The saga of whether there is any substance in the claims by Stellacci of stripes on nanoparticles and that such stripes impart remarkable properties to these materials has taken a new turn. Readers may remember that important issues have been requests to journals and his previous and current employers, MIT and EPFL, to act on clear cases of data re-use and to enable access to the original data so that they could be subjected to rigorous analysis.
MIT and EPFL were contacted. MIT, perhaps busy with budget woes, replied within the time they usually come to an initial conclusion that it would now be the end of May before they could do so. At EPFL, though we have no public statement, the wheels of academia would seem turn more effectively. As Raphael posted today on his blog, a portion of the original data have now been made publicly available at an EPFL website.
Given the months of stonewalling by Stellacci on the issue of provision of original data, one can only conclude that the data have appeared through pressure from his employer. So hats off to EPFL (or “chapeau” as they say in the canton of Vaud).
We can contrast this with the sorry state of play elsewhere, some examples, old and new:
I wait for a signal from MIT that anything is happening regarding my request for action.
The Cossu affair at UCL (read the extensive comments on Retraction Watch) does the collective reputation of UK universities no good.
The opaque notices from the Universities where Melendez worked (NUS, Glasgow and Liverpool) regarding fraud (blog post here), which was the subject of an excellent piece by Richard van Noorden.
The opacity of retraction notices, a continued source of frustration at Retraction Watch and the stimulus for my proposed Thesaurus of Euphemisms. A fine collection of these can be found in Ivan Oransky’s excellent presentation at the 3rd World Conference on Research Integrity
I encourage all SPM experts to take a look at these data. If they do not have the time to undertake an extensive analysis, they should at least offer some sort of opinion. Reproducibility in science is poor, e.g., see post on Retraction Watch and article by Ivan and Marcus in Lab Times) and it is up to the community to put their views in public and the originators of the data to defend these.
The score I would wish to see? In Test Cricket, after 5 days of hard play and the scores clearly different, the result is a draw. This should be the outcome, as it would demonstrate that academic integrity is alive and well and that our institutions are worthy of their pedigree.