Data re-use update

Every time I look at a stripy nanoparticle paper, I see the same images. I am not at all surprised about that, because hey, once you’ve convinced everyone that your nanoparticles got stripes by tricking a glamour magazine into publishing artefacts, you’ve got no need to spend time fabricating more images with stripy particles; you can live the dolce vita by analyzing and re-analyzing the same artefacts. Make no mistake, F. S. has been preaching to the converted.

But I am not that credulous; I don’t buy the stripy religion. Je sers la science et c’est ma joie! (I save science and this is my job!). Hey, I publish in a blog (well, now two of them) for anyone to see, not in those glamour journals that feed sexy stuff to the ingenuous.

I have to admit, however, that the first time I read the stripy paper published in the Journal of Scanning Probe Microscopy, F. S. tricked me into believing that there was new data. Hey, it even occurred to me that F. S. is not such a wicked folk after all!

Oh, boy, was I wrong (for all you out there, non-believers: see, I admit I may be wrong once in a long while!). I have now revisited that paper, and in fact ALL of the data in it have been re-used!

Wait, there is more. They cite their previous work, but go to great lengths to avoid writing that the data are re-used:

Much of the challenge lies in the sample preparation and in the image interpretation.43,44

[…] (see Experimental Details section).44,45

The synthesis procedures used for the particles described in this paper are derived from previous reports56–58,68 and have been discussed in detail in previous reports from this group.43–45,70

You have to go to the end of the paper to find in small type where the figures first appeared: Ref. 43. is Nat. Mater. 3, 330 (2004); Ref. 44. is J. Am. Chem. Soc. 128, 11135 (2006); Ref. 45. is J. Phys. Chem. C 112, 6279 (2008).

How cheeky. The figure legends do not indicate clearly where the data analyzed come from! Those smart-asses at EPFL made me work hard. I had to read the text, and then figure out that those small numbers meant that relevant data had been published before, go to the end of the paper, look for the numbers in a long list, go search for the papers referenced, and compare the data. Only to find out that the data is the same! RE-USED!

F**k man, what sort of trick is this? If you re-use a figure, write in the figure caption ‘Data self-plagiarized from previous work published in glamour journal X’.

But no, they deliberately hid the re-use of fake data. This shall not be allowed. Hey, they can’t publish the same fake data more than once and get away with it!

No doubt the paper should be retracted. I’ve gotta talk to my mate Dave Fernig; he knows how to set those journals straight.