End of September 2005 appeared a dilemma about the recent paper which reference is:

Joachimski M. M., L. Simon, R. van Geldern & C. Lecuyer, 2005. Boron isotope geochemistry of Paleozoic brachiopod calcite: Implications for a secular change in the boron isotope geochemistry of seawater over the Phanerozoic.
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 69 (16), 4035-4044.

and the authors' addresses are:
Michael M. JOACHIMSKI,1, Laurent SIMON,1, Robert VAN GELDERN,1 and Christophe LECUYER,2
1 Institut für Geologie und Mineralogie, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Schlossgarten 5, 91054 Erlangen, Germany
2 Laboratoire CNRS UMR 5125 « Paléoenvironments and Paléobiosphère », Institut Universitaire de France and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Campus de la Doua, 69622 Villeurbanne, France

Lucia Angiolini, a well known brachiopodologist working at the Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra "A. Desio", Via Mangiagalli 34, 0133 Milano (Italy) - e-mail: - sent the following letter with a copy to the Brachiopod List, the moderator is Christian C. Emig, also webmaster of BrachNet, the official web site of the community of the Brachiopod specialists (the Brachiopodologists)

To the Executive Editor of Geochimica and Cosmochimica Acta F.A. Podosek To the Associate Editor T. Lowenstein

Discussion of "Boron isotope geochemistry of Paleozoic brachiopod calcite: Implications for a secular change in the boron isotope geochemistry of seawater over the Phanerozoic" by Joachimski et al. 2005 in Geochimica and Cosmochimica Acta 69, 16, 4035-4044.

Joachimski et al. (2005) report data on the pH or boron isotope composition of Permian oceans obtained from the analysis of samples extracted from eight brachiopod specimens, five of which were provided by L. Angiolini from the collection of the paleontological museum housed at the Department of Earth Sciences "A. Desio" of the University of Milan. A subsequent procrastinated lack of intention by M.M. Joachimski to share his results with L. Angiolini (despite an original informal scientific collaboration agreement) resulted in a publication (Joachimski et al., 2005) replete with errors concerning the stratigraphic position of the specimens, their taxonomic attribution, and diagenetic history. In brief, the five specimens stem from three different stratigraphic levels of a 60-metres thick section that contains at least one unconformity between OL15 and OL14 (Saiwan type-section, Haushi-Huqf, Oman. Angiolini et al. 1997, 2003, 2004). Of these samples, OL14 is not late Sakmarian in age, as reported by Joachimski et al. (2005, Tab. 1, 2), but it is older by about 2 Ma. straddling the Tastubian-Sterlitamakian boundary; therefore, its isotope values should be kept separate from those of OL15 and OL18, which are late Sakmarian in age and it should be considered that the late Sakmarian spans at least 5 million of years. Moreover, the specimens OL14 and OL15-1 are not Neospirifer sp. (as stated by Joachimski et al., 2005, Tab. 1), but taxa belonging to unrelated families.
Finally, OL14 comes from a stratigraphic horizon characterized by a strong diagenetic overprint and pervaded by celestite cement that may have altered the original isotope composition and have been already described by Angiolini et al. (2003), a paper ignored by Joachimski et al. (2005).
Most of these mistakes derive from the lack of cooperation of M.M. Joachimski, who after having received the Permian material from L. Angiolini never showed her the results and never discussed with her the stratigraphic, taxonomic and diagenetic status of the material, notwithstanding the preliminary informal scientific collaboration agreement. I believe that building such large interpretations on the secular variability of seawater geochemistry over the Phanerozoic based on sparse samples taken without carefully considering their systematic, stratigraphic, and diagenetic context adds nothing but background noise to the scientific signal, besides showing incorrect and impolite behaviour.

Angiolini L., Bucher H., Pillevuit A., Platel J.P., Roger J., Broutin J., Baud A., Marcoux J. & Al Hashmi H. 1997. Early Permian (Sakmarian) brachiopods from Southeastern Oman. Geobios, 30, 3, 379-405.

Angiolini L., Balini M., Garzanti E., Nicora A. & Tintori A. 2003. Gondwanan deglaciation and opening of Neotethys: the Al-Khlata and Saiwan formations of Interior Oman. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 196, 1-2, 99-123.

Angiolini L., Crasquin-Soleau S., Platel J.-P., Roger J., Vachard D., Vaslet D. and Al Husseini M. 2004. Saiwan, Gharif and Khuff formations, Haushi-Huqf Uplift, Oman. In: Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic Arabian Stratigraphy (M. Al-Husseini Ed.). GeoArabia Special Publication, 3, 149-183.

The editors refuse to publish this letter in Geochimica and Cosmochimica Acta as they said it was based on personal problems between Angiolini and Joachimski. However the open circulation of this letter was considered as a need because geochemistry people have to pay more attention in cooperation with palaeontologists.

Michael Joachimski asked the moderator of the Brachiopod List to send the following message to this List (he is not member), I did:

Dear listmembers,

Some days back, Lucia Angiolini posted a letter on the list in which she is complaining on my behaviour and trying to discredit me.

I visited Lucia Angiolini in 2001 in Milano. Lucia was very kind and handed over 50 to 60 Permian brachiopod specimen from different areas. The intention was to work on the oxygen, carbon and boron isotope geochemistry of the shells (as a cooperation). I screened all shells for diagenetic alteration by cathodoluminescence and it turned out that only 5 shells seemed to be well-preserved and potentially could be used for isotope work (Lucia Angiolini was informed on this). The remaining shells were further screened by means of SEM and trace element contents and finally studied for boron isotopes. Since there was no way to publish these data separately, I included the 5 data points in a more comprehensive paper on the boron isotope geochemistry of Paleozoic brachiopods (Joachimski et al. 2005, GCA, 69, 4035-4044). I thanked Lucia in the acknowledgments for providing the shell material. Unfortunately, I did not contact Lucia again before publishing the 5 data points that were measured on her brachiopods and I am sorry for this.

However, I cannot accept the way Lucia Angiolini is trying to discredit me

1) Dr. Angiolini states that the results in the GCA article are “mostly based on her material”: there are 41 values presented for Silurian to Permian brachiopods – only 5 values derive from Lucia’s shells.

2) It is a pure geochemical study with 50% of the paper dealing with geochemical modelling. I did not cite any systematic work since it is really not relevant to this pure geochemical study.

3) Dr Angiolini states that my publication is “replete with errors concerning the stratigraphic position of the specimens, their taxonomic attribution, and diagenetic history”:

- incorrect stratigraphic position of sample OL 14 (not of late Sakmarian age): Fig. 2 in Angiolini et al. 1997 (Geobios 30, 379-405) shows sample OL 14 in the Lower Mb. of the Saiwan Formation dated at the base of the late Sakmarian.

- incorrect taxonomic attribution of sample OL 15-1: two Neospirifer specimen (taxonomically determined by Lucia Angiolini) were investigated and relabelled by me as OL15–1 and OL15–2.

- a major part of the manuscript addresses the problem of the preservation of the studied brachiopod shells.

It is impertinent to state that the manuscript is replete with errors!

Dr. Angiolini’s statement that I am “used to do the same with other researchers” is an incredible and barefaced defamation. How can she know? I am sure that some Devonian brachiopod workers on this list can attest that this not the case. I will not comment on the statement that my data add “nothing but background noise to the scientific signal” since this would end up in an evaluation of the Dr. Angiolini’s understanding of geochemical processes.

I admit that it was a mistake not to contact Dr. Angiolini before publishing the 5 data points measured on her shells and I apologize for this. And I am really unhappy with this unpleasant dispute. But I cannot accept the fact that Lucia Angiolini is trying to discredit me and my work in front of the brachiopod palaeontologist and geochemist community by writing such defaming letters.

Since I am not a member of the brachiopod list, I will appreciate if any further contribution to this dispute could be forwarded to me.


Michael Joachimski

Nevertheless, Joachimski et al. had the possibility to answer publicly as was suggested by several email messages. The first national community who reacted to this message was the French one. Summarising several email messages...

"...because the French author of this paper is Professor at Lyon 1 University and director of a CNRS/Université team [see his Web page :], but also a member of "Institut Universitaire de France". The latter position is honorary and financially interesting because the IUF "a été conçu pour que l'excellence d'un enseignant-chercheur puisse être reconnue et favorisée dans son université d'appartenance et non par la voie traditionnelle d'une nomination dans un grand établissement parisien." [see their Web page :]. This means that such members should be more "ethical" than others ... He has also been a member of the evaluation committee of section 11 of the CNRS (which evaluated our CNRS research units and staff from 2000 to 2004), that became section 18 in the re-organization scheme of the CNRS. In this section, which evaluates our CNRS research units (geology-palaeontology-etc.), geochemists represent the majority of members ... (but Lecuyer is no more in it). You all know that, to-day, to get money for a project, and/or applying for a CNRS position (as junior-scientist) or a university position, a palaeontologist MUST include geochemical studies."

Owing to the opportunity to send excuses last week Joachimski et al. did the contrary and became very offensive not only against Lucia but also to the brachiopodologist community (see message below).

Joachimski's reply to his own message on the Brachiopod List was:

Dear Christian Emig,

merci beaucoup for posting my reply on your brachiopod list. I have some problems to understand why the problems between Dr. Angiolini and myself initiate a discussion on the integrity of Christophe Lécuyer. If the brachiopod community wants to pillory somebody, it's me to pillory. I am responsible for the publication and I did not ask for "permission" to publish the 5 data points. This was a mistake. I apologized in my reply letter and to Dr. Angiolini earlier in a personal Email.

Concerning the letter to the Editors of Geochim Cosmochim Acta. The letter of Dr. Angiolini to the Editors is not based on scientific flaws but just on emotional feelings. I tried to explain in my reply letter that the scientific accusations are not tenable. No editor of any major journal will accept such a discussion. Nevertheless, it would have been great fun to write the reply.

Most problematic, the brachiopod list is a relatively closed community in which it seems possible to accusate and condemn somebody without giving the person the chance to defend himself. Maybe some colleagues should consider this before initiating further steps concerning this dispute. Fortunately, there are colleagues who think that there are always two sides of a story.

I leave it up to you whether you want to put this on the brachiopod list as well.

bonne weekend

Michael Joachimski

My comment: It is pleasant to diffuse this message on the Brach List from an accused and condemned Professor who has and had no chance to defend himself against - I guess - the brachiopodologist community! Any comment about?

Lucia Angiolini sent the following answer to Dr. Joachimski with a copy to the Brach List:

1) I know that in Joachimski et al. (2005, GCA, 69, 4035-4044) 41 data points are shown for the Palaeozoic, of which only 9 concerns the Permian. In my letters I clearly stated that the PERMIAN data set was mostly based on my material, as of 9 (NINE) data points for the Permian, 5 (FIVE) were based on my Oman material. This means that without my data it was not possible to draw the Permian part of the curve.

2) Even if it is a pure geochemical study the AGE and SYSTEMATIC POSITION for the analysed specimens are NEEDED and FUNDAMENTAL, so that a geochemist should not leave out of consideration the quotation of the systematic and biostratigraphic papers in which the material has been already described.

3) About finding "not relevant to cite any systematic works" I would like to add that to have good collections of fossils, geologists/palaeontologists/stratigraphers have to find money to go to the field (not an easy task nowdays), ask and obtain permission from local governmental institutions, (especially in remote and faraway regions), organize and do field work with bed-by-bed sampling, prepare and study the material, compare with other biota and obtain the age. I don't think this is not relevant, even in a pure geochemical study.

4) I never said Dr. Joachimski used to do the same with others. I have no idea if this happened.

5) There are several incorrect taxonomic attributions for specimens OL14 and OL15 in Joachimski et al. 2005, GCA, 69, 4035-4044 as I never provided detailed taxonomic attributions of the specimens I gave to Dr. Joachimski. I was waiting to be asked about this in the name of our "cooperation", but I never was.

6) For what concerns the stratigraphic position several papers have been published by myself and co-authors on the argument after 1997 (Angiolini 2001; Angiolini et al. 2003, 2004) and, as I have been working on it until very recently, there are new data in press I would have discussed with Dr. Joachimski if asked before publication.

7) My letter to the Editors of GCA and to the brachiopod list is not defaming but simply telling what happened. I received offensive comments from Dr. Joachimski in the personal letter and in the two sent to the lists but I never replied.

Lucia Angiolini

"There are always two sides to every story and if this has just been an oversight maybe Lucia and the isotope people can get together and publish a correction jointly. I think it's in all our interests to sort this out quickly. I'm sure we're not talking fraud, just pressure to publish results quickly in high-profile journals" from David A.T. Harper (Copenhagen, Denmark),

"but the boundary between fraud and "just pressure to publish results quickly in high-profile journals" may be very tiny..." from Alain Blieck (Lille, France).

The attack is the best defence"(Lao-Tzu), but that is not valid in scientific ethics. To become insulting, even threatening, is a practice that should be banned. Unfortunately such a tendency increases in the scientific jungle. Was Darwin right?

May we await a feedback from the involved organizations: CNRS (France), Università degli Studi di Milano (Italia) and Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Deutschland)?

We are facing a case of the scientific deontology and ethics.

Other similar cases between palaeontologist and geochemists as well as between molecularists and morpho-taxonomists have been reported in email exchanges. Many comments stated that the geoscientists should be more aware of the need to work closely with stratigraphers and paleontologists.


"Lucia's last message, and particularly its paragraphs 2 and 3, are totally correct. It's more and more difficult to get money to go to distant regions for real field work, and obtain primary (alpha) data on rocks and fossils. Making lab treatments on material provided by others does not take this primary work into account. If, additionally, it does not take into account the expertise of paleontologists, it means that we are "fucked" two times. And it's very painful ! Sorry for this rough way of telling, it's my way" from Alain Blieck(Lille, France).


A suivre...