Ideas

Brainiac

A perplexing pseudonym

FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 file photo, a nurse prepares a flu shot from a vaccine vial at the Salvation Army in Atlanta. Most doses of vaccine are made in a production process that involves growing viruses in chicken eggs. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
AP Photo/David Goldman
A nurse prepares a flu shot from a vaccine vial at the Salvation Army in Atlanta.

In academic science, the rule is “publish or perish”: If researchers can’t get their findings into journals, their careers wither. So it’s odd — and highly suspicious — when a scientist submits papers under a pseudonym. Earlier this year, one “Lars Andersson” published several articles purporting to show that vaccines against flu and human papilloma virus, a sexually-transmitted germ, are harmful to people who receive the shots. Andersson also claimed an affiliation with the Karolinska Institutet, a Swedish research center that awards the Nobel prizes for medical advances. Turns out, the name Lars Andersson was bogus, as was his (or her) purported affiliation. According to the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, which published one of Andersson’s papers, the ruse was an attempt to shield the researcher from possible retribution for the controversial findings. “The author did face a credible threat of harm, making it necessary not to be named publicly,” the journal explained after first defending the dodge and then buckling to pressure to retract the article. Three other retractions from a different journal appear to be in the offing.

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