Monday, August 20, 2018

Space Dentist, sign of the time
Space Dentist, so outta line

"When the recruiting call goes out for the first crewed mission to Mars, and the practical necessity finally dawns on NASA for someone aboard the probe who can tend to the zero-gravity dental needs of the rest of the crew, who're they gonna hire for those specialised skills? Balwant Rai, world's only Space Dentist!" According to the Riddled Dream Machine, that's what young Balwant Rai thought when he read 'Prostho Plus' at an impressionable age, and was thereby inspired to greatness.

So here is the OMICS version of his CV, all fulsome and sunriped (other versions exist, equally cleansed of false modesty):
Professor, Department of Aeronautic Dentistry, Kepler Space Institute
Assoc. Professor Dr. Balwant Rai is the founder of curriculum aeronautical (2006) and space Dentistry and JBR group association of space and aeronautical dentistry (2006). He is Program Director and Associate Professor of Aeronautic Dentistry at KSI. He is working as Researcher, VU, Amsterdam. He is also consultants and adviser of different companies. He is also the President and Founder of the JBR Institute of Health Education Research and Technology.
Dr Rai has more than 100 published articles in international and national journals, has written seven books, and is Editor-in-Chief of four international journals He is also founder of the BR formula and BR regression equation used in forensic technology. His current work involves the effect of micro-gravity on the oral cavity, human physiology and psychology and non-invasive biomarkers, including the elaboration of technologies to prevent the adverse effects of microgravity on the human physiology including oral cavity. His biography has been published in Who’s Who in Health and Medicine and Who’s Who in the World, USA. He is invited Editor of Mars Quarterly. He is an invited reviewer to NRF, South Africa, reviewer of more than 10 different journals, and has seven pending patents. He is an invited reviewer of many national and international indexed journals. 
The Kepler Space Institute does exist, being the successor of the old L5 Sociey, and inheritor of that Sociey's dream of human expansion into the high frontier of Space (though with a realistic acceptance that mining the asteroid belt and filling the Langrangian-point orbits with hollow rotating O'Neill Habitats is a long-term goal rather than an immediate prospect). I fondly remember the spaceward enthusiasm of L-5 members in the 1970s. Anyway, there is no indication on the KSI website of Associate Professors, nor a Department of Aeronautic Dentistry, nor Program Directors; and especially nothng about Balwant Rai... leaving one to suspect that the association is not current (if it is not fabricated entirely).

The claim to edit International Journals is probably true, using "journals"in a broad sense that includes various scuzzy little scholarly jizzmops from the mockademic-publishing genre of grift... not just from the lowlife at OMICS, but all the way down the human-centipede foodchain to SciDoc.

As for the "JBR Institute of Health Education Research and Technology" (it is not clear what the 'J' stands for), this has no existence or activities other than its frequent appearance in Balwant Rai's CVs, adorning and bolstering his scientifical plausibility... much as I always include the Riddled Institute of Experimental Ethics and Impure Science in the 'Author Affiliations' line of my published papers.

There is, on the other hand, a JBR Conference website, for Balwant wants his turn at the Scamference moneyteat... rather than gracing other people's predatory conference scams with his authoritative presence as Judas Goat Prestigious Invited Keynote Speaker, he has decided to be the organ grinder rather than the monkey [that came out sounding ruder than I intended]. Please tell me that you are not surprised:

The prospect of being stuck with Balwant Rai on a Baltic Cruise-liner overnight Copenhagen / Oslo ferry does not enormously appeal. Suppose it is a dress rehearsal for the Hohmann transfer-orbit mission to Mars, and he seizes the opportunity to monitor the dental condition of his fellow-crew? This is not rocket science... well, I suppose in fact it is.

Reassuringly, the most recent JBR Conferences have been downgraded to a purely land-based affair, so I'm guessing that the "Baltic Cruise" scam has not been as remunerative as was originally hoped. But if you are in Copenhagen in the next day or two, it is your opportunity to pay a lot of $$$ to hear Keynote Speaker Balwant Rai ranting for 40 minutes about the endless educational possibilities of his own titular University, even though it is at a time of the morning when decent citizens have just been thrown out of the Mikkeller Bar and are still on their way home to bed:
Breakfast and Networking : 8:30-10:00 am 

1. JBR University: New way of education system
Prof. Balwant Rai, JBR Health Education and Research, Denmark 10.00-10:40 am.
But wait, there is more! For thanks to RetractionWatch, we learn that there is someone else still later in the foodchain than Balwant Rai, who is reduced to plagiarising the latter's fantasies speculative essays into the effects of zero-gravity on teeth: I can only suppose that Balwant is not alone in his Space Dentistry ambitions, so we advise him not to rest on his laurels. it is an uncomfortable posture and the aphids get up one's bum.

Liverpuddle Scene: Stage set-up in progress

Just saying, roadies for a Spın̈al Tap Tribute Band have an easy job.

After graduating with this degree, you are entitled to sign MOFHL after your name

Alternative title: "Man Reading Aloud to a Turkey".

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Touch of Undying #2

Stockpiles of Stupid were running low again so we dispatched teams of ninja ethnologists to conduct fieldwork among distant primitive tribes in the Bumblefuck Archipelago and record their creation myths and magical-thinking ritualistic worldviews, before they are spoiled by exposure to civilisation and rationality.

What they brought back was this report from Alcorcón, Spain, where the media had fallen for an alluring line of bullshit-and-blarney from a team of Dutch and Spanish monorail salemen... all about the state-of-the-aunt no-cutting-edge Research Hospital devoted to Integrative Healing and Traditional Chinese Medicine that would soon bring patients flooding into Alcorcón, thanks to a €30-million gift from the Chinese Gubblement, coming Real Soon Now to repay the bridging loans. Never mind the delicate allusions to the material signs of commitment that the host city should show to secure that gift [this project will be selected on bases of infra structure and readiness to take the step to establish a new concept of healthcare...]; just look at the CGI!

Now small towns succumbing to richly-embroidered blandishments does not normally fall within the purview of the Riddled School of Unconventional Ethics and Fishnet-Stocking Museum, but it turned out to be purviewable after all, so bear with me. The pages at the "China Europe Business Development Services" website provide not only glossy architecture-porn CGI, but also documentation of the TCM hospital story-line, lavish with circumstantial detail.

But then the city's embittered political dissidents applied due diligence:
On December 29 the municipal government of Alcorcón announced an agreement for the Chinese government to invest 300 million euros to build an "International Health Center", which combined Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western medicine, on a plot of 60,000 meters square in the South Ensanche neighborhood of our municipality.
None of this seems to have to do with the International Health Center announced by the City Council of Alcorcón. The promoter company, China Europe Business Development Services (CEBDS), seems to be more dedicated to the promotion of "natural therapies" of Chinese origin and not in the scientific development of drugs from the experiences of the TCM, nor with the medicine Western, as the company reflects on its own website, its interest in Spain is due to the permissiveness of our legislation with the sale and dissemination of Western-origin pseudoscientific therapies such as homeopathy.
And is that despite having been announced as an investment by the Chinese government, is this private company, chaired by the Dutchman Robert De Vos, who would be in charge of the investment. In addition, although "China Europe Business Development Services" does seem to have several advisors of Chinese origin, it does not have any member of the Chinese government among its directors. According to its own website, its Executive Director is the Brazilian Alexandre Ferreira Lopes, and its Director for Business Development, the Spanish David Martinez Hinojosa.
...and the webpages discovered an urgent appointment elsewhere, and in the manner of leprechaun gold or Macavity the Cat they were no longer there, proving impossible to archive (on account of the fictive, irreal nature of the Chinese invstors), leaving only screen-grabs.

It is not entirely clear whom CEBDS are targeting with their offers to facilitate mutually-lucrative links between Euro and Chinese business leaders. The vanished and surviving pages at the CEBDS website worked hard to foster the impression that CEBDS's officers enjoy the confidence and purchasable access to the highest echelons of the Chinese kleptocracy, but I am not convinced.

CEBDS CEO Robert de Vos used to have a LinkedIn page, designed to reel in Europeans with a general lure of "there are many scams going on and this is your chance to grab your share of the moneyswirl". Combined with a fatalistic / upside-of-defeatism sense of "Europe is finished, the future is China; CEBDS is your chance to welcome our new overlords while they are still recruiting collaborators". All punctuated with freshly-coined Confucian aphograms and epirisms (and even the other way around), and permeated with the odour of joss-sticks and honourable high-mindedness, which is to say not intended for the eyes of actual Chinese businesspersons.

Alas, that entry too has gone down the memory hole, so you will have to take my word for it. Instead, here is another vanished page from the CEBDS site:

The crux is at the bottom:*Immortalis Klotho"!

Immortalis Klotho, readers will recall, is the latest wonder-drug from the ever-inventive Dr Marco Ruggiero, who has dazzled us for centuries with his wondrous creations. Coming in quick succession after GcMAF, Magic Yoghurt, Rerum®,** and perhaps a few more that I forgot. It lengthens life-expectancy beyond the bounds of today, by causing relativistic time-dilation effects at the level of cellular DNA, perhaps by boring the base-pairs in such tedious degree that time seems to pass more slowly for them (a similar effect might explain how Ruggiero seems to have dazzled us for centuries). Dr Ruggiero has published repeatedly on time-dilation and quantum neurology, and likes to cite the Old Testament as science literature to prove that the original Biblical-Patriarch longevity was not unreasonable for Immortalis customers to expect. For the marketing and distribution of this new product, he teamed up with "Sacha" Stone - failed rock-star, wannabee New Age Messiah, and broad-spectrum grifter.

Now we turn to the Immortalis Testimonials page (recently closed to public scrutiny, but attempts to archive it were less unsuccessful). Most of the testifying entities are anonymised, or are V14GR4 spam-bots who attained sentience but have not yet left traceable on-line footprints. But wait, who are these individuals ‘Robert de Vos’ and ‘David M[artinez]’, offering their independent and disinterested testimony from CEBDS?

De Vos is black-haired in his photographs, though he credits Immortalis with restoring his pelage to its original blondity. It is unclear what arrangement between Ruggiero and the CEBDS monorail Alcorcónmen inspired the latter to become Immortalis pimps, but one is heartened to find them providing full service.
[H/t Dora for all the leads]

* Another crux at the bottom, c/o Man Ray.

** In other news: Rerum® (“The Stuff”) is now obsolete and de-recommended! For another quantum leap occurred in immune-support therapy, and another good new thing has hied into view, with a brutally-kerned logo that could easily be mistaken for that of a designer bottled-water brand . Coming real soon! One struggles to curb one’s anticipation!

Of course Rerum® had already accrued imitators and competitors for the moneys of the credulous born-sucker-demographic clientele (I am SHOCKED SHOCKED to encounter this lack of solidarity within the medscam industry), so its abandonment was only a matter of time.

So far, ‘Imuno’ is purveyed only through ‘’, operating out of the basement of Michael Kelly’s new-age / Alt-Med cash-extraction facility and pantechnicon of modalities at St Benedict’s Road (Auckland, NZ). His other business activities have inspired us with admiration and hilarity. Details of who registered the primary website ‘’ are veiled behind an anonymising service,
though not very effectively, for it is hosted on an IP address that is quite selective about the other websites it hosts. That is to say, the evidence points to Michael Kelly as the main instigator and producer of Imuno®.

In the past Mr Kelly has been creative in his attributions, and it is possible that the alleged role of Ruggiero in this new product is purely his own invention. We should not be too quick to conclude that Ruggiero is trying to backstab Heinz Reinwald (Swiss impresario of Alt-Med bafflegab placebos), who seems to control production and distribution of the now-deprecated Rerum®. And perhaps takes an excessive share of the profits.

As always, it is the high calibre of the individuals one thereby encounters that bring me back again and again to Ruggiero’s cosplay version of medical research.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A king of shreds and patches

This post was earlier cross-posted at Leonid Schneider's site, hence the nonfrivolity and Explaining Voice. The version there is improved by Leonid's editing and explanation of the back-story.

With all the developments and retractions and cruelly-truncated research programs in the field of regenerated airway transplants, it is easy to overlook the parallel events involving 'text transplants'. I refer of course to the experiments of Dr Carmine Finelli and his colleague and mentor Dr Giovanni Tarantino, as reported in posts at RetractionWatch and by Sylvie Cotaud at Ocasapiens.

Finelli rose to prominence 18 months ago in L'affair Dansinger when a paper he had published seemed familiar to one of its readers. The reader had in fact written identical sentences and tabulated identical data, at an earlier date, but his own version had been rejected for publication (by a panel of peer reviewers which included Carmine Finelli). Soon 'Marco' reported that Finelli & Tarantino (2013) was a near-verbatim copy of Wang et al. (2009) (although augmented by the addition of a paragraph of Concluding Remarks, copied from the Abstract of a paper from 2001). The commotion drew the attention of commenters and contributors to PubPeer, who delight in pursuing low-hanging fish and fruit in a barrel, and who doubted that the episode would be an isolate.

The results of their inquiries are documented in 36 threads at PubPeer: 21 co-authored by Finelli and Tarantino, three by Finelli (plus other colleagues and students) and 12 by Tarantino. The dates range from Tarantino (2007) to Finelli (2017), with their productivity peaking in 2013 with nine papers and 2014 with eight. In short, the experiments of the Dottori were all about taking blocks of text (of greater or shorter length) from donor papers, decellularising them stripping out the references, and re-seeding the resulting "scaffold" with stem cells citations of their own previous publications.

You will have to read the PubPeer threads themselves to decide how far the papers depart from conventional standards of originality. In the first two examples above, the re-authored source material was republished in undigested form. At the other extreme are lapidary mosaics of paragraphs woven together from multiple sources (to the extent that a mosaic can be woven): sometimes just Abstracts, with no indication that the main texts of these papers had been consulted. Or nuggets or inclusions of source material, embedded in connective tissue. Finelli et al. 2014a and 2014b are the same collage in two different journals.*

Sometimes journal editors will curate an issue with an Editorial that picks out the significant contributions, bookended by introductory and concluding paragraphs that put them in context and abstract their recurring themes. These prefaces can be stripped of the contribution-specific descriptions and repurposed as perfectly republishable artifacts in their own right.

The works include review articles and Invited Editorials. Also of note, and exemplifying the "lapidary mosaic" style, are two scrapbooked Chapters in the Handbook of Lipids in Human Function (2016) and a third for Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Abdominal Obesity (2014). Ronald Watson, editor of both volumes, presumably commissioned the chapters.* There is a lesson here for young scholars, about the kind of academic conduct by which one builds a magisterial reputation in the field... how one earns invitations to write Editorials, and to be a peer reviewer.

The World Journal of Gastroenterology was a favourite target, with 14 flagged publications (seven of them without Finelli). This hails from Baishideng Publishing Group, a pay-to-play company noted for spamming and negotiable standards of review. Second favourite was Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases (the organ of several Romanian medical associations) with five co-authored papers.

In 2013, the editors of J. Gastroint. Liver Dis. were compelled to reprimand Finelli and Tarantino for including an antepenultimate paragraph in their 2012 contribution, without attributing Zelber-Sagi et al. (2011) as the authors. This being "minor plagiarism with inadequate attribution in an already published review", the authors were let off with an apology and a promise to go forth and sin no more, while the editors will engage in no further correspondence, for they feel that they have discharged their obligations. The ironic aspect of this single recycled paragraph is that it is almost the only paragraph in Finelli & Tarantino (2012) that was not taken from Zivkovic et al. (2007).
Compare and contrast

In one form or another, paragraphs from Zivkovic et al. can be found in half-a-dozen of the doctors' works in the medium of collage. They were especially besotted with its introductory phrases ("The rising incidence of obesity in today’s environment is associated with many obesity-related health complications..." and "This constellation is also recognized as the metabolic syndrome and is characterized by underlying..."), e.g. Tarantino, Capone & Finelli (2013); Finelli & Tarantino (2014); and Tarantino & Finelli (2016).

Right: Abstract copied from Aron-Wisnewsky et al. (2013)

Another productive text-mine was Harrison & Day (2007). It provided the bulk of a review article, Finelli & Tarantino (2012), although when the Figures were redrawn for that 2012 appearance they lost much of their aesthetic elegance.

Other paragraphs reappeared in Finelli, Gioia & La Sala (2012), and as a subsection in a 2014 Chapter. It so happened that Harrison and Day had committed a harmless but distinctive malapropism, which was faithfully copied in each emergence, making them easy to find.

I could go on. A summary from Cai et al. (2006) was recreated five times, including in Tarantino & Finelli (2016) again (for that chapter is something of a greatest-hits compilation): not necessarily a record but still an accomplishment to celebrate. It may be that after the first few repetitions, the authors genuinely believed that they were merely copying their own unimprovable bons mots. Other sources ranged from Wikipedia to Dr Mehmet Oz. As well as text, Tables and Figures were fair game.

Meanwhile, science blogger Neuroskeptic had reported the discouraging outcomes of an experiment in editorial receptivity:
Over the space of four months, I reported about 30 cases of plagiarism in review papers to various journals, with the help of Turnitin plagiarism detection software.
Every case I reported was a serious one. The percentage of unoriginal text ranged from 44-90%, with an average of about 65%.
I was inspired by this example to conduct a similar project with the present oeuvre, selecting 18 papers from 13 journals and emailing the editors, drawing their attention to these questions of originality and attribution (this sounds so much better than "anonymous poison-pen denunciations"). I assured the recipients that our correspondence (or their lack of response) would be confidential.

In 11 of 18 cases my email was acknowledged, with some editors asking for further information or promising to conduct an inquiry. Less encouragingly, only two of the 18 have experienced an actual change in status. It may be that a 16-month interval is not long enough for journals to compare two blocks of text, or to obtain the authors' consent to an intervention. However, I have not counted the case of Finelli, Gioia & La Sala (2012) where my message was superfluous, as the editors had already been notified and were already taking steps. Nor did my list include Tarantino, Di Minno & Finelli (2015), which the editors of Oncotarget retracted depublished without prompting, leaving no explanation or trace of its previous existence.

In "Rivers of London", Dr Walid knows the score:
When I asked Dr Walid about it, he merely said that he liked to keep certain of his files secure.
‘From who?’ I asked.
‘Other researchers,’ he said. ‘They’re always looking to pirate my work.’ Apparently the hepatologists were the worst.
* Finelli et al. (2014a / 2014b) reappeared in an extended dance remix as a book chapter in 2017 -- gaining some additional copy-paste though losing the co-authors -- though no-one bothered to annotate the piracy, for the publisher in this case was Bentham, who are unlikely to care.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The map is not the territory

Can't post, due to travel & work & beer.

This is what happens when conceptual artists are invited to redesign street-maps.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!

A previous post touched fleetingly on that episode of popular nescience in the 1990s when a small band of disinterested, evidence-driven, 100%-agenda-free maverick thinkers had the temerity to challenge the orthodoxy of equality in intellectual endowment. Of special interest to your hard-working Riddled staff is the backlash when the cowled monks of the Equality Inquisition stormed the laboratories and the groves of academe, all “You can’t handle the truth!”, shutting down the inquiries to the point that “The Bell Curve” never rose above the obscurity of the cover page of Time. David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan and Linda Gottfredson and the collected editorial board of Intelligence were inspired to champion the right of the book’s authors to ask questions however inconvenient, and we can all see how their own careers suffered in the subsequent Stalinist reprisals.

Fast-forward two decades, and a new generation of brave maverick researchers are broaching the possibility of inhomogeneities in the geographic distribution of the genes of supremacy, undeterred by the orthodoxy of geneticists and anthropologists and palaeontologists. You probably haven’t heard of these human-biodiversity heretics, for the cowled monks of the Inquisition were swift to mobilise (they may have been spent the intervening years slumbering in the crypt of a cathedral somewhere) and they went all “Some questions are NOT TO BE ASKED” again, suppressing this new just-asking-questions crowd to the point that they have to hire a hall at UCL for their conferences.
Rare portrayal of Smut not ranting
Now here at the Riddled Department of Traditions and Old Charters or Something, I am always available to rant about cycles in intellectual / contrarian thinking, as long as the frostygirls are buying the vasopressin. Especially if it is a 20-year generational cycle, where the delightful prospect beckons of shoehorning it into the 22-year rhythm of sunspots and solar magnetism reversals.

So in the case of this recurring oppression of independent thought white-supremacist bafflegab, we go back twenty years to a previous ideologue / heretic clash in 1976, and harken to Sprague de Camp, as he introduces the ‘cowled inquisitors’ trope. They embody the Spectre of Political Correctness, or something.

The geographical taxonomy of human variation presented in "Breeds of Man" was already dated then (Cavalli-Sforza had published The Genetics of Human Populations in 1971) and it has not aged well. De Camp set out expecting to conclude that the mavericks were right and "equality" is a sentimental shibboleth of liberalism; that heredity is paramount and intelligence is determined by the geographical location of one's ancestors. But then he encountered the greater claims of environment, and ended up accepting that the Equality doctrinaires were right all along (though probably for the wrong reasons), so he gets many cookies for intellectual integrity.

I hang onto a copy of the April 1976 Analog as it continued the serialisation of 'Children of Dune', with the Schoenherr illustrations, and I am a sucker for nostalgia.

Must credit Emma and B^4 for contributions in an earlier comment thread.