Posts Tagged ‘Silvia Bulfone-Paus’

Suspicious goings on at Kyoto Prefectural University

December 20, 2011

Hiroaki Matsubara

Hiroaki Matsubara  has been Professor of Cardiology and Vascular Regenerative Medicine at Kyoto Prefectural University’s School of Medicine since 2003 and was earlier at Kansai  Medical 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: here, here and here.

Joerg Zwirner of Abnormal Science comments:

(Part 1) Taken together, articles 1-5 are distinguished by the extensive reuse and mutual exchange of data, in particular Western and Northern Blot bands. A single band has been reused up to eigth times in distinct blots in Kidney Int. 2002. 
It is apparent that band images from ‘real’ blots may have been digitally reassembled into new blot images pretending to be derived from distinct experimental settings. Since ‘reconfigured blots’ have been densimetrically scanned and the results illustrated in tables and figures, we are presumably confronted with a case of severe data fabrication. …..

(Part 2) ….. The images on the left were derived from nude rats, the images on the right from C57BL/J mice. ….

Apparently, histological images have been modified by the exchange/addition of image fragments. According to the figure legend, “five fields from two muscle samples of each animal (n=10) were randomly selected, and capillary density was shown as the capillary/muscle fiber ratio.”

Can we call this practice experimental science or should we term it digital art?

Apparently, anything goes.

(Part 3)….. Of note, the only coauthor on all 12 articles is Hiroaki Matsubara. The sheer scope of the alleged manipulations in these 12 articles is reminiscent of the research misconduct investigations at Borstel/Germany into the work of Prof. Bulfone-Paus and at NUS/Singapore into the work of Prof. Melendez.

The Japanese M3 Blog is run by just one person with its readership mainly among doctors but apparently runs a serious risk of being shut down by legal threats as has happened with an earlier investigative blog.


Continuing >> The strange and murky case of Silvia Bulfone-Paus

June 22, 2011

Professor Debora Weber-Wulff  has a comprehensive recapitulation of the twists and turns in the Silvia Bulfone-Paus / Borstel case. This is a strange story and at least 14 retractions, anonymous internet campaigns, Russian scientists being used as scapegoats, establishment scientists in denial, claims of nepotism and the destabilisation of science – no less (according to Nature)  have been some of the ingredients so far. The story continues ………. .

Copy, Shake and Paste:

Silvia Bulfone-Paus is an immunologist. She worked at the Forschungszentrum Borstel (FZB) outside of Hamburg in Germany, and is a professor at the Medical University in Lübeck. reports that she published many papers together with the Russian couple Elena Bulanova and Vadim Budagian from Russia. Retraction Watch reported in March 2011 that 12 papers by the three authors have been retracted. The three have published 22 papers together, so there may be more.

In October 2009 the biologist Karin Wiebauer realized that the Western blots in some of the papers were very similar – sometimes just the labels were changed, in others a dose of Photoshop was used to mirror, move or distort the bands. This is the same method that Marion Brach used in the Hermann/Brach scandal end of the 90s [strangely enough, there is nothing in either Wikipedia about either them or the scandals].

In November 2009 Wiebauer informed the first author, Bulfone-Paus, of her discovery. Nothing happened. Finally, in April 2010 an investigation committee was convened. They determined that there was just sloppy publication, but the results were okay. There was a culprit found – the Russian couple. They were accused of deceit and the 12 papers retracted, although the Russians did not agree to the retractions. 

There ensued an anonymous Internet-based campaign. Colleagues then published an open letter supporting Bulfone-Paus,  saying the poor woman, who is a brilliant researcher and has published much, including work together with her husband, was deceived by her postdocs. The Borstel Board of Directors – sans Bulfone-Paus – published a good response to the open letter soon after forcing her off the board:

Severe failure in one area (as supervisor and responsible senior, corresponding and first author) can hardly be compensated by merits in other areas. […] For all scientists, one of the greatest goods in science is personal credibility and integrity, and that the most precious currency scientists have is the truthfulness of their data. The scientific community expects rigorous adherence to the rules of scientific research from principal investigators and, in particular, from heads of research divisions or departments. […] The scientific misconduct in Silvia Bulfone-Paus’s lab and her procrastination to go public despite being ultimately responsible has highly damaged the reputation of the Research Center. This is what cannot be tolerated.

But now the plot thickens: An additional paper by Bulfone-Paus (not including the Russian couple) in Blood  is currently under investigation. A co-author on this one is her husband, Ralf Paus, a dermatologist at the University of Lübeck. And the university has verified for Spiegel, a German news weekly, that they are currently investigating 6 papers of Paus. 

And now it bubbles up that Bulfone-Paus and Paus both have professorships in Manchester, in England, where they spend 20% of their time, according to the Times Higher Education. The couple also have three children, as reported by Spiegel in January

In other news about Borstel, another director, Peter Zabel, stepped down earlier this month amidst plagiarism charges. It seems he double published a paper (once in German and once in English), as well as in 2009 publishing a paper that included large portions of text and diagrams from a 2008 paper published in the US. The double publication is deemed not so severe, although it is not clear that the later publication makes clear that it is in fact a double publication – the abstract has been rewritten, but is still similar. Zabel has now also resigned from the editorial board of Der Internist.

The double publication was found by someone calling themselves Clare Francis, who informed Retraction Watch, Abnormal Science Blog, and me. It was found using the Déjà vu tool for searching for duplicate content in Medline. 

Joerg Zwirner, in a recent post to the Abnormal Science Blog, calls for setting up an Office for Research Integrity in Germany, as is to be found in the US. I heartily agree – this is far too complicated to understand for non-medical researcher, but it seems that there are deficiencies in the medical research complex in Germany that have existed for decades. And Hermann/Brach did not result in these being adequately addressed. Germany needs action, and it needs it now.


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