going to get any credit. :-P

        Yeah, a lot of assistants don't even get mentioned in the paper. When they are, it's a small byline of with assistance with.... Many times it's not even on the abstract.

        It's like working for a company where you know your boss is going to take all the credit for your hard work. It's perfectly legal and your boss might be a nice person, but it doesn't really encourage the underlings to care.

        In this case, someone stole the researcher's thunder. The results are still valid and he might get some face time, bu

        • You know, most PIs do give their grad students, postdocs, RAs, and lab techs credit, except for those that are assholes. Not that there aren't a fair number of those, but I don't think they're in the majority. It costs a PI nothing for the most part to put several extra people as intermediate authors on a paper. The first and maybe second authors are understood to be those who did most of the work, the last author is usually the PI who's lab it was done in, and those in the middle generally contributed some

  • Seriously, how angry do you suppose one of his current (or former) grad students is to have done something like this?

    In order to be that accurate, it would have to be someone working pretty closely with Spiegelman. Strangely, it also implies said grad student is also extremely stupid at the same time - how do you publish something this specific in a journal and not expect Spiegelman to read it and call foul?

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)

      It could be another professor that hates his guts.

      • Or (if you read the linked Nature article) it could be due the rat that he "smelt".

        I don't know if that means he beat the rat with a small fish or heated it to separate its metallic constituents, but either one would be a motive for rat revenge, I'd think.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Perhaps not, they still have no idea who submitted it.

  • In Harvard Med my name is cursed! When he finds I published first!

  • Maybe having everyone share an account on the lab computer wasn't such a good idea after all.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @03:03PM (#44951433)
    Probably some bored billionaire playboy who strikes down at the bad science epidemic at night by publishing reproducible results under his secret identity.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Probably some bored billionaire playboy who strikes down at the bad science epidemic at night by publishing reproducible results under his secret identity.

      Phooey. Hand in your Geek card.
       
        The author can be no other than Mr Walker* Just look for the "Good Mark" on the front of the paper. Old jungle sayings say that he is a dab hand with scientific research
       
      * The Ghost Who walks

  • The publication process in the biological sciences is very strange ... for some reason, people openly disclose their findings at conferences before submitting the relevant publications. Either you were first to publish or you weren't, and if you weren't, tough luck (not to discount the apparent fraud committed here).

    It's must easier in computer science, since conference publications "count". Things can still get complicated (e.g., when one group submits to conference A while a similar paper was accepted
    • Loose lips sink ships

      Are you referring to Costa Concordia and the captain's girlfriend [dailymail.co.uk]? ;-)

    • by mbkennel (97636)
      "some reason, people openly disclose their findings at conferences before submitting the relevant publications. "

      Because if they don't they can't justify the trip to the conference, and presenting the results is expected in order to get prestige and being well known in the community. If you're not well known and respected you don't get grant money.
  • This is good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm completely in favour of publishing all stuff with wrong authors, and even everybody publishing as anynomous.

    It's the only way I can think of to save science from this immense ball of paper-obsession

    • by OneAhead (1495535)

      It's the only way I can think of to save science from this immense ball of paper-obsession

      Fo a scientist, you have a terrible lack of imagination. ;)

  • Douglas Adams "satirical" work predicted formation of PRISM (aka Deepthought) as well as "unseen forces" guiding the experiments themselves to program our scientific community with the required inputs.

    You say "Phanoms", I say pandimensional projections appearing, to the untrained eye, not completely unlike a rodent.

  • BBRC is a notoriously terrible journal with only a passing nod to the peer review process. It is well know in the biological sciences as a place to dump worthless research to pad your CV. I don't know of a scientist worth their salt who would trust a paper in this journal.
    • by OneAhead (1495535)
      And that has exactly what to do with the story? (Other than being the same journal?)
      • by hubie (108345)
        If it is true that they have a terrible peer review process, then I think it is very relevant to the story. They must have a terrible peer review process if the paper got published. Normally there would be several rounds of give and take between the paper authors and the journal editors and reviewers, which either wasn't done, or was done through some manner of communication such as using personal email accounts.
        • by hubie (108345)
          Plus, if Spiegelman was fairly well known for this kind of research, the journal editors should have asked him or one of his colleagues to be one of the reviewers.
          • by OneAhead (1495535)

            You're making a lot of assumptions there:
            - as you pointed out yourself, the process takes time; Spiegelman might not have been fairly well-known for this kind of stuff at the time of submission
            - even if Spiegelman was fairly well-known for this kind of research, there could easily be 3 other researchers equally qualified to be reviewers
            - it is perfectly possible the authors requested to bar Spiegelman from being reviewer process because he's direct competition
            - I know researchers who use their gmail acc

  • ...of this stunt is how traceable it really has to be. (Taking the assumption that this was an act of sabotage as a given, that is.) I mean I'm sure the phantom authors were thorough enough to cover direct digital tracks, but the list of likely suspects here is going to be really, really small. I find it chilling that people accomplished enough to either develop this research OR steal the information from a competitor would be foolish enough to overlook the simple fact that they can't really easily, anonymo

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.

Working...