Archive for the 'Scientific Misconduct' category

The only way to survive is to fake data

Oct 08 2013 Published by under Academics, Anger, Scientific Misconduct

I hope this commenter was being facetious.

With paylines around 5-percentile, the only way to have a shot at having a proposal approved is to quite simply fake data.

and I hope this other commenter was just wising off in frustration.

Certainly in my field the proportion of cheaters at the top venues seems to have increased the harder it is to get in. In fact, in one specific venue that shall remain nameless in my estimation over half of the papers contain some fake data.

Don't get me wrong. I am concerned about cheating in science. I am convinced that the contingencies that affect the careers of individuals scientists is a significant motivating factor in data fraud. I am not naive.

but for today, I wish to object to this normalization behavior. It is not normal to cheat in science. Data faking is NOT standard old stuff that everybody is doing.

"Everybody does it."

This is one of the standard defenses of the cheater pants. It is the easy justification we have seen time and time again in the revelations of performance-enhancing drug use in professional sports. It is the excuse of the data faker as well.

Consequently it is imperative that we do not leave the impression of normalcy unchallenged.

It is not the norm. Faking is not endemic to science. It may be more common than we would like. It may be more common than we estimate. But it is not normal.

Despite claims, it is not necessary. I have more than one grant score that was better than the 5th percentile and I didn't have to fake any data to get those. So that first claim is wrong for sure. It is not required to fake data.

83 responses so far

Why we should not try to rehabilitate cheaters and frauds. They will never take responsibility and therefore never change.

Sep 09 2013 Published by under Academics, Anger, Scientific Misconduct

exhibit a:

h/t retractionwatch blog and PhysioProffe.

9 responses so far

Another weird authorship shenanigan for your consideration

This is, vaguely, related to an ongoing argument we have around here with respect to the proper treatment of authors who are listed as contributing "co-equally" to a given published paper. My position is that if we are to take this seriously, then it is perfectly fine* for the person listed second, third or eighth in the list of allegedly equal contributors to re-order the list on his or her CV. When I say this, my dear friend and ex-coblogger Comrade PhysioProffe loses his marbles and rants about how it is falsifying the AcademicRecord to do so. This plays into the story I have for you.

Up for your consideration today is an obscure paper on muramyl peptides and sleep (80 PubMed hits).

I ran across Muramyl peptides and the functions of sleep authored by one Richard Brown from The University of Newcastle in what appears to be a special issue of Behavioural Brain Research on The Function of Sleep (Volume 69, Issues 1–2, July–August 1995, Pages 85–90). The Preface to the issue indicates these Research Reports (on the original PDFs; termed Original Research Article on the online issue list; remember that now) arise from The Ravello Symposium on 'The Function of Sleep' held May 28-31, 1994.

So far so good. I actually ran across this article by clicking on an Addendum in the Jan 1997 issue. This Addendum indicates:

In the above paper an acknowledgement of unpublished data was omitted from the text during preparation. This omission could affect the future publication of the full set of data. Thus the author, Dr. Richard Brown, has agreed to share the authorship of the paper with the following persons: J. Andren, K. Andrews, L. Brown, J. Chidgey, N. Geary, M.G. King and T.K. Roberts.

So I tried to Pubmed Brown R and a few of the co-authors to see if there was any subsequent publication of the "full set of data" and....nothing. Hmmm. Not even the original offending article? So I looked for Brown R and sleep, muramyl, etc. Nada. Wow, well maybe for some reason the journal wasn't indexed? No, because the first other article I looked for was there. Ok, weird. Next I searched for the journal date and month. Fascinatingly, PubMed lists these as "Review". When the print PDFs say "Research Report" and the journal's online materials list them as "Original Research Articles".

But it gets better....scanning down the screen and .....Whoa!

Behav Brain Res. 1995 Jul-Aug;69(1-2):85-90. Muramyl peptides and the functions of sleep. Andren J, Andrews K, Brown L, Chidgey J, Geary N, King MG, Roberts TK. Department of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Australia.

Now this Richard Brown guy has been disappeared altogether from the author line! Without any obvious indication of this on the ScienceDirect access to the journal issue or article.

The PubMed record indicates there is an Erratum in Behav Brain Res 1997 Jan;82(2):245, but this is the Addendum I quoted above. Searching ScienceDirect for "muramyl peptides pulls up the original article and Addendum but no further indication of Erratum or correction or retraction.

Wow. So speaking to PP's usual point about falsifying the academic record, this whole thing has been a clusterbork of re-arranging the "academic record".

Moving along, the Web of Science indicates that the original, credited solely to Brown has been cited 9 times. First by the Addendum and then 8 more times after the correction...including one in 2011 and one in 2012. Who knows when the PubMed record was changed but clearly the original Addendum indicating credit should be shared was ignored by ISI and these citing authors alike.

The new version, with the R. Brown-less author line, has been cited 4 times. There are ones published in Jan 2008 and Sept 2008 and they indeed cite the R. Brown-less author list. So the two and possibly three most-recent citations of the R. Brown version have minimal excuse.

Okay, okay, obviously one would have to have done a recent database search for the article (perhaps with a reference management software tool) to figure out there was something wrong. But even so, who the heck would try to figure out why EndNote wasn't finding it rather than just typing this single-author reference in by hand. After all, the pdf is right there in front of you.....clearly the damn thing exists.

This is quite possibly the weirdest thing I've seen yet. There must have been some determination of fraud or something to justify altering the Medline/PubMed record, right? There must have been some buyin from the journal Publisher (Elsevier) that this was the right thing to do.

So why didn't they bother to fix their ScienceDirect listing and the actual PDF itself with some sort of indication as to what occurred and why these folks were given author credit and why Richard Brown was removed entirely?

__

*The fact that nobody seems to agree with me points to the fact that nobody really views these as equal contributions one little bit.

h/t: EvilMonkey who used to blog at Neurotopia.

22 responses so far

Grant pressure amps up the scientific cheating?

RetractionVsNIHsuccessWell this is provocative. One James Hicks has a new opinion bit in The Scientist that covers the usual ground about ethics, paper retractions and the like in the sciences. It laments several decades of "Responsible Conduct of Research" training and the apparent utter failure of this to do anything about scientific misconduct. Dr. Hicks has also come up with a very provocative and truthy graph. From the article it appears to plot annual data from 1997 to 2011 in which the retraction rate (from this Nature article) is plotted against the NIH Success Rate (from Science Insider).

Like I said, it appears truthy. Decreasing grant success is associated with increasing retraction rates. Makes a lot of sense. Desperate times drive the weak to desperate measures.

Of course, the huge caveat is the third factor.....time. There has been a lot more attention paid to scientific retractions lately. Nobody knows if increased retraction rates over time are being observed because fraud is up or because detection is up. It is nearly impossible to ever discover this. Since NIH grant success rates have likewise been plummeting as a function of Fiscal Year, the relationship is confounded.

19 responses so far

Consequences for academic fraudsters

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Academics, Scientific Misconduct

ORI has a new Notice up:

Andrew Aprikyan, Ph.D., University of Washington: Based on the report of an investigation conducted by the University of Washington (UW), the UW School of Medicine Dean’s Decision, the Decision of the Hearing Panel at UW, and additional analysis conducted by ORI, ORI found by a preponderance of the evidence that Dr. Andrew Aprikyan, former Research Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology, UW, engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant CA89135 and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), NIH, grant DK18951, and applies to the following publications and grant applications:

Standard stuff really. but our good blog friend bill pulled up three fun thoughts on the Twitts.

one

@drugmonkeyblog @HHS_ORI Still filing patents, too, just as though he were not a known #cheatfuck: http://www.google.com/patents/US8283344 …

two

@drugmonkeyblog @HHS_ORI Best I can tell, he goes by "Andranik" these days, and has $150K in SBIR money: http://is.gd/NkeCjs

three

@drugmonkeyblog @HHS_ORI Still editing for PLOS ONE, too: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0054977 …

The infractions for which this guy was busted date to 2001-2003 and he's apparently been fighting it in court for years. Finally it seems, going by the ORI text, he gave up contesting the issue. And appears to have left the UW and gone to work elsewhere...somewhere that applies for and receives SBIR grants. Now, presumably this award will come under the oversight requirements of the ORI.

Of somewhat greater interest to me is the PLoS ONE editor gig. A search of the journal reveals no articles with Aprikyan as author but four articles (2 in 2012, 2 in 2013) with him as the Academic Editor.

yikes.

First, now that there is an ORI finding, should PLoS ONE either dismiss or suspend the guy? Me, I'm voting for dismiss.

Second, in the broader issue it shows another side of how the secrecy and presumption-of-innocence (which is good) can work against science. Fraudsters can fight their cases for years while continuing to enjoy many of the benefits of that fraud. That is, additional employment opportunities based on their academic record. In this case the AE benefits are not tangible in terms of pay but there are the intangibles....just as their are intangibles from the mere fact of having once been hired at the Assistant Professor level, having ever acquired a NIH grant, having published papers from those aforementioned benefits, etc.

Third, this continues my side interest in career re-habilitation strategies for the fraudsters. This is way better than hiring one of those reputation-defenders to fake up some websites, right?

Finally, this issue taps my continuing fascination with what PLoS ONE is all about and how it functions. Will they institute a simple question for any additional editors to ask if there have ever been any fraud charges against them? That would seem like a good thing to do.

13 responses so far

Jane Goodall, Plagiarist

From the WaPo article:

Jane Goodall, the primatologist celebrated for her meticulous studies of chimps in the wild, is releasing a book next month on the plant world that contains at least a dozen passages borrowed without attribution, or footnotes, from a variety of Web sites.

Looks pretty bad.

This bit from one Michael Moynihan at The Daily Beast raises the more interesting issues:

No one wants to criticize Jane Goodall—Dame Goodall—the soft-spoken, white-haired doyenne of primatology. She cares deeply about animals and the health of the planet. How could one object to that?

Because it leads her to oppose animal research using misrepresentation and lies? That's one reason why one might object.

You see, everyone is willing to forgive Jane Goodall. When it was revealed last week in The Washington Post that Goodall’s latest book, Seeds of Hope, a fluffy treatise on plant life, contained passages that were “borrowed” from other authors, the reaction was surprisingly muted.

It always starts out that way for a beloved writer. We'll just have to see how things progress. Going by recent events it will take more guns a'smokin' in her prior works to start up a real hue and cry. At the moment, her thin mea culpa will very likely be sufficient.

A Jane Goodall Institute spokesman told The Guardian that the whole episode was being “blown out of proportion” and that Goodall was “heavily involved” in the book bearing her name and does “a vast amount of her own writing.” In a statement, Goodall said that the copying was “unintentional,” despite the large amount of “borrowing” she engaged in.

Moynihan continues on to catalog additional suspicious passages. I think some of them probably need a skeptical eye. For example I am quite willing to believe a source might give the exact same pithy line about a particular issue to a number of interviewers. But this caught my eye:

Describing a study of genetically modified corn, Goodall writes: “A Cornell University study showed adverse effects of transgenic pollen (from Bt corn) on monarch butterflies: their caterpillars reared on milkweed leaves dusted with Bt corn pollen ate less, grew more slowly, and suffered higher mortality.”

A report from Navdaya.org puts it this way: “A 1999 Nature study showed adverse effects of transgenic pollen (from Bt corn) on monarch butterflies: butterflies reared on milkweed leaves dusted with bt corn pollen ate less, grew more slowly, and suffered higher mortality.” (Nor does Goodall mention a large number of follow-up studies, which the Pew Charitable Trust describes as showing the risk of GM corn to butterflies as “fairly small, primarily because the larvae are exposed only to low levels of the corn’s pollen in the real-world conditions of the field.”

And here is the real problem. When someone who has a public reputation built on what people think of as science weighs in on other matters of science, they enjoy a lot of trust. Goodall certainly has this. So when such a person misuses this by misrepresenting the science to further their own agenda...it's a larger hurdle for the forces of science and rational analysis to overcome. Moynihan is all over this part as well:

One of the more troubling aspects of Seeds of Hope is Goodall’s embrace of dubious science on genetically modified organisms (GMO). On the website of the Jane Goodall Foundation, readers are told—correctly—that “there is scientific consensus” that climate change is being driven by human activity. But Goodall has little time for scientific consensus on the issue of GMO crops, dedicating the book to those who “dare speak out” against scientific consensus. Indeed, her chapter on the subject is riddled with unsupportable claims backed by dubious studies.

So in some senses the plagiarism is just emblematic of un-serious thinking on the part of Jane Goodall. The lack of attribution is going to be sloughed off with an apology and a re-edit of the book, undoubtedly. We should not let the poor scientific thinking go unchallenged though, just to raise a mob against plagiarism. The abuse of scientific consensus is a far worse transgression.

33 responses so far

A little reminder of why we have IRBs. Did I mention it is still Black History Month?

Reputable citizen-journalist Comradde PhysioProffe has been investigating the doings of a citizen science project, ubiome. Melissa of The Boundary Layer blog has nicely explicated the concerns about citizen science that uses human subjects.

And this brings me to what I believe to be the potentially dubious ethics of this citizen science project. One of the first questions I ask when I see any scientific project involving collecting data from humans is, “What institutional review board (IRB) is monitoring this project?” An IRB is a group that is specifically charged with protecting the rights of human research participants. The legal framework that dictates the necessary use of an IRB for any project receiving federal funding or affiliated with an investigational new drug application stems from the major abuses perpetrated by Nazi physicians during Word War II and scientists and physicians affiliated with the Tuskegee experiments. The work that I have conducted while affiliated with universities and with pharmaceutical companies has all been overseen by an IRB. I will certainly concede to all of you that the IRB process is not perfect, but I do believe that it is a necessary and largely beneficial process.

My immediate thought was about those citizen scientist, crowd-funded projects that might happen to want to work with vertebrate animals.

I wonder how this would be received:

“We’ve given extensive thought to our use of stray cats for invasive electrophysiology experiments in our crowd funded garage startup neuroscience lab. We even thought really hard about IACUC approvals and look forward to an open dialog as we move forward with our recordings. Luckily, the cats supply consent when they enter the garage in search of the can of tuna we open every morning at 6am.”

Anyway, in citizen-journalist PhysioProffe's investigations he has linked up with an amazing citizen-IRB-enthusiast. A sample from this latter's recent guest post on the former's blog blogge.

Then in 1972, a scandal erupted over the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. This study, started in 1932 by the US Public Health Service, recruited 600 poor African-American tenant farmers in Macon County, Alabama: 201 of them were healthy and 399 had syphilis, which at the time was incurable. The purpose of the study was to try out treatments on what even the US government admitted to be a powerless, desperate demographic. Neither the men nor their partners were told that they had a terminal STD; instead, the sick men were told they had “bad blood” — a folk term with no basis in science — and that they would get free medical care for themselves and their families, plus burial insurance (i.e., a grave plot, casket and funeral), for helping to find a cure.

When penicillin was discovered, and found in 1947 to be a total cure for syphilis, the focus of the study changed from trying to find a cure to documenting the progress of the disease from its early stages through termination. The men and their partners were not given penicillin, as that would interfere with the new purpose: instead, the government watched them die a slow, horrific death as they developed tumors and the spirochete destroyed their brains and central nervous system. Those who wanted out of the study, or who had heard of this new miracle drug and wanted it, were told that dropping out meant paying back the cost of decades of medical care, a sum that was far beyond anything a sharecropper could come up with.

CDC: U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee
NPR: Remembering Tuskegee
PubMed: Syphilitic Gumma

31 responses so far

ORI Finding of Research Misconduct: Bryan Doreian

The NOT-OD-13-039 was just published, detailing the many data faking offenses of one Bryan Doreian. There are 7 falsifications listed which include a number of different techniques but mostly involve falsely describing the number of samples/repetitions that were performed (4 charges) and altering the numeric values obtained to reach a desired result (3 charges). The scientific works affected included:

Doreian, B.W. ``Molecular Regulation of the Exocytic Mode in Adrenal Chromaffin Cells.' Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, August 2009; hereafter referred to as the ``Dissertation.'

Doreian, B.W., Fulop, T.G., Meklemburg, R.L., Smith, C.B. ``Cortical F-actin, the exocytic mode, and neuropeptide release in mouse chromaffin cells is regulated by myristoylated alanine-rich C-kinase substrate and myosin II.' Mol Biol Cell. 20(13):3142-54, 2009 Jul; hereafter referred to as the ``Mol Biol Cell paper.'

Doreian, B.W., Rosenjack, J., Galle, P.S., Hansen, M.B., Cathcart, M.K., Silverstein, R.L., McCormick, T.S., Cooper, K.D., Lu, K.Q. ``Hyper-inflammation and tissue destruction mediated by PPAR-γ activation of macrophages in IL-6 deficiency.' Manuscript prepared for submission to Nature Medicine; hereafter referred to as the ``Nature Medicine manuscript.'

The ORI notice indicates that Doreian will request that the paper be retracted.

There were a couple of interesting points about this case. First, that Doreian has been found to have falsified information in his dissertation, i.e., that body of work that makes up the major justification for awarding him a PhD. From the charge list, it appears that the first 4 items were both included in the Mol Bio Cell paper and in his Dissertation. I will be very interested to see if Case Western Reserve University decides to revoke his doctorate. I tend to think that this is the right thing to do. If it were my Department this kind of thing would make me highly motivated to seek a revocation.

Second, this dissertation was apparently given an award by the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine:

The Doctoral Excellence Award in Biomedical Sciences is established to recognize exceptional research and scholarship in PhD programs at the School of Medicine. Nominees' work should represent highly original work that is an unusually significant contribution to the field. A maximum of one student per PhD program will be selected, but a program might not have a student selected in a particular year. The Graduate Program Directors chosen by the Office of Graduate Education will review the nominations and select recipients of each Award.
Eligibility

Open to graduating PhD students in Biochemistry, Bioethics, Biomedical Engineering, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Genetics, Molecular Medicine, Neurosciences, Nutrition, Pathology, Pharmacology, Physiology and Biophysics, and Systems Bio and Bioinformatics.

This sidebar indicates the 2010 winners are:

Biochemistry: Matthew Lalonde
Biomedical Engineering: Jeffrey Beamish
Epidemiology and Biostatistics: Johnie Rose
Neurosciences: Phillip Larimer
Nutrition: Charlie Huang
Pathology: Joshua Rosenblum
Pharmacology: Philip Kiser
Physiology and Biophysics: Bryan Doreian

Now obviously with such an award it is not a given that Mr. Doreian's data faking prevented another deserving individual from gaining this recognition and CV item. It may be that there were no suitable alternatives from his Department that year, certainly it did not get one in 2011. It may also be the case that his apparent excellence had no impact on the selection of other folks from other Departments...or maybe he did set a certain level that prevented other folks from gaining an award that year. Hard to say. This is unlike the zero sum nature of the NIH Grant game in which it is overwhelmingly the case that if a faker gets an award, this prevents another award being made to the next grant on the list.)

But still, this has the potential for the same problem with only discovering the fakes post-hoc. The damage to the honest scientist has already been done. There is another doctoral student who suffered at the hands of this fellow's cheating. This is even before we get to the more amorphous effect of "raising the bar" for student performance in the department.

Now fear not, it does appear that this scientific fraudster has left science.

Interestingly he appears to be engaging in a little bit of that Web presence massaging that we discussed in the case of alcohol research fraudster Michael Miller, Ph.D., last of SUNY Upstate. This new data faking fraudster Bryan Doreian, has set up a "brandyourself" page.

"Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to help anyone improve their own search results and online reputation.

Why should Mr. Doreian needs such a thing? Because he's pursuing a new career in tutoring for patent bar exams. Hilariously it has this tagline:

My name is Bryan and I am responsible for the operations, management and oversight of all projects here at WYSEBRIDGE. Apart from that some people say I am pretty good at data analysis and organization.

This echos something on the "brandyourself" page:

Bryan has spent years in bio- and medical- research, sharpening his knack for data analysis and analytical abilities while obtaining a PhD in Biophysics.

Well, the NIH ORI "says" that he is pretty good at, and/or has sharpened his knack for, faking data analysis. So I wonder who those "some people" might be at this point? His parents?

His "About" page also says:

Doctoral Studies

In 2005, I moved to Cleveland, OH to begin my doctoral studies in Cellular and Molecular Biophysics. As typical for a doctoral student, many hours were spent studying, investigating, pondering, researching, the outer fringes of information in order to attempt to make sense of what was being observed. 5 years later, I moved further on into medical research. After 2+ years and the conclusion of that phase of research, I turned my sights onto the Patent Bar Exam.

At this point you probably just want to take this down my friend. A little free advice. You don't want people coming to your new business looking into the sordid history of your scientific career as a fraudster, do you?

39 responses so far

On scientific fraud

Feb 11 2013 Published by under Scientific Misconduct

Did you ever notice how small time bank or convenience store thieves only get caught after about the tenth heist using the exact same disguise and MO?

Read ORI findings and retraction notices with this in mind.

[H/t: a couple of peeps who made me think of this recently. You know who you are. ]

7 responses so far

Can a fraudster be rehabilitated?

Nov 20 2012 Published by under NIH, Scientific Misconduct

The ORI blog has an entry up about a new program which attempts to rehabilitate those who have committed academic misconduct.

RePAIR’s premise is that an intense period of intervention, with multiple participants from different institutions who spend several days together at a neutral site, followed by a lengthy period of follow up activities back at their home institution, will rebuild their ethical views. ORI doesn’t know whether RePAIR will work and cannot formally endorse it. But ORI staff do find RePAIR an intriguing and high-minded experiment that research institutions may wish to consider as a resource.

I like the idea of experimenting. But I have to admit I'm skeptical. I do not believe that academic misconduct at the grad student, postdoc and professorial level is done out of ignorance. I believe that it occurs because someone is desperate and/or weak and allows the pressures of this career path to nudge them down the slippery slope.

Now true, many cognitive defenses are erected to convince themselves that they are justified. Perhaps the "everyone is doing it" one is something that can be addressed with these re-education camps. But many of the contingencies won't go away. There is no weekend seminar that can change the reality of the NIH payline or the GlamourMag chase.

I suspect this will be a fig leaf that Universities use to cover up the stench should they choose to retain a convicted fraudster or to hire one.

Speaking of which, a Twitt yesterday alleged that Marc Hauser has been reaching out to colleagues, seeking collaboration. It made me wonder if anyone with an ORI finding against them has ever returned in a meaningful way? Whether any University would hire them, whether they would be able to secure funding and whether the peer review process would accept their data for publication.

Can anyone think of such a person?

42 responses so far

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