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Raising Concerns, Accused of Harassment

Dutch microbiologist and scientific integrity expert Elisabeth Bik is being accused of harassment in a legal complaint filed in France over concerns she raised about a study promoting the antimalarial agent hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, The Guardian reported on Saturday.

According to The Guardian, Bik published a blog post in early 2020 about a paper published by controversial infectious diseases doctor Didier Raoult that claimed the drug could treat SARS-CoV-2 infections, particularly in combination with an antibiotic. In her post, Bik questioned numerous aspects of the paper's methodology, as well as citing missing patient data. She also later identified image duplication and potential ethics issues in other published studies from Raoult and his institute.

Since then, Raoult and his supporters "have relentlessly attacked Bik," calling her a "nutcase" and a "failed researcher" on Twitter, The Guardian reports. Recently, Raoult colleague Eric Chabriere disclosed on Twitter that he and Raoult have filed a complaint against Bik and Boris Barbour, who is part of a non-profit website that allows scientists to review and discuss each other's work, alleging harassment from Bik over data errors she exposed on the website and extortion because she accepts online donations to support her work.

Meanwhile, more than 500 scientists worldwide have come to Bik's defense in an open letter, calling for an end to the attacks against her and protections for scientific whistleblowers. "Dr. Bik's work is instrumental to ethical, sound, and reproducible research, but it also introduces her to personal risk as a whistleblower," the letter states. "We support the work needed to investigate potential errors and possible misconduct and believe the scientific community can do more to protect whistleblowers against harassment and threats."