Scooped by a Ghost

Usually when you discover something new you wan’t your name on it. Especially if you beat someone to it. I win. Give me my recognition.

But Bruce Spiegelman, a cell biologist at Harvard Medical School’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, did just get scooped. He was scooped by a mystery man. A publication appeared in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications that was an exact mimic of his current—and what he thought was unique—research. He was pissed. You could call him a mad scientist.

How I imagine Spiegelman looked when he first saw the paper.

But it turns out the names on the paper are made up. The attributed school, the University of Thessaly, has no idea who these authors are. The email address of the corresponding author is from a domain called That should have tipped the editor and reviewers off, but apparently no one bothered to check that these were real people.

Spiegelman insists that the information in the paper was taken from his own work, which he’s presented at 6 academic meetings. (Why he hasn’t gotten around to writing the paper yet, I don’t know.) Although the journal was withdrawn the paper, Spiegelman wants legal action. He wants to find out who wrote the paper and press charges.

What’s strange to me is that someone went to all this trouble to mess with him. The journal article is written well, obviously by a scientists, and argues valid points. After all, the results are real. They just belong to Spiegelman.

Was this a bitter competitor wanting to piss Spiegelman off? Was it an annoyed grad student who wanted to publish but Spiegelman was holding back for whatever reason? Whatever it was, they went to quite a bit of trouble. Passive aggressive science at its best.

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