Wednesday, May 12, 2010

wall of shame.

15 findings of misconduct for one guy: Scott Brodie knowingly and intentionally falsified data at the University of Washington.

Incredibly, this includes multiple examples of fake or manipulated data included in a long list of peer reviewed grants, i.e.

1 P01 HD40540-01 (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], National Institutes of Health [NIH])
5 P01 HD40540-02 (NICHD, NIH)
1 P01 AI057005-01 (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID], NIH)
1 R01 DE014149-01 (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research [NIDCR], NIH)
2 U01 AI41535-05 (NIAID, NIH)
1 R01 HL072631-01 (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [NHLBI], NIH)
1 R01 (U01) AI054334-01 (NIAID, NIH)
1 R01 DE014827-01 (NIDCR, NIH)
1 R01 AI051954-01 (NIAID, NIH)

and a couple of published manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals.

I'm always amazed at how long this stuff goes on before anybody notices or does anything about it. We're always taught to give our peers the benefit of the doubt, and even when we suspect fraud, it's rare that anyone pursues filing a complaint or requesting an investigation.

In this case, the punishment is described as such:

1) Dr. Brodie has been debarred from any contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the United States Government and from eligibility or involvement in nonprocurement programs of the United States Government referred to as "covered transactions" pursuant to the Department of Health and Human Service's Implementation (2 CFR part 376 et seq.) of OMB Guidelines to Agencies on Governmentwide Debarment and Suspension, 2 CFR part 180; and

(2) Dr. Brodie is prohibited from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS including but not limited to service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as consultant.


I think this means that he can still go work at any privately funded institute or company that will take him, and continue to do research, see patients, or consult for industry (?).


There were also more widely reported (at least so far as I already knew about) findings of misconduct by Boris Cheskis and Emily Horvath.

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12 Comments:

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Kea said...

I guess one of the advantages of Theory is that we don't have to put up with this shit. We have Mass Delusion Group Think instead.

 
At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how they know that he "knowingly and intentionally falsified" the figures. These investigations can be very tricky as one can always claim such things to be unintentional mistakes. Did someone in his lab speak up?

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

This makes me so angry, and I didn't apply for any of those grants.

I can only imagine the rage that fills those who weren't funded in those same application rounds.

 
At 10:01 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

kea - I've always wondered if Theory wasn't too much like religion that way? Untestable hypotheses (at least not any time soon)?

Anon - I guess he confessed (I thought that was what it said?). But yes, exactly. How did they know. And how often does this really happen and no one says anything?

And should we, if we suspect something, file something against those whom we suspect? I don't even know how that would work. And it feels way too Chinese Cultural Revolution/1984 (kids ratting out their parents) to me.

UR - Great point! I didn't even think about the poor people who got screwed in each and every one of those funding cycles b/c this guy's fake data looked better than their real data.

I was just appalled that the supposedly highly accomplished and discerning peers of the peer review process are so ill-equipped to tell the difference between real data and fake data.

And yet, not really that surprised.

 
At 10:17 PM, Blogger Kea said...

Yeah, it's a lot like religion. The string theorists have been playing with untestable hypotheses for decades now, and many of them are known for never having set foot in a laboratory.

 
At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Thinkerbell said...

Exactly how ARE you supposed to tell fake from real? I've encountered the grey area once, reviewing a paper and finding cropped Westerns that looked too much like Westerns from an old paper only now representing different things. Only reason I found out, was that I didn't know the details of the topic and had to do some reading up, which is why I found it. It took me hours and hours and hours. So unless there are clear photoshopping issues in a grant application, HOW are you supposed to tell? Especially if you have a big pile of applications that you all have to get through? I'm not saying it's an excuse, just asking...

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Thinkbell,

Totally valid question. A few things:

1. Why were you reviewing a paper on a topic you're not that familiar with? Because there are so few experts in each tiny little field. Grant panels are often populated with experts across a wide range of fields, and they often get grants to review that are just far enough out of their area that they wouldn't know... and they don't all take the time to brush up like you did.

I like the idea of using ad-hoc consultants, the way NSF does. But I think the way these agencies choose/recruit/conscript reviewers is also part of the problem. The most appropriate people often have no incentive to participate.

2. Even when we have strong suspicions, there are more disincentives (backlash) than there are incentives to tell anyone or initiate investigations. This would have to change.

3. With the advent of plagiarism-catching software for student papers, we need something like this for scientific publications, too. Computers would be much better and faster at catching things like re-used images that have been rotated, colors changed, etc. Some journals use software to check for manipulated image data; but so far as I know, to date NIH still doesn't (?).

 
At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this information. These kind of practices are seen more nowadays. It may be partly due to the heavy competition for getting grants and also for getting tenured. I will be graduating in this month and I am right now looking for some postdoc positions. These reports will undoubtedly reduce the natural enthusiasm for pursuing a research career. A lot of people are doing this, but only a handful get caught red-handed. Recently, I sent an email for a post doc position and the PI responded 'if I have any nature publications, then only I will be considered'. The interesting fact is that the PI doesn't yet have any nature publication. I was trying to quote an example of unnatural expectations from an young PI. So, it would be quite natural that many PIs will manipulate data to get grants or to publish in nature.

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 1:28,

OMG, that is amazing. That's one of the funniest things I've heard in a long time. So ridiculous, you just have to laugh.

 
At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...
I could not help but notice that while three scientists have been accused of falsifying/fabricating data, only the junior & female one gets to write humiliating letters to journals, admitting that she has done so. Why not the big shots? Not that I am condoning data fabrication in any shape or form, but she was a graduate student for crying out loud. Her career is effectively over. The guys' careers seem to have remained ... um ... in pretty good shape. Perhaps I'm not reading this right?

 
At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everybody needs to look at the ALJ decision. ORI has lied in the Federal Register. How can they make-up stuff the Judge did not find.

http://www.hhs.gov/dab/decisions/civildecisions/cr2056ok.pdf

Looks like the ORI should be in HOT WATER for their own misconduct...

 
At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I witnessed my supervisor fabricating data from a gene chip experiment. She wanted to include this cooked up data in my manuscript, and because I protested I was forced to leave the lab. This was not tweaking a couple of numbers, either, the data were cooked up nearly from scratch. She tried six different ways to make up data and then she got sick of getting caught by me and harassed and threatened me to the point where I became physically ill and had to resign. What really sucks is that I can't find another position, not even as a lab tech, while she gets to continue in her faked career. She was already, as she put it "screwed out of a career" once in neurology and had to start over in leukemia research (CLL) - maybe people had a reason to get rid of her the first time around. I sincerely hope she gets what she deserves, people like that destroy everything science stands for.

 

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