* 9:03am MDT, Important update – the images are apparently being removed by Elsevier (via Twitter; see updates below).  I’ll continue to post updates if/when they come in.

This post is an attempt to bring together a bunch of information on a story that Jonathan Eisen broke yesterday (note below: it was posted on TOC ROFL on Wednesday).  Pier Giorgio Righetti, a proteomics researcher from Milan recently published a paper on the proteome (group of proteins) found in coconut milk.  The graphical abstract was, well, a little graphic, and more than a little sexist (the images have now been removed, but see Zen Faukles’ post for what they looked like).

This isn’t the first time Righetti’s pulled this stunt, though (again, note that the images have now been removed).

Both papers appeared in the Elsevier published “Journal of Proteomics” of which Righetti is the executive editor!!

Now, if that’s not enough to get your blood boiling, when Rajini Rao, a Professor and Graduate Program Director at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore wrote Reghetti last night, his response was, well, not helpful:

Hello Prof. Rao,

I wonder if you have been trained in the Vatican. As you claim to be professor of Physiology, let me alert you that this image is physiology at its best!

Take care,

Prof. Dr. Per Giorgio Reghetti

You can follow along at the Twitter hashtag #ProteomicsSexism.  I’ll post updates below as they come.

Other takes on this story:

Maybe these graphical abstracts could be a little less graphic by Zen Faulkes

Journal of Proteomics, what the…?!?!?!?!? by OdysseyBlog

Reason #140 Why Sexist Bullshit in Academia is Not Okay by Dr. Isis

How not to write an apology … by Dr. Isis

This doesn’t belong in science. At all. by DrugMonkey

Not how I wanted to spend spring break by Joshua Drew

Journal of Proteomics gets weird by Jenna Bilbrey

Not cool, professore by Sylvie Coyaud in Ocasapiens in La Repubblica (in Italian)

Sexism charge hits proteomics journal – and you’ll see why by Retraction Watch

Some humour from Alex Wild: Elsevier’s latest journal is just for bros

Professor’s coconuts are causing quite a bit of breast-beating in The Times (subscription required, ht Tom Whipple)


I’ve got a lovely bunch of proteomes! Professor in sexism row for picture of girl covered by coconuts in protein research paper in The Daily Mail



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8:00am MDT – I neglected to mention that Righetti doesn’t own the images, so they likely violate the journal/publisher copyright agreements. At least one appears to be from a website called “Sexiest US Bartenders”

8:02am MDT – apparently, Reghetti has four such papers: 1) here; 2) here; 3) here; and 4) here (ht Michael Hawkes)

8:25am MDT – you can contact the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Proteomics, Juan Calvete, here (note that Dr. Calvete has included his form-letter reply in the comments below)

9:00 MDT – Apparently Elsevier is now aware, as Tom Reller tweeted, and they are looking into it.

9:03 MDT – the images are apparently going to be removed

9:08 MDT – I’m a little late with this, but Bug G. Membracid on Twitter (here and here) found one of the images Righetti used & modified

9:25 MDT – Elsevier has confirmed the images will be removed, via Twitter

11:02 MDT – the editor of the Journal of Proteomics has responded (a form response sent to various folks by email, and also left in the Comments section below).  Seems like a non-apology to me.

11:21 MDT – thanks to Zen Faulkes for pointing out that the whole thing was picked up by TOC ROFL 3 days ago.

11:31 MDT – Jonathan Eisen has put together a Storify of the various tweets around the whole incident

13:17 MDT – it appears the three papers of Righetti’s in the Journal of Proteomics are not currently available on the journal’s website; the fourth in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta remains unaltered.

17:39 MDT – I’ve cleaned up the typos and added the links

24 March, 19:48 MDT – word from Zen Faulkes that the three graphical abstracts in the Journal of Proteomics have been removed, and the papers are available again.  Interestingly, there’s no accompanying correction notice.  Juan Calvete seems to also be trolling pretty hard at Zen’s and Dr. Isis’ posts.  Righetti has is also no longer listed as an Executive Editor at the Journal of Proteomics.

25 March 18:14 MDT – New coverage from The Times (subscription required)

27 March 17:44 MDT – New coverage from The Daily Mail