He hunts down careless scientists. He is finding a lot of prey.

Are you done hunting scientists for today?

I haven’t had time today. But if I spent a couple of hours reading articles, I would probably write four or five comments about errors in scientific articles. It is not difficult to find these problems and it is not difficult to find them in any institution. They are all available to find, if anyone wants to read the scientific literature.

What motivates you to spend time doing it?

I’m not an anti-vaxxer, I’m not a conspiracy nut or anything like that. I’m a scientist too and I care about getting science right.

You focus partly on images that have been mislabeled or used twice in an article, but as evidence of different things, lazily cut and pasted from one place to another. Is there an easy way to tell if an image is wrong?

You just look at the image and read the labels. For example, if you look at a microscopic image of cells, you will see the position, location, orientation, and shape of the cells. And if you look at another image of cells and they are all in the same position, with the same shape and orientation, then you know it’s the same image, right? It is not a complicated process.

It has also identified errors in Western transfers. What are those?

This is a type of scientific experiment used to identify and quantify specific proteins. Images are important in many scientific articles. They look gray on the background and have black bands. When you look at them very closely, you can usually tell whether it’s a copy and paste job or not. These things aren’t always obvious to people who don’t watch a lot of Western Blots.

Let’s move on to Dana-Farber. After finding errors in multiple articles by your researchers, what inference do you draw about the scientific methods of that preeminent institution?

It is important to remember that Dana-Farber researchers publish many papers. But that’s still a lot of mistakes and they’ve happened over a long period of time. This tells me that for a long time people haven’t paid enough attention to getting the basics right. How many careless mistakes are we comfortable with major institutions making? There probably aren’t many. I think most people expect Harvard scientists not to make copy-paste errors frequently.