Till spring 2020, Raoult was finest generally known as an eminent microbiologist who based and heads the analysis hospital Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire Méditerranée An infection, or IHU. He has found or codiscovered dozens of latest micro organism — a bunch of them are named Raoultella — in addition to giant viruses. By many accounts, his intensive attain within the scientific neighborhood is matched by his mood: In 2012, Science magazine described him as “imaginative, rebellious, and sometimes disdainful.” “He could make life laborious for you,” one researcher mentioned.
A handful of Raoult’s hundreds of publications have additionally fallen underneath scrutiny. In 2006, the American Society for Microbiology banned him and 4 coauthors from its journals for a yr over a “misrepresentation of knowledge” after a reviewer noticed figures that have been equivalent, however shouldn’t have been, throughout two variations of a submitted manuscript. (Raoult objected to the ban, saying he wasn’t at fault.) And a few researchers seen that Raoult was on one-third of all papers to ever appear in a single journal, which was staffed by a few of his collaborators.
Final yr, Raoult’s crew issued a correction to a 2018 study, and one other from 2013 was retracted altogether (the journal mentioned that Raoult couldn’t be reached when it was making its choice). Each contained apparently duplicated or in any other case suspect pictures, first noticed by Bik, who has flagged greater than 60 different research of his on PubPeer for potential points.
And by July of final yr, his most notorious research had been seemed over by much more exterior specialists commissioned by the journal’s publishers. The scientists didn’t maintain again. “Gross methodological shortcomings,” “non-informative,” and “absolutely irresponsible,” one said. Another group said it “raised lots of consideration and contributed to a requirement for the drug with out the suitable proof.”
Regardless of acknowledging these flaws, the leaders of the Worldwide Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, which publishes the journal together with Elsevier, opted not to retract the study. “We consider, along with the significance of sharing observational information on the top of a pandemic, a strong public scientific debate in regards to the paper’s findings in an open and clear style must be made accessible,” they said. Across the identical time, a bunch of 500 French infectious illness specialists filed a complaint with native well being officers, accusing Raoult of spreading misinformation about hydroxychloroquine.
Raoult defended his “seminal work,” arguing that the decision for a retraction had “no justification apart from the opinion of people that have been fiercely hostile to” hydroxychloroquine. At a French Senate listening to that September, he as soon as once more downplayed criticisms of his analysis. Bik had “managed to search out 5 errors in a complete of three,500 articles,” he said, whereas acknowledging that there have been doubtlessly a small variety of different errors as nicely. He denied ever committing fraud.
On the Senate listening to, Raoult called Bik a time period that interprets to “head hunter,” a “woman” who had been “stalking” him since he was “well-known.” And round Thanksgiving, biologist Eric Chabrière, a frequent collaborator of Raoult’s and a coauthor of the hydroxychloroquine research, tweeted that Bik “harasses” and “tries to denigrate” Raoult.
He invoked her previous employment at uBiome, a microbiome-testing startup that the FBI raided in 2019. (Bik, who was scientific editorial director there till the tip of 2018, has said that she was by no means questioned and was not concerned within the founders’ alleged scheme to defraud insurers and investors.) Chabrière additionally accused her of being paid by the pharmaceutical trade.
“I’m not sponsored by any firm, however you’ll be able to sponsor me at @Patreon,” Bik tweeted again, linking to her account. As she defined to Chabrière, she can also be a advisor to universities and publishers who need suspicious papers investigated.
“Comfortable to research any papers of your institute, too, so long as you pay me :-),” she added.
Over the next months, Chabrière would name her “an actual dung beetle,” “a mercenary who solely obeys cash,” and an individual “paid to assault and discredit sure targets.” His supporters piled on, generally with vague threats. In the meantime, Raoult known as her a “loopy lady” and a “failed researcher” of “medium intelligence.”
Then, on April 30 of this yr, Chabrière tweeted a screenshot of a authorized criticism allegedly filed with a public prosecutor in France. It accused her and Barbour, the PubPeer co-organizer, of “ethical harassment,” “tried blackmail,” and “tried extortion.” Her residence tackle was listed. The tweet was later deleted.