Monday, March 4, 2024

The Life of a Scientific Detective

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

"Elisabeth Bik,  a microbiologist by training, has become one of the world's most influential science detectives," writes Deborah Balthazar in an interview in STAT, February 28, 2024. 

Interestingly, Bik's commitment to science sleuthing began as a hobby. She was a microbiologist at Stanford University. Before the Q&A, Balthazar writes about what Bik means by science misconduct and her real concern today: photoshopping in science papers.

This a wide ranging interview and Bik is just what an interviewer wants - Bik is responsive. Below are the questions Balthazar asked Bik. I have linked a few items for which you might like more information.

--After the investigation into the Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, your work has definitely come into the mainstream. Are there any other really high-profile things that you’ve been looking at since then?

--In this case, dozens of papers co-authored by Zlokovic had doctored evidence — images and data — supporting the idea that a compound he studied, 3K3A-APC, could benefit stroke patients. This is a clear example of how this kind of erroneous data can have an impact on people. Is there any way these drugs might get through?

--In the beginning, you were looking at plagiarism in general. What made you want to focus directly on images?

--Speaking of your talent, has anyone wondered how your brain works?

--At this point, how many papers have you analyzed?

--Is this how you imagined what your life would look?

--What are you giving talks on in Taiwan?

--From the perspective of the researchers, I can see that AI would definitely make their jobs easier. Would it make your job harder in trying to determine what exactly is a real image?

--You are probably one of the most visible people doing this work, especially since you do use your full name and a lot of people use pseudonyms on PubPeer. Have you faced any danger?

--I know that you’ve experienced a lot of frustrations. Is there a percentage of papers that people like the journal editors are just not taking a look at?

--Is there anything you’ve seen that’s positive in what journal editors are doing to increase their scrutiny, or signs people are taking this more seriously?

--Is there anything that you think that would be important to touch on that I haven’t asked you yet?

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