Aha! It was about data faking after all.

I wrote a prior post about the bizarre disappearance of an Editor in Chief of a journal I suspected of being predatory.

The bio lists Raphael Pinaud as "an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Northwestern University, USA" so let's look at the Department listing for Core Faculty and Research Faculty. Nothing. Courtesy faculty? Emeritus?

Ok, weird. No sign of the guy. Google search seems to turn up validation that he was once there.

There was an accusation of data fraud in the comments to that post.

Turns out that this is probably correct. The Journal of Neuroscience has issued a retraction.

The Journal of Neuroscience has received a report from Northwestern University that describes substantial data misrepresentation in the article “Mechanistic Basis and Functional Roles of Long-Term Plasticity in Auditory Neurons Induced by a Brain-Generated Estrogen” by Liisa A. Tremere, Ryan F. Kovaleski, Kalping Burrows, Jin Kwon Jeong, and Raphael Pinaud, which appeared on pages 16478–16495 of the November 14, 2012 issue. Because the results cannot be considered reliable, J Neurosci is retracting the paper.

No mention of any of the authors throwing one or more of the other authors under the bus, I will note. It's pretty clear that Tremere and Pinaud are probably in on the fraud together, since they appear to be a couple and are the ones that skipped town (country?). I wonder what the other three authors have to say about this situation?

h/t: PhysioProf

35 responses so far

  • potnia theron says:

    One nugget, worth repeating, from comment to original post:
    NIH codes: https://writedit.wordpress.com/2007/01/06/nih-grant-numbers-demystified/

  • drugmonkey says:

    Spot checking the recent publications, no sign of additional retractions yet. I guess this is the first salvo. With the couple apparently dismissed from Northwestern, it is almost inevitable that this was about more than one paper, right?

  • Namesaste_Ish says:

    This is so fucking disguisting that they have bounced from Duke, to Rochester, Oklahoma and Northwestern making up titles along the way to get the next leg up. So what....each of these people just passed the buck?

    I wish I knew someone in the departments that are listed.

    And hells bells, I don't want to piss off PhysioProf and his mad stalker skillz.

  • Parker says:

    The brain produces estrogen? I'm a little rusty with my endocrinology, but isn't that statement, in the title, a big tip off to the bull shit nature of the article?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Where does Duke come in to this story?

  • Namesaste_Ish says:

    Crappe....they really cleaned up on inhouse awards from URochester https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/neurobiology-anatomy/schmitt/awards/years/2009.cfm

  • Namesaste_Ish says:

    He said Duke in his Nature Neuroscience bio http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v13/n8/authors/nrn3291.html

  • Namesaste_Ish says:

    He either was there or he gave them a book....the only hit on the Duke website is thanking him from the library https://medspace.mc.duke.edu/sites/default/files/dumca_7562.pdf

  • Erp says:

    By spotchecking recent publications, do you mean you looked it up on pubpeer? Just stick up that the paper was retracted on pubpeer and the gang that are interested in doing 'spot the difference' will tell you if there are any observable problems with the data in that paper and associated others.

  • drugmonkey says:

    meh, Erp.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Namaste- That Nature Neuro author blurb for Tremere says she "established her independent laboratory at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center". According to PubMed she has three publications (of 32) that are not with Pinaud as co-author. One of those is middle-author from her graduate school institution. The other two are single-author in the journal for which she was on the Editorial Board and Pinaud was the EIC. The publisher representative claimed on the prior thread that they had no idea these two were a couple. So who knows if Pinaud recused himself on those papers or was responsible for accepting them.

    There's a teaching moment here, folks. If you expect to be taken seriously as an independent investigator don't establish a publication record like this with anyone, spouse or otherwise.

  • physioprof says:

    According to PubMed she has three publications (of 32) that are not with Pinaud as co-author.

    Maybe everyone was all like, "Oh, yeah! These two are totally like the Jans!"?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Dunno man. All I know is that that is not the record of an "independent laboratory". To the extent that means anything, this ain't it.

  • DJMH says:

    Has anyone contacted some of his previous co-authors, eg Erich Jarvis (HHMI) or Craig Mello (OHSU) for comment?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Namaste is harassing Jarvis on Twitter if that is what you mean.

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    Hilarious that Jervis has his fucken high school on his CV.

  • drugmonkey says:

    He was in that Fame! school? I'd put that on my CV too. That is awesome.

    I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna learn how to fly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • drugmonkey says:

    And Alvin Ailey too? Dayum. That is definitely CV material.

  • Masked Avenger says:

    He's at Oklahoma... endowed chair. Cheating pays.


    Start your watches.... let's time how long it takes before Oklahoma either bounces him or swallows the exposed lies.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Guys. Oklahoma was *before* Northwestern. OK clearly just never bothered to scrape their website for this material.

  • DJMH says:

    *Claudio Mello, not Craig. V. different. Apologies.

  • Dave says:

    Estrogen regulates hearing????? WTF? Doesn't sound right.

  • jmz4gtu says:

    "Doesn't sound right."
    -Probably cause your estrogen levels are low.

  • IGFlores says:

    Hey, just want to say that Pinaud is not the only person to report local estrogen synthesis in the brain. In birds alone there's plenty of evidence from other labs, cf. the work of Healey, Schlinger, London, etc.

    And plenty of people have published on estrogen synthesis in the (mammalian) hippocampus, or at least that's what Scholar tells me. Would love to know if people have strong opinions about that work

  • IGFlores says:

    Possibly more on topic, and another data point: when I was applying to grad schools, I talked with Pinaud on the phone for more than half an hour (I remember being surprised he gave me so much of his time). Part of the advice he gave me was to learn as much as possible in grad school since he felt like that's the last chance you have to really develop a broad set of skills.

    As an example, he told me it was really hard for him to find the time to learn the kind of information theory analyses they used in a couple of papers...like the one that was retracted.

    So at that point (~5 years ago) he was either a nice-ish guy that believed in his own results, or he was a total sociopath. Not that I have any problem believing Sia's comment on the other post about how he treated post-docs. Perhaps a post-doc from another country that Pinaud figured would be extra desperate to prove him/herself?

    Might be interesting to compare and contrast their results with those of the other groups studying similar things. I'm imagining somebody tearing their hair out because they spent a year trying to replicate a result.

  • kiko says:

    Dear IGFlores. I know him very well, and unfortunately my worst possible scenario for this mistery has proven true. Like you said, he is really a very nice person, very positive and funny. But he is also a sociopath, and a pathological liar, who would make up anything for getting what he wants. And, really, in view ot the latest developments, I doubt he larned anything of information theory. He was aways behind the computer screen doing whathever he told he was doing, he knew no one would try to replicate his data (few people work on birds and no one of then understands information theory), nobody stayed in his lab for long (with the exception of Jin), and his main co-author was his own wife... so he thought he was safe, but something happens.... (which I don´t know, but can imagine).

  • IGFlores says:

    Hi Kiko. Thanks for replying. You're right, I should have pointed out that "nice-ish" and "sociopathic" are by no means mutually exclusive.

    I understand the point you're trying to make about why Pinaud might have thought he could get away with "substantial data misrepresentation" (although I would like to think there's more than a few of us working on birds and I think at least a couple of us understand a little bit about applying information theory metrics to non-misrepresented spike trains). That just makes it all the more courageous for whoever spoke out to have done so.

    Anyways the rest of the blog is on to other things--FWIW I can find 9 citations for the paper but none of them seem to be building directly on what was reported

  • Marek says:

    Dear Kiko, I do know that he had started working with a number of programmers over the past five years, some were colleagues or freelancers and others were students. Of course you already knew that 😉

    Maybe you are from the camp whose fearless and burly leader goes around saying in his talks that because they put bicuculline in the brain and saw more (rhythmic, I might add) spikes, information must have gone up? Looks like you've got some catching up to do. You may want to look at Liu and Theunissen or the many other NON information theory types that populate the songbird field.

  • kiko says:

    You have no idea who I am

  • anonymous says:

    @kiko ... precisely

  • swusie says:

    Looks like Tremere, Pinaud and Kovaleski traveled together from University of Rochester to Oklahoma and then to Northwestern. Did all three work at those three places together?

  • Toto says:

    Yes, they travelled together. But Raphael was famous for firing people for no good reason. Guess why.

  • Toto says:

    Or sometimes the post docs fired themselves...

  • Swusie says:

    So are all the publications by these researchers in question or just the one?Seems really important for there to be clarity about any situation where a publication is retracted so the field knows how to judge other work by the same researchers. Did the graduate students who were co-authors on the paper stay on at Northwestern or did the leave to go with Pinaud?

  • toto says:

    Only the last one, but I put on my suspction list the other 2 J Neurosci he published as an independent investigator in Rochester/Oklahoma.
    Raphael just left his position at NW leaving everything behind, lab, students, his reputation, and so on...

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