(March 24th, 2015) Already at an early age, Olivier Voinnet had achieved star status among plant biologists – until suspicions arose last year that more than 30 of his publications contained dubious images. Voinnet’s colleagues are shocked – and demand an explanation.
Several months ago, a small group of international plant scientists set themselves the task of combing through the relevant literature for evidence of potential data manipulation. They posted their discoveries on the post-publication peer review platform PubPeer. As one of these anonymous scientists (whose real name is known to Laborjournal/Lab Times) explained, all this detective work was accomplished simply by taking a good look at the published figures. Soon, the scientists stumbled on something unexpected: putative image manipulations in the papers of one of the most eminent scientists in the field, Sir David Baulcombe. Even more strikingly, all these suspicious publications (currently seven, including papers in Cell, PNAS and EMBO J) featured his former PhD student, Olivier Voinnet, as first or co-author.