Elisabeth Bik faces legal action after criticizing studies

An An independent researcher who has pointed out possible problems in more than 60 studies by microbiologist Didier Raoult of the Aix-Marseille Université is facing a legal complaint about harassment and extortion. The guard reported on May 22nd. An open letter from scientists who support Bik, who was also insulted and harassed on Twitter for criticizing the studies, has more than 1,000 signatures so far. Bik is also mentioned in a separate petition supporting “Defenders of Scientific Integrity”.

“We also want citizens and academics who might try to sue whistleblowers to understand that this is not a legal problem, but a scientific one,” said Lonni Besançon, author of the open letter and postdoc at Monash University in Australia, who has also raised concerns about Raoult’s work The guard. “Dr. Bik is an amazing scientist and we want to make sure that the current legal situation around her does not set a dangerous precedent.”

See “Eye for Manipulation: A Profile of Elisabeth Bik”

Bik, a consultant with a microbiological background who regularly points out obvious image manipulation in published studies, initially criticized Raoult’s work in a blog post she published about a high-profile study in which Raoult and his colleagues reported positive results in treating COVID-19 Patients on the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. The study sparked excitement for the drug among then-President Donald Trump and others, but Bik’s blog cited “serious problems” with it, including the fact that the control and treatment groups differed in ways she argued Could introduce disruptive factors. The study’s editor later expressed concern about this.

Bik went on to analyze Raoult’s previous work – some of it, like the hydroxychloroquine study carried out with co-author Eric Chabrière from IHU – Méditerranée Infection in Marseille – and commented on more than 60 of his studies on the PubPeer website, pointing out duplicate images and ethical issues The guard.

Raoult and Chabrière responded by publicly insulting Bik, according to several outlets, and in late April Chabrière tweeted a since-deleted picture of a legal complaint against them accusing them of harassment and extortion and giving their home address. The complaint also cites Boris Barbour, a neuroscientist who runs PubPeer. Raoult’s attorney said the many automated notifications of PubPeer comments were harassment. science Reports, and that the blackmail allegation relates to a Twitter exchange in which Chabrière asked Bik if she had any financial ties to pharmaceutical companies and linked Bik to the Patreon account where she received donations and – jokingly, she says – offers to study IHUs for a fee.

The result is “bringing the science to what has been brought to many other areas – doxing, threats, and intimidation,” said Lisa Rasmussen, a research ethicist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte science. “Science has done better for a while in this regard, but now we’re seeing it.”

“Unfortunately, this is nothing new,” says Lex Bouter, a research integrity scientist at Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands nature. “Whistleblowing is risky and can lead to real damage to the whistleblower.”

A PubPeer spokesman tells the story nature that “successful legal action could have a dissuasive effect on peer review after publication” and that this is the first time that “direct legal action against the site” has been taken (although this has been the subject of a subpoena for the Identity of commentators and has received threats of legal action). It is not clear whether the legal complaint will become anything; Bik informs the sales outlets that it has not been informed about this directly.

Bik tells nature that Raoult did not respond to the specific concerns she raised. “Why doesn’t he show me proof that I’m wrong? I would like to accept that, ”she says. “Science should be discussed in a scientific field, not a legal field.”

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