The publisher PLOS is marking nearly 50 articles by Didier Raoult, the French scientist who became controversial for promoting hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19, with expressions of concern while it investigates potential research ethics violations in the work.
This story from France highlights that high-profile and prominent researchers can also be cheaters and charlatans. This is another instance of the incredibly impressive Elisabeth Bik calling out questionable research practices.
In August of 2021, scientific sleuth Elisabeth Bik wrote on her blog about a series of 17 articles from IHU-Méditerranée Infection that described different studies involving homeless people in Marseille over a decade, but all listed the same institutional ethics approval number. One of those papers, “Distinguishing Body Lice from Head Lice by Multiplex Real-Time PCR Analysis of the Phum_PHUM540560 Gene,” about which Bik also posted on PubPeer, was published in PLOS ONE in 2013, and is receiving an expression of concern today.
Bik and other commenters on PubPeer have identified ethical concerns in many of the other papers PLOS is flagging, including others in large groups of papers with the same ethical approval numbers. Bik has received harassment and legal threats from Raoult.