The professor blamed the students for “dirty mistakes”. Now he is accused of scientific misconduct

The professor blamed the students for “dirty mistakes”.  Now he is accused of scientific misconduct

In March 2021, the Integrity Commission of the University of Bergen (UiB) received a report of concern. There were allegations of data reuse, image manipulation, or suspicious duplication of statistical data in a total of nine scholarly articles by employees and a former employee in the Faculty of Medicine.

A professor at the university co-authored all the articles, and had a prominent role in four of them. Faced with the matter, he admitted that there were errors in the articles. He thought it was negligence, but he thought he hadn’t acted grossly negligently or on purpose.

But the Integrity Commission concluded in November that he had acted fraudulently. This finding has been appealed to the National Commission of Inquiry, and thus the matter has not been finally decided.

The errors mostly relate to clutter and errors in the illustrations in the articles, including reuse, i.e. the authors claim the image is unique, but it is used in several places to illustrate different things.

Reuse is a serious violation of recognized scientific standards, and the professor acknowledged that reuse occurred in eight of the articles.

In addition, raw data was missing for many trials.

“about to collapse”

The professor explained himself first to the college integrity committee. According to the documents, he was “shocked” when he was shown the results.

Suspicions of misconduct were first raised on the site PubPeerAnd Where users can post anonymous comments on articles.

The professor was unfamiliar with the site, but said he had spent an entire weekend scrolling through the comments.

The case papers read: “He realized that this was a big problem, and was so amazed that, according to his own statement, he nearly collapsed.”

cooperation with China

According to him, it was the students and doctoral candidates in China who made the mistakes. He was responsible for following up on these matters.

The experiments described in the articles were performed in a laboratory in China, where the University of Bergen is collaborating with a Chinese university.

The professor was a supervisor for the PhD students here, and was generally responsible for collaboration.

He split the position, 50 percent in Norway and 50 percent in China. The professor explained that it was difficult to combine this satisfactorily. This resulted in not having the ability to search accurately enough across all the data. He chose to trust the students who performed the experiments “partly out of necessity, but now realizes that the students were less competent than he had assumed.”

See also  Færder Municipality, Færder | dark power room

According to the case documents, the professor is of the view that the errors were due to the “negligence of the early authors/students.”

Regarding errors in one article, he said, for example, that they arose “because the students and colleagues involved were sloppy and took wrong pictures from folders on their computers”.

The University of Bergen’s Integrity Commission concluded in November that the professor “violated recognized standards of research ethics in his roles as project manager, supervisor, and co-author.” They indicate violations of various kinds in all nine articles.

Reckless and irresponsible

The commission wrote that individually the violations appear reprehensible and irresponsible, and collectively they appear serious.

“The Committee points out that it is a minimum requirement for scholarly works not to contain ‘sloppy errors’ and to undergo minimal quality control before publication. In general, the discrepancies in this case appear to be great both in content and in scope (…)”.

Many of the errors also appear to be relatively obvious, according to the college’s local integrity committee, which looked into the matter first. They thought it was amazing that those involved didn’t catch mistakes.

Here is an example to illustrate it being used incorrectly in an article.

There were a number of errors in the images and figures in the articles. It used to be that the same image was used to illustrate two different things – so-called reuse – which the Integrity Commission believes is “the result of poor data management, inadequate proofreading and training in good research practice”.

For example, the same image was used to illustrate different purported treatments for the mice in the experiment.

Further states:

“In general, the Committee considers the number and types of errors to be a clear and serious deviation from good research practice. In some articles, errors may be interpreted as accidental, while for others, the types and extent of errors are so remarkable and significant that they are difficult to interpret as negligence. and shake.”

Gross negligence

The committee wrote that it had no information to indicate that the professor acted intentionally, but that it believed he acted with gross negligence, and therefore scientifically fraudulent.

See also  - Qatar World Cup for the rich only - NRK Norway - Overview of news from across the country

It is rare for researchers to be caught for scientific misconduct or for breaching scientific standards. In 2020, this happened in only three cases, according to the annual report of the National Commission of Inquiry.

In an aggravated direction, the emphasis was placed on the fact that the professor at UiB, according to a cooperation agreement, is responsible for the daily operation of the laboratory in China where the experiments were carried out. This means that he bears “particular responsibility for the quality of the scientific work presented in the nine articles evaluated”.

The panel also writes that the “lack of systems and red tape” in the China lab, combined with “indolence,” made it possible for errors to occur. The lab has seen very rapid growth in its young staff, but has few experienced supervisors and researchers.

The investigation revealed that the raw data could not be presented in one of the articles, and for many others the raw data was only present on the personal computers of individual researchers in China. The committee considers this an aberration, and states that validation of research results is critical to confidence in research.

“This case revealed that at the time the articles were published there were missing quality control procedures and data backup systems in the laboratory.”

According to the faculty and researchers involved, routines are better today.

This is how the professor answers

The professor, who is currently in China, writes in an email to Khrono that he disagrees that he has acted scientifically fraudulently. He admits mistakes, but they weren’t made on purpose, he says.

– I really learned a lesson from this case and did everything I could to avoid future mistakes.

He says the raw data is now stored on dedicated servers and that a separate external panel at the university will check all manuscripts and numbers in detail before submitting.

He wrote, “Since labeling me a scientific hoaxer would have disastrous consequences for the individual, I believe I deserve the opportunity to learn from my mistakes in order to continue my scientific career.”

Ask him to take a course in research ethics

The dean of the Bir Pak College of Medicine says they have followed up with the professor.

See also  It's great to be cute, so why not just be we? - NRK Trøndelag

– We have indicated, based on the conclusions reached by the Integrity Commission, that we want him to take a course in research ethics. For the next two years, he says, he cannot be the lead supervisor for PhD candidates.

On a general level, we will have a greater focus on research ethics. We will have requirements for these courses for all principal supervisors.

Recommends an evaluation of cooperation

The cooperation agreement between UiB and the Chinese university contains few research ethics obligations, according to the Integrity Commission’s presentation.

“The Committee believes that this case shows that UiB did not have an adequate system in place to ensure that an essential requirement in the contractual framework that research must follow recognized standards of research ethics was adhered to.”

They recommend that faculty evaluate collaborations, and ensure that PhD students in collaborations receive appropriate training. But the committee still did not believe that there was anything wrong with the system in doing research ethics.

Three other researchers were acquitted

The professor and his colleagues then took great pains to correct errors in the articles. One of them has already been withdrawn. The Integrity Committee does not recommend further retraction of articles. Even if the committee believed that the professor had acted scientifically fraudulently, it “found no reason why this should lead to an assessment of his job at UiB”.

Three other authors of the articles have also been investigated by the Integrity Commission. But here the committee concluded that none of them showed scientific misconduct. These only contributed one article each.

The faculty has cooperated with the Chinese for many years, and the faculty is now studying whether this case has any consequences.

“But we cannot say that all Chinese are evil, although this issue has come up,” says Brigadier General Bear Buck.

When asked what he really thinks happened in China in this case, he said:

It would be just speculation. But you can imagine there is fierce competition out there, for publication and positions. Then one resorted to such methods to get ahead, and then there was a very permissive control over it.

Search scam

The Nobel Laureate in Medicine has co-authored a number of articles that have been retracted

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *