Food for Thought

Plagiarism and Fraud in Science – 2nd Act or more?

The recent years have seen some very extreme fraud cases, most of which were related to bio-related research. For example, in 2006 South Korean stem cell scientist Dr Hwang Woosuk was caught having fabricated results for his two Science papers published in 2004 and 2005. While some people (e.g. Norwegian Jon Sudbø) have been stripped of their doctorate degree for plagiarism and fraud, it is indeed surprising that he is even able to continue to work in some research institute. This sad fraud series continued very recently with a case involving Dr Kim Tae-kook, another South Korean scientist and ironically “self-acclaimed admirer” of Dr Hwang. Kim published his fraudulent results describing nanoparticles that can be used to probe molecular behavior inside cells ultimately allowing for the identification of novel drug targets (Science 2005). Another fabricated paper was published in Nature Chemical Biology in July 2006.
Disturbingly, Chemistry also has its share of frauds. Former Dr Guido Zadel is still infamous for his irreproducible “enantioselective synthesis in a magnetic field”, which was published in 1994 and subsequently retracted from Angewandte Chemie. Maybe it was his “aura” that led to high ee. More recently, James J. LaClair stirred the organic chemical community with his singled authored and thus “heroic” communication on the full synthesis of hexacyclinol in Angewandte Chemie 2006. John A. Porco Jr. and Scott D. Rychnovsky subsequently proved him and his (fabricated?) NMR data wrong, and yet LaClair has not retracted his paper. At least Dalibor Sames retracted some of his irreproducible papers from the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS, 5 papers!) and Organic Letters (1 paper) co-authored by his former PhD student Sezen, whom he accused of providing fabricated data. Maybe, they are still arguing about “which brand of coffee beans to use to make a good expresso”.
However, the most recent and the worse fraud case in chemistry so far has just been reported in early 2008 and investigations are still on-going. Chiranjeevi, a professor of chemistry at Sri Venkateswara University (SVU), Tirupati was found guilty of having plagiarized and fabricated results in >70 papers (!!!), some of which appeared in Talanta, Food Chemistry and Analytica Chimica Acta. All these developments are extremely worrying, but I am sure there are more of these desperate guys out there, who act without any integrity and honesty. Let’s hope that true science will find these culprits.

2 thoughts on “Plagiarism and Fraud in Science – 2nd Act or more?

  1. The SSS (Sames-Sezen Scandal) was a sad story, but the most disappointing was the way how CU (Columbia Univ.) handled it. People just simply pretended that it never happened. Rumors (or truth) about the SSS has been around long before it was revealed. However, the CU chem dept and Sames refused to take any actions until other groups claimed these experiments could not be reproduced. Well, Sames became known because of these “incredible” (or fake) C-H functionalization reactions, and he had all the fame. Guess what happened now? Sezen was the one who got all the blames. When the SSS went public, CU claimed that they would conduct a thorough investigation within a few months and then a report will be availble for the community to review. Guess what happened again? No report was released and Sames was promoted to an associate prof. So I will say “Fraud in Science” will not be a big issue if 1) you are not caught, or 2) you can then blame on someone else. You will agree with me, won’t you?

  2. Yes, I totally agree. It is sad that many people think it is not a big deal and many continue to produce fraudulent “results”. And that Sames puts the whole blame on Sezen is also wrong. As the corresponding author he is the one responsible. He should make sure, what he publishes is correct. If not sure, then just don’t publish. It’s as easy as this…
    Unfortunately, I know that many scientists are just not checking their students data before they publish. And when someone doubts the published data, these guys blame their students. Those “corresponding authors” just want the fame but won’t take the blame. They suck, don’t they?

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