Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bogus Science: When You Can't Find Any Evidence, You Can Always Just Make It Up

Several papers have been retracted; Data "manipulation" has been found. This is why it is not science until it has been successfully replicated at least once by disinterested, competent alternative labs. Especially when it is a political or Social Justice issue.

Italian papers on genetically modified crops under investigation

Papers that describe harmful effects to animals fed genetically modified (GM) crops are under scrutiny for alleged data manipulation. The leaked findings of an ongoing investigation at the University of Naples in Italy suggest that images in the papers may have been intentionally altered. The leader of the lab that carried out the work there says that there is no substance to this claim.

The papers’ findings run counter to those of numerous safety tests carried out by food and drug agencies around the world, which indicate that there are no dangers associated with eating GM food. But the work has been widely cited on anti-GM websites — and results of the experiments that the papers describe were referenced in an Italian Senate hearing last July on whether the country should allow cultivation of safety-approved GM crops.

“The case is very important also because these papers have been used politically in the debate on GM crops,” says Italian senator Elena Cattaneo, a neuroscientist at the University of Milan whose concerns about the work triggered the investigation.

Following the Senate hearing, Cattaneo took a closer look at three papers1–3, which all emerged from a research lab at the University of Naples, headed by veterinary scientist Federico Infascelli. They describe experiments on goat kids born to mothers fed on GM soya-bean meal and conclude that fragments of the foreign gene in the soya bean can be transported across the gut and secreted in the milk, influencing the biology of the suckling kids.
Gel manipulation

Cattaneo noted what looked like problems in all three papers: sections of images of electrophoresis gels appeared to have been obliterated, and some of the images in different papers appeared to be identical but with captions describing different experiments.

She then commissioned Enrico Bucci, head of the biomedical services and information consultancy firm BioDigitalValley in Aosta, Italy, to carry out a forensic analysis of all three papers. The analysis suggested that the papers did indeed contain manipulated and reused images. Cattaneo contacted the journals concerned in September last year, and in November forwarded the analysis to the University of Naples. The university rector, Gaetano Manfredi, an engineer, immediately launched the university investigation, which is nearly complete. He says that the university will probably announce any resulting actions by the end of February.

Ahead of this, however, details of the confidential findings of the investigation committee — composed of scientists in and outside of Naples — were leaked to the Italian press. Tommaso Russo, a molecular biologist at the University of Naples who is responsible for coordinating the investigation, told Nature that the committee has found that the papers contain intentional data manipulation.

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