Nature Editors Conceal Fraud
Apparently, most editors of sci. journals publicly agree that
to some extent they are responsible for publishing fraudulent papers (as
well as erroneous, plagiarized etc.). So did Nature's editor P.Campbell,
declaring in a recent big "briefing on science and fraud" that:
"Nature's policy is to publish whatever information it can about
published papers that have proved suspect or false. Although after due
consultations" (Nature, 398:15, 1999).
Yet, of course, officials may lie and actual behaviour of editorial boards may significantly
differ from announced principles. Here are the instructions I received
from Nature editorial office in response to my finding proving that some
paper published in this journal is at least "suspect"
I suggest that you write to the authors themselves and to their
institution and/or funding source (as detailed in their paper) so that
the matter can be looked into. If it does emerge after investigation by
the funding body or institution that the authors published fraudulent data,
the authors will be asked to withdraw the relevant papers. In this event
they will inform us and we will print a correction.
That is, I had to bring from the authors of fraudulent publication
their permission to publish my findings!!!???
Surely, my case is not unique; take look, for example, at relevant chapter
of a book "A
Habit of Lie" by John Hewitt discussing real world editorial practices
from more philosophic point of view.
So, in more details, in 1996 I have published in Internet an
article proposing (among other things) a funny "indicator" of sci.
fraud - physically impossible appearance of certain type of graphical data
presentation which seems impossible to explain otherwise than by "absent-minded"
data fabrication. (That my finding is shortly explained at the picture
In 1997 I have found an instance of such graph in article by J.W.Nice & W.J.Metzger, Nature
385:721, 20Feb 97 and sent a "whistle blow" (appended below) to its editorial office. At first, there
was no response at all, even after an additional query. Only after I have
sent appropriate information to the sci.fraud
maillist, editors vouchsafed me fruitful advice to send my information
to anybody else. (Perhaps, it was meant by Mr. Campbell statement that
performing "due consultations" is exclusively whistle blowers' burden?)
Then it was said that my accusations are "too serious" whereas I have presented
no "compelling evidences". And finally Nature published an elegant confession
by the authors that something "was misdrawn" in their paper without mentioning
my submission at all. (further correspondence appended below).
I think, it is a quite appropriate behaviour for editorial board of
scientific tabloid. Russian proverb ruling it is that "the crow would not
peck at the other crow's eye" (I will look for english equivalent, help
would be greatly appreciated). Actually, it is also difficult to blame
Mr. Campbell for his lie and to pretend that he should call a spade a spade
and openly admit this policy.
Surely, lying is not criminal. Yet another interpretation seems more promising:
The fact that picture in article by J.W.Nice and W.J.Metzger is not based on real data is my
scientific finding. Publication of "correction" in Nature 27 November 1997 (vol 390, page 424)
also saying that it is not based on real data without mentioning my authorship of this finding is theft
and it is criminal (I hope).
March 7, 1997
Sir - Recent publication in your journal (J.W.Nice & W.J.Metzger, Nature
385:721, 20Feb 97) presents on Figures 2 and 3 data from four experiments
each drawn on linear coordinate plane and on Scatchard plane. Easy to see
on Fig.3 that Bound concentrations on linear coordinate planes (Y-axis)
do not coincide with Bound concentrations on Scatchard plot (X-axis).
Moreover, none of Scatchard plots on Figs.2,3 can not be based on any
real data. It is a peculiar property of Scatchard plot that both X- and
Y- coordinates on this plot are linear functions of measured signal (Bound);
so pairs of datapoints obtained at the same concentration of added ligand
in two experiments should lie approximately on the line drawn through the
start of coordinates. Obviously, these pairs in Fig 2 and 3 lie precisely
one under another - it is a rather typical error in fabricating Scatchard
Perhaps, my paper 'Absurd Trivial Errors in Scatchard
Plot Analysis' may be of use
for your 'peer reviewers'. I think it is shameful for such pretentious
journal like yours to publish works committing any of those errors.
Additional graphical illustration (this is NOT the original figure discussed
in my letter to Nature above, just an explanatory illustration):
The left panel presents a typical scenario of binding experiment: signals
are measured in two experiments over the same set of X values. It
results in pairs of points with the same X-s and two diferent Y-s
lying one under another on this coordinate plane.
Two other panels are Scatchard plots: the plot Y vs. X
is redrawn on an extremely awkward coordinate plane Y/X vs.
Central plane shows correct appearance of Scatchard transformation of
data on the left panel. Both horizontal (Y) and vertical (Y/X)
coordinates on this plot are linear functions of measured signal Y.
So, now these pairs lie on the lines drawn through the start of coordinates.
Right panel presents fabricated Scatchard plot: pairs of datapoints
can not lie precisely one under another on this coordinate plane.
Obviously, if you try to fabricate Scatchard plot, you would not first
fabricate the picture at the left and then carefully transform it to a
trustworthy picture at the centre. Almost certainly you would immediately
fabricate the Scatchard plot. Then, most likely, you would draw a picture
like that on the right panel which perfectly fits the common notion of
a usual "nice looking curve". This type of folly is rather widespread;
I've even made an attempt to develop some statistics for quantitative measuring
sci. fraud on that base (see Statistics of Sci.Fraud).
Dear Dr Yuryev,
Thank you for your letter of 7 March. We suggest that you point out
to the authors of the paper that you believe there is an error in their
Scatchard plots. They can then send us a correction, if appropriate.
Dr Maxine Clarke Executive Editor
I do NOT "believe there is an error in their Scatchard plots"
I see a peculiarity in their Scatchard plots which proves that these
are fabricated plots. The error was in the process of fabricating. In this
regard, what sort of correction you expect from the authors? Correct fabrication?
Stop kidding. I see your slightly belated response as intentional misinterpretation
of my submission.
Sincerely, Dmitriy K. Yuryev
13 Oct., 97
Just a reminder. I have informed you (on March, 7th) about presence of
falsified data in an article: J.W.Nice & W.J.Metzger,Nature 385:721,
Please, confirm whether you have disregarded my message. Previous corresondence
Thank you in advance
14 Oct., 97
Dear Dr Yuryev
Thank you for your message. We did not realise you were expecting a
reply. If you think that the data reported in this paper were fraudulent,
I suggest that you write to the authors themselves and to their institution
and/or funding source (as detailed in their paper) so that the matter can
be looked into. If it does emerge after investigation by the funding body
or institution that the authors published fraudulent data, the authors
will be asked to withdraw the relevant papers. In this event they will
inform us and we will print a correction.
But fraud is a very serious accusation to make, and one that should
not be made without compelling evidence. You certainly do not provide any
such evidence or give us any reason to believe that the authors of the
paper in question reported fraudulent data based on what you have told
us. The case rather seems to be that you and the authors have a difference
of opinion about the way in which the Scatchard plots were derived, which
is a completely different matter from fraud, and is a matter which you
and the authors should be able to resolve directly, as we've already advised.
Technical disagreements and fraud are not the same. An accusation of
fraud should not be made irresponsibly, and it seems to us that a more
constructive and professional initial course for you to take would be for
you to discuss the Scatchard plots with the Nature authors, rather than
dismissing this course out of hand.
21 Oct, 97
Dear Dr. Clarke,
> We did not realise you were expecting a reply ...
Apparently, your tabloid still pretends to be a scientific journal;
You should know that a usual practice of dealing with submissions to such
journals is that you may either to publish it or to send a motivated rejection
note. Delivering fruitful advices and meaningless reinterpretations of
submitted materials is just wasting time.
> But fraud is a very serious accusation to make, and one that
> should not be made without compelling evidence. You certainly
> do not provide any such evidence
As I wrote you before "I see a peculiarity in their Scatchard plots
which proves that these are fabricated plots". Your statement obviously
means that you have decided that this pecularity does not prove it. It
is a serious accusation, but, unfortunately, I don't see any trace of explanations
why you think so. Therefore, you have made an absolutely empty claim quite
sufficient to decide that your present reply is just a "unmotivated rejection".
Sincerely, Dmitriy K.Yuryev
8 Dec., 97
Dear Dr Yuryev,
Some time ago you wrote to us about a paper by Nyce and Metzger published
in Nature earlier this year. This note is just to let you know that we
printed a correction of some errors in this paper on 27 November 1997 (vol
390, page 424).
19 Jan. 98
I have read your note. The only sentence about Scatchard plots was:
>>"... Scatchard plots of saturation curves were misdrawn"
Unfortunately, I failed to understand whether this abstract confession
confirmes or refutes my "too serious accusations". Therefore, in my opinion,
this note is not relevant to the content of my submission.
Sincerely, Dmitriy K.Yuryev
16 June 2000
Dear Mr. Charkin, Dear Mr. Holtzbrinck,
In 1997 I have submitted to Nature editorial office a note reporting
some fault in an an article published earlier in this journal.
My note was rejected, yet on 27 November 1997 (vol 390, page 424) Nature
published a "correction" of this fault by its authors which did not mention
my submission at all.
I was recently adviced to think about legal prosecuting Nature journal
as this case seems to be a violation of my authorship rights. Please, inform
me if you are interested in some other settlement.
My correspondence with Nature editorial office on this case may be found
Yours sincerely, Dmitriy K. Yuryev
5 Sep 2000
Dear Dr Yuryev
Thank you for your letter to Mr von Holzbrink and Mr Charkin, which
they referred to the Editor of Nature, who has looked into this matter
with our editorial manager. They have asked me to write to you in response
to your letter.
Although we underdstand your natural disappointment that we were unable
to publish your letter criticising the paper in question, we do not see
that there is any way we can continue to consider your comment for publication,
for the reasons we explained to you at the time. The authors' correction
was made at the initiative of the authors themselves and not because of
your or any other criticism we received immediately after publication.
So far as our readers are concerned, they were made aware promptly of errors
in a Nature publication, and anyone interested in knowing more could
and still can contact the authors directly. We did not, and do not, feel
on editorial grounds that further comments on the errors were or are necessary.
We are not aware of the legal concept of "authorship rights" in the context
of our declining to publish your comment on the paper on editorial grounds.
As your comments on the Nature paper are now available publicly via
the Internet, we cannot in any event consider it for publication: our guide
to authors on our website explains that we do not consider for publication
material that has been already published. (And, I should point out, that
correspondence between Nature and potential authors is a confidential matter
between us and them, and not for public display).
Thank you again for writing to us. Please note this letter is intended
for you personally and not for public dissemination.