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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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September 26, 2013

An Unknown Author With Someone Else's Work. Why?

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Posted by Derek

Here's a bizarre one: someone apparently faked up a bunch of author names and contact information, and published results (in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications) that they're heard Bruce Spiegelman of Harvard talk about. The motive? Well. . .the only thing that makes sense is sheer vituperativeness, and even that doesn't make much. Here's the story - see if you can make sense of it!

Comments (17) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Dark Side | The Scientific Literature


1. newnickname on September 26, 2013 11:40 AM writes...

PharmaHeretic noted that under the MacArthur Awards topic. I'll just repost what I said there: "phantom authors publishing real research papers." Wow. A real life variation of "The Bourbaki Gambit" (Djerassi's science-in-fiction novel about legitimate researchers publishing legitimate research under a pseudonym), q.v..

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2. Anonymous on September 26, 2013 11:51 AM writes...

Extreme introvert?

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3. milkshake on September 26, 2013 12:25 PM writes...

more like a disgruntled postdoc

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4. Hap on September 26, 2013 1:18 PM writes...

That probably narrows it down...

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5. JimM on September 26, 2013 1:33 PM writes...

Spiegelman, who works on fat-cell differentiation, is also a co-founder of Ember Therapeutics, a company based in Watertown, Massachusetts, that is developing therapeutics for metabolic disorders. He believes that the paper was intended to hurt him and his lab

Ember Therapeutics?

Some kind of brown fat activating/reactivating things, one might imagine.

As noted in the comments of the Nature piece, this fraud wouldn't interfere with patentability because Spiegelman had filed before making any presentations, but it seems to me that if it hadn't been caught in time, it could possibly have muddied the waters enough to delay issuance of patents already under consideration, and thereby aided a competitor who had also filed a patent with a similar therapeutic goal and allowed that competitor to get to the marketplace first.

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6. barry on September 26, 2013 2:42 PM writes...

maliciously setting Spiegelman up for a plagiarism charge? Seems pretty twisted.

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7. In Vivo Veritas on September 26, 2013 2:45 PM writes...

Spiegelman is the type of guy who publishes a new molecule & pharma instantly cranks up the engines. He has earned a few checks in the "unable to be replicated" column. I'd guess it's a disgruntled metabolic disease scientist, sick of wasting his time chasing false leads.

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8. Anonymous on September 26, 2013 3:01 PM writes...

"maliciously setting Spiegelman up for a plagiarism charge?"

And who would claim original authorship? Some non-existent Greek guy? Seems like somebody hasn't thought this through properly...

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9. Cellbio on September 26, 2013 3:11 PM writes...

Count me as one who turned the crank after a Spiegelman paper. Figured it all out, and what was proposed as an antagonist was an agonist with a hormetic response curve. The compound and additional analogs that hit the receptor accentuated an inflammatory response generated from other stimuli by a peak of ~10x, with low and high doses leaving the inflammatory response untouched. A quite different story than the resolution of inflammation that was modeled from data with less than complete dose response evaluation. Falling from a peak of super-induction can appear to be inhibition if presented carelessly (or is it carefully?).

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10. MDACC Grad on September 26, 2013 3:19 PM writes...

The ( correspondence address should have been a dead giveaway.

Spiegelman certainly made someone mad..

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11. Hot Dog on September 27, 2013 1:54 AM writes...

Speaking of Spiegelman, his much-discussed work on Irisin has just come under assault from a research group in Germany. Their rather well thought-out and information-rich paper ends with the sentence: "Thus, we conclude that the function of irisin proposed for mice is lost in humans."

Sounds like Professor Spiegelman is having a rough time of late.

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12. josh on September 27, 2013 10:16 AM writes...

Ya gotta at least give them points for style and creativity. Effort too.

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13. paperclip on September 27, 2013 1:38 PM writes...

It does seem like, despite patents already being in place (Did the fraudster realize this?), that perhaps this is a case of a competitor wanting in on the game. Or it could be the work of a nut.

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14. Anne on September 28, 2013 6:55 PM writes...

Uh, Bourbaki was real. Or should that be "real"? In any case, there was a group of real French mathematicians interested in hammering out sound foundations for mathematics in general and algebraic geometry in parcitular, and not so interested in credit. So they worked together through a trial-by-fire approval process and published some excellent mathematics under the name Bourbaki.

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15. newnickname on September 29, 2013 7:59 PM writes...

@14 Anne: "Bourbaki" ... which is why Djerassi's characters named their gambit after Bourbaki, hence the title of the book. I recommend it highly. Chemists among us might recognize some of the real life counterparts of the characters in the novel.

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16. mike on September 30, 2013 12:38 PM writes...

“The e-mail was a bit strange, and that we could have checked,” agrees Carafoli, but nothing else in the paper aroused suspicion. “It was impeccable. The authors were clearly academics,” he adds.

Impeccable? That should have been the give-away. When are authentic, complex results ever "impeccable"?

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17. mad on October 3, 2013 9:20 AM writes...

Maybe a ploy by the real authors to get attention. Seems to be the only tangeble outcome of this so far. My guess is most never heard of them before

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