After 3 years in the shadows, the anonymous founder of a popular and controversial website that allows users to critique published research has revealed himself. “I’m a bit nervous … I wouldn’t call myself a risk-taker,” admits Brandon Stell, a 41-year-old neuroscientist and the main force behind PubPeer, which has become an influential outlet for identifying flawed—and sometimes fraudulent—studies.
The site’s practice of allowing anonymous postings, however, has also drawn a lawsuit from a cancer researcher who claims PubPeer comments cost him a lucrative job.
Stell, an American who works in a brain physiology lab at the University Paris Descartes, never imagined that PubPeer, which was inspired by paper discussion groups he attended in college, would attract so much attention so quickly. Stell and his friends decided when they started PubPeer in 2012 that they would remain anonymous until they saw how the site evolved.