Friday, August 09, 2013

Faking it - Elemental Analysis!

Earlier this year I was refereeing a rather good paper and had I not taken the time to inspect the experimental section I would have accepted it with minor corrections. However, whoever wrote the experimental had clearly never run an elemental analysis before and was hopeless at making them up. The numbers were simply to good and although everything else looked great I had to reject the paper due to serious misconduct/fraud. This made me think that there must be thousands of papers out there with made up elemental and HRMS analyses  as these are really simple to make up. Have a look at this web page for inspiration for realistic elemental data:
After this incident I always read the experimental section first and check the spectra and I really wish that my refereeing colleagues would do the same. The crap you find in the experimental section of all journals including the most prestigious ones is simply unbelievable. Even when the experimental stuff looks great it is remarkable how many procedures we are completely unable to reproduce in our lab.
Anyway, not all hustlers are equally talented as a good friend of mine pointed out yesterday when he sent me this interesting paper by Reto Dorta and co-workers:
My friend simply wrote check out supplementary information page 12. And so I did and this is what I found (click on image to enlarge):

Many thanks to Reto Dorta and co-workers for this excellent example of what I guess must be classified as attempted fraud since the fake elemental analysis was never added. D!  


wolfgang robien said...

I recommend to read

Trends Analytical Chemistry, 28, 914 (2009) describing the situation with C13-NMR

Analysis of a few C13-NMR misinterpretations can be found on

XRAY: Acta Cryst. Sect. D, 63, 941 (2007)

For C13-NMR tools are there:

Best regards, Wolfgang Robien

Agostino Marchetti said...

Interesting read and very informative article, Daniel.
It offers stimulating ideas for further discussion. Worth sharing...