Are you done chasing scientists for the day?
I didn’t have time today. But if I spent a few hours reading articles, I would probably write four or five comments about the errors in scientific articles. It is not difficult to find these problems, and it is not difficult to find them in any institution. They are all there to find, if anyone wants to read the scientific literature.
What motivates you to dedicate the time to do this?
I’m not an anti-vaccine, I’m not an eccentric conspirator or anything like that. I am a scientist myself and I want the science to be correct.
Part of your focus is on images that have been mislabeled, or used twice in an article but as evidence of different things, lazily cut and pasted from one place to another. Is there an easy way to tell if an image is fake?
Just look at the picture and read the labels. For example, if you look at a microscopic image of cells, you see the position, location, orientation, and shape of the cells. And if you look at another image of cells and they’re all in the same position, with the same shape and orientation, then you know it’s the same image, right? It’s not a complicated process.
You also identified errors in the Western blots. What are these?
This is a type of scientific experiment used to identify and quantify specific proteins. Images are important in many scientific articles. They appear gray in the background and have black bands. When you look at them very closely, you can usually tell if it’s a copy and paste job or not. These things aren’t always obvious to those who don’t watch a lot of western blots.
Let’s move on to Dana-Farber. After finding errors in several articles by your researchers, what conclusion do you draw about the scientific methods of this preeminent institution?
It is important to remember that Dana-Farber researchers publish numerous articles. But there are still many errors, and they have occurred over a long period of time. This tells me that for a long time people didn’t pay enough attention to getting the foundation right. How many sloppy mistakes are we comfortable with in large institutions? It’s probably not much. I think most people expect that Harvard scientists don’t make copy-and-paste mistakes often.