Posts Tagged ‘image manipulation’

Multiple investigations of multiple allegations of image manipulation at University of New South Wales

October 22, 2013

A supposedly game changing skin cancer drug, a number of retractions of papers, drug trials suspended, allegations of image manipulation, allegations of misconduct from other noted scientists and at least 3 different investigations by his Univesrity, surround Professor Levon Khachigian of the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales.

At least 6 papers are involved (of which 4 have already been retracted). The University is facing criticism for the pace of their investigations and there are some suggestions that commercial interests may be involved.

ABC News reports:

Research overseen by an eminent scientist at the University of New South Wales is again under investigation following concerns about alleged research misconduct.

The latest allegations centre on a scientific paper into the genetics of heart disease co-authored by Professor Levon Khachigian.

A research team overseen by Professor Khachigian has received many grants from bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council, including an $8.3 million grant for 2014 looking at cardiovascular disease research.

The research in question was published in the journal PLOS One in July 2012.

It focused on how muscle cells change into plaque – a key cause of heart attacks.

A scientist complained to the university, saying he believed one of the images appeared to have been manipulated. A letter sent to the university’s vice chancellor of research says “in figure 5, one of the panels has been duplicated, rotated 180 degrees and then used to represent cells treated with a different compound.”

“If anomalies are found, it will be necessary to (conduct interviews) individually to determine who was responsible and whether they were deliberate or accidental,” it says.

The university has conducted an initial investigation and the ABC understands it believes there is a prima facie case of research misconduct.

Professor Khachigian was in the news earlier this year about image manipulation and the suspension of the skin cancer drug DZ13.

ABC News (August 2013):

Clinical trials of an experimental cancer drug have been suspended after serious questions have been raised about the accuracy of some of the scientific data behind it.

The ABC has learnt that the University of New South Wales (UNSW) is investigating a number of allegations concerning the science and data underpinning the DZ13 compound.

DZ13 was developed by an Australian team of researchers led by Professor Levon Khachigian and heralded as a super drug in the fight against skin cancer.

Two investigations conducted at the UNSW into allegations against Professor Khachigian and his team found that there was no evidence of research misconduct.

But the current investigation was prompted by further concerns raised separately by an eminent Australian scientist and one of the former researchers on DZ13.

Both are concerned that images in a paper on DZ13, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 2010, may not be genuine. ……

….. Professor David Vaux is an internationally acclaimed cell scientist at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and lectures worldwide on research ethics.

“I think that anybody who has concerns of scientific misconduct, there’s an ethical responsibility for them to raise those concerns with either the designated person to receive allegations of misconduct or with the journal editors or with the authors of the paper,” he said.

In late 2009, he came across images in three papers from Professor Khachigian’s lab relating to genetic research in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that he was concerned were inappropriately duplicated. 

He wrote twice to the journal about his concerns that the images were not genuine.

In July 2010, the three papers were retracted by the authors, who said that the presentation of the images was a genuine error.

In February this year, Professor Vaux came across another paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that he said raised similar concerns of image duplication. This paper was focusing on DZ13.

Professor Vaux says this time there was more urgency, as the paper gave support to DZ13, which was about to be administered to patients in clinical trials.

He wrote to the vice-president and deputy vice-chancellor (research) at the University of New South Wales, Professor Les Field, asking for him to carry out an investigation.

I wish to alert you to concerns I have over a possible case of research misconduct at the UNSW. In the paper attached I have annotated the images that I am concerned about…

They appear to contain duplications and/or alterations of images in such a way that the same data is used to represent two different conditions.

Professor Vaux also contacted the National Health and Medical Research Council in June.

I believe it would be important to act quickly, as patients may currently be receiving the agent described in the publication, DZ13, as part of a clinical trial.

If the results in this paper are not genuine, the Human Research Ethics Committee that approved the trial might have been misled, and the patients receiving the drug might not have been able to give properly informed consent.

Prolific Cardiff Professor cleared of misconduct

April 11, 2013

The Shenanigans at Cardiff University led to an investigation by the University  into alleged research misconduct in the laboratory of its dean of medicine, Prof. BP Morgan. He has now been cleared of any misconduct but one of his former co-workers, Rossen Donev,  has been singled out for the manipulation of images. ( Dr. Donev is listed as a lecturer at Swansea University’s College of Medicine). The investigation seems to have found that Prof. Morgan could not have known about his co-worker’s image manipulation even though he was a co-author. Some 40 papers were investigated and image manipulation was found in 4 instances all by the former researcher. Some of the papers have been retracted.

It is laudable that the source of the misconduct has been identified though there is a tiny hint of  a whitewash and some scapegoating when the only guilty person is no longer at the University and every body else is completely exonerated. Does Prof. Morgan have no responsibility at all for misconduct conducted within his group?  The ubiquitous practice of the head of a lab or research group automatically being included as a co-author is not quite satisfactory when the “leader” takes no responsibility for his soldiers. There is something not quite right when there are lots and lots of papers published by the Dean, Professor B P Morgan, (172 papers and 35 review articles or chapters since 1998 – giving 207 publications in about 180 months!)”. You can’t just take the credit for authorship of more than a paper a month and then not take any responsibility for any wrongdoing. Apart from Dr. Donev, everybody else seems to have “had Doctor’s papers”!

BBC: The dean of Cardiff University’s school of medicine has been cleared of research misconduct after claims images were manipulated in academic articles. Professor Paul Morgan and other members of his research group were cleared by a formal investigation panel.

But four allegations of image manipulation in articles were upheld against a former staff member. Prof Morgan, who researches diseases, said the actions of one individual had a “profound effect” on his reputation. A clinical academic, the professor heads a team which Cardiff University’s website said is “internationally recognised for its expertise and contribution to the field of complement biology”. He remained in his post during the investigation by the panel, which was chaired by a former Cardiff circuit judge. …. 

…. The inquiry rejected all allegations against Prof Morgan and members of his research team, but upheld four allegations of misconduct against the former university employee.

The panel also said that Prof Morgan – the co-author of the four articles in question – would not have been aware that the individual had included manipulated images in the articles.

Cardiff University said it took allegations of academic research misconduct against staff extremely seriously. “The panel did find that allegations of data manipulation against a former member of university staff were substantiated and recommends that protocols are put in place to ensure that data and original image files are in future viewed and assessed prior to submission for publication,” a spokesperson said. “Cardiff University accepts these findings and recommendations and will now take action to put in place procedures to ensure that incidents of this sort do not recur.” …

Update on Matsubara

March 13, 2012

In December I posted about the suspicious goings on at Kyoto Prefectural University:

A Japanese investigative website ( has found 12 published articles where manipulation of images is very likely. The suspicious images in the papers published by the Matsubara lab are carefully deconstructed by Abnormal Science in an ongoing series of posts: herehere and here.

Today Retraction Watch reports that the efforts of M3 (now discontinued) and Abnormal Science have not gone unnoticed:

The American Heart Association, which publishes a number of journals, has issued an Expression of Concern about five papers in three of their publications, following allegations of image manipulation. All of the papers include Hiroaki Matsubara, of Kyoto Prefectural University, as a co-author.

The notice begins:

It has come to the attention of the American Heart Association (AHA), in a public manner, that there are questions concerning a number of figures in several AHA journals’ articles…

The “public manner” was three posts last year on the Abnormal Science blog… alleging that images were manipulated in the manuscripts, and that histology slides were reused.

The notice continues:

After reviewing these concerns, we have asked the institution, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, to investigate the allegations. Until we learn the outcome, we feel it is best to post this Expression of Concern to alert our readers that concerns about these articles have been raised.

Prominent Indian-American researcher being investigated at the University of Texas

February 25, 2012

Joerg Zwirner has been following this for some time at his AbnormalScience blog.  Retraction Watch also posted about this. But it has now reached the ORI and even the main-stream media.

Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal Yet another case of a Person of Indian Origin (PIO), Dr. Bharat B Aggarwal of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, being suspected of massive scientific misconduct this time at the University of Texas. Apparently 65 papers are being reviewed for the manipulation of images.

Deccan Herald:

A prominent Indian-American researcher at (the) University of Texas is under scanner for alleged falsification and fabrication in various publications regarding cancer fighting properties of plants.

More dodgy papers for National University of Singapore to investigate

October 24, 2011

Update: 31st October 2011: Further dodgy papers are given in the next instalment from Abnormal Science.

Japanese Retraction Watch has also been on the case.


Abnormal Science ( Joerg Zwirner) has 3 more examples of papers with some questionable images. This time the papers are from the Department of Physiology, National University of Singapore with 2 papers published in Blood and one in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The three papers tagged are:

1. Pervaiz S, Seyed MA, Hirpara JL, Clément MV, Loh KW.
Purified photoproducts of merocyanine 540 trigger cytochrome C release and caspase 8-dependent apoptosis in human leukemia and melanoma cells.
Blood. 1999 Jun 15;93(12):4096-108.
Department of Physiology, National University of Singapore; and the Oncology Research Institute, NUMI, Singapore

2. Hirpara JL, Seyed MA, Loh KW, Dong H, Kini RM, Pervaiz S.
Induction of mitochondrial permeability transition and cytochrome C release in the absence of caspase activation is insufficient for effective apoptosis in human leukemia cells.
Blood. 2000 Mar 1;95(5):1773-80.
Department of Physiology, National University of Singapore, Singapore.

3. Hirpara JL, Clément MV, Pervaiz S.
Intracellular acidification triggered by mitochondrial-derived hydrogen peroxide is an effector mechanism for drug-induced apoptosis in tumor cells.
J Biol Chem. 2001 Jan 5;276(1):514-21.
Department of Physiology, National University of Singapore, Singapore

The two names common to all 3 papers are JL Hirpara and research supervisor Professor Shazib Pervaiz.

The NUS investigation committee has its work cut out with all the questionable papers they need to check out (See here and here).

As Abnormal Science puts it:

Their inquiry commissions might soon run out of unbiased members. NUS should consider to accept assistance from abroad to clean up the mess.

And it seems to be truly a mess covering a number of departments which indicates a prevailing culture and not just some isolated incident of wrongdoing.

Hellesö apologises – sort of – and only further antagonises his Flashback nemesis

September 13, 2011

UPDATE! Hellesö says on his website that he has removed 96 pictures – presumably all manipulated. 93 were pictures of lynxes, 2 of badgers and one of a raccoon dog. 

Terje Hellesö, an award winning nature photographer, has been revealed to be  a massive fraud and a cheat. Many of his photographs have been manipulated with stock images of wildlife from the internet having been inserted into landscapes with many “artistic” effects. The skilful detective work in finding his manipulations and the source of the original images  has come from the on-line community of the Swedish Flashback forum. They have also put together a web site where all the manipulations discovered have been posted.  At least some 20 pictures have been manipulated and another 10 or so are suspicious. But Hellesö has removed all his old images from his web-site and it is unclear how many images he may have manipulated  and when he first started his fraudulent career. It seems to go back at least 3 or 4 years and it could be that the start of his manipulations coincided with his use of  digital images or perhaps with his learning how to use Photoshop. A new vocabulary has emerged for the fraudulent manipulation of images and based on his name as an adjective –  a “terjade” picture has now become an accepted  word-form!!!

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency which had named him as the Nature Photographer of the Year 2010 has now withdrawn their award since their jury have now come to the conclusion that some of his his photographs even before 2010 were probably manipulated. Their press release (in Swedish) is here. However they are not asking him to return the prize money (about 15,000 kronor or $2,500) because they have no regulations about what to do when a prize is withdrawn. But, as some of the Flashback readers have pointed out, there should then be no hindrance in asking for the prize money to be returned precisely because there are no governing regulations.

But now Hellesö has posted a long, rambling, self-serving, self-pitying sort of apology on his website – which seems to be no apology at all but instead a form of damage control and an attempt to take charge of the narrative and to resurrect himself. He does not reveal how many pictures he has manipulated – perhaps thousands – and when he started his nefarious career. He does not offer to recompense the thousands who paid the expensive fees he charged for attending his photography courses. He does not offer to compensate the organisations who paid him dearly for including his images in exhibitions and publications and often lost money in their enterprises. He does not apologise for the heart-rending stories he invented from thin air about the circumstances surrounding his encounters with the imaginary wildlife that he was supposed to have photographed.

His “apology” is much too long, too badly written and much too self-serving to be reproduced or translated in full. But there are some sections which reveal his intentions quite clearly and that his remorse is no more than a micron or two deep.

I ask for pardon because I made a number of photomontages in which I gave you all 
a very different picture than the reality I was trying to convey. This I will never ever repeat in the same way. If in the future I manipulate images, I will reveal exactly how I do so. I never ever again will have a desire to cheat anyone. Or of having to lie to hide the truth. …. I hope with all my heart that you can forgive me, and that maybe I will come to get a second chance from you. …

It begs the question if he is admitting that his previous manipulations were intended to cheat people (as they did).

I will come to speak publicly about this in different places, in ways you will discover later. I will share much of that here in this blog as well. 

Indeed!! A new “show and tell” career perhaps.

I would also say sorry to the Environmental Protection Agency who gave me the award 
“Nature Photographer 2010”. The pressure that you had to endure in this, is not something I would have wished for you. I know you did not know anything about my current lynx project when you gave me this award, and I have read your reasoning 
numerous times. I understand that you now choose to withdraw the award from me, , but I will keep in mind your justification (for the award) for myself so that I can draw some strength for tomorrow. Over time, I hope that my pictures – including here on this blog – will be some form of redress for the choice you originally made.

He promises that his future pictures will be available for scrutiny and for expert comments which will be published on his blog. It seems to be just an attempt to create a way for his fan club to post nice things about him.

He clearly sees his resurrection – phoenix-like – from the ashes of his present career. He has been accused of being a narcissist, an ego-maniac, and much worse. But his “apology” has only served to anatagonise the on-line community even further and they are now mobilised and energised to scrutinise everything he has ever done.

But to me he sounds like Tricky Dicky did in 1974 – and I am old enough to remember his self-serving TV performances! An attempt to control the narrative of his own demise.

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