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News of the Day ... In Perspective


Allegations of fake research reach record highs

Last year, the Department of HHS received 274 reports of research misconduct, a 50% increase over 2003. Allegations include falsifying or fabricating data or plagiarism. It is suspected that the reports represent only a small fraction of the misconduct that actually occurs.

Examples include making up research on aging and hormone supplements to win federal grants, for which Eric Poehlman, the first researcher to be permanently barred from receiving federal grants, could be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. Dr. Ali Sultan, an award-winning researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, plagiarized text and figures and falsified data, substituting one type of malaria for another. He now teaches at a medical school in Qatar.

At least one culprit has been rehabilitated. In 1995, Dr. Andrew Friedman, reputedly brilliant surgeon and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, confessed to faking data and creating fictitious patients for papers published in respected, peer-reviewed journals. Now he is senior director of clinical research at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company. (Martha Mendoza, AP, 7/10/05).

A survey of scientists funded by the NIH “suggests that mundane ‘regular’ misbehaviours present greater threats to the scientific enterprise than those caused by high-profile misconduct cases such as fraud.” At least 33% of respondents said they had engaged in at least one of the top ten forms of misconduct during the previous three years. Between 15 and 20% said they had changed the design, methodology, or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source (Nature, June 2005).

Additional information:

“How Federal Money Corrupts and Stifles Science and Medicine,” Arthur B. Robinson, Ph.D., CD or DVD from 2004 annual meeting

“DDT: a Case Study in Scientific Fraud,” J Am Phys Surg, Fall 2004

“Journal articles can be misleading on drug safety, effectiveness,” News of the Day, 5/11/05

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