Duplications in scientific articles from Chinese scientists ; fraud ? or effects of the strong pollution with alpha emitters…

Many images from papers (in cell biology especially) published by Chinese scientists have been found to contain “duplications”. Ms. Elisabeth Bik dedicated herself to looking closely at the data and started a debate on PubPeer that eventually led, as concerns one of the main defendants, Mr Xuetao Cao, to an investigation by the Chinese education ministry, in 2019, followed by his recent clearing of fraud accusations, with some penalties remaining.

The images show typically pattern of dots and other “stains” (from Petri dishes…) that sometimes “duplicate” from one image to another.

I tend to think that the reproductions happen because of the contamination of the research settings by alpha-emitting nanoparticulates. Not only the natural radioactivity is usually moderate to high in China but there is a tremendous level of contamination by coal ashes that bring a very big amount of alpha-emitting nanoparticulates (NORMs) and these certainly infiltrate to some degree the labs. Plus, two enormous nuclear accidents have happened in China, one in 2015 (Tianjin) and another in 2018 (Leizhou). These two INES-7 accidents (both akin to Chernobyl in nature : sodium fast-neutrons reactors, a single huge blast) have spread another thick layer of alpha-emitting nanoparticulates, causing dire epidemiological effects.

The Bose-Einstein condensation is the crucial argument here : with entry of alpha-emitting nanoparticulates (because of coal ashes, of the nuclear accidents…) together with their beta – emitting decay products, with also the fission products from the nuclear fallout, the scene is ready for contamination of the Petri dishes with that radioactivity ; the pushing of the cells that have been put in culture because of the annealing produced by the contamination necessarily produces a limited quantity of patterns. Furthermore, if several Petri dishes are laid one against another for the purposes of studying them the repartition of charges in a Petri dish necessarily creates an echo in the neighbouring dishes because polarity disequilibrium in a dish will be answered by a sum of disequilibria of the opposite polarity around the dish. Overall, there necessarily is an emergence of symmetries because of the contamination.

I wasn’t there around when the many papers were written. The emergence of the debate suggests an acceleration of the tendency that goes together with 1. the increasing intensity of electricity production with coal power plants and 2. the nuclear accidents of 2015 and 2018. There is no way a retrospective analysis without video recording of the researchers at work can be enough for making definitive claims. But pollution with alpha-emitting nanoparticulates and subsequent Bose-Einstein condensation in the dishes is clearly the most credible answer to the issue.

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