My real world email box received four copies of a recent ORI Notice of Scientific Misconduct. I thought it odd that I received so many duplicates, mentally cursed the ORI for not culling duplicate emails out of their database and shrugged over what appeared to be a run of the mill case of misconduct:
PHS found that Respondent engaged in scientific misconduct by falsifying and fabricating baseline data from a study of sleep apnea in severely obese patients published in the following paper: Fogel, R.B., Malhotra, A., Dalagiorgou, G., Robinson, M.K., Jakab, M., Kikinis, R., Pittman, S.D., and White, D.P. ``Anatomic and physiologic predictors of apnea severity in morbidly obese subjects.' Sleep 2:150-155, 2003 (hereafter referred to as the ``Sleep paper'); and in a preliminary abstract reporting on this work.
Note the wording of this introductory clause:
Based on information that the Respondent volunteered to his former mentor on November 7, 2006, and detailed in a written admission on September 19, 2007
writedit also points us to an article in The Scientist:
Robert Fogel, a pathophysiologist who worked in the Brigham's division of sleep medicine from 1998 to 2004, fiddled with approximately half the physiologic, anatomic, and sleep-related data in a 2003 study in the journal Sleep. He also made up some anatomic data that he claimed were obtained from computed tomography (CT) scans. The study investigated the role of obesity in obstructive sleep apnea, a breathing-related sleep disorder.
"What I did was obviously horrendously wrong," Fogel, now director of clinical research in the respiratory and allergy division at the Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway, NJ, told The Scientist. "I take whatever consequences come from that."
Fogel himself initiated the investigation, informing his old institute and getting the ball rolling. And of course he accepted the finding and sanction quickly.
"If I hadn't come clean, this probably never would have come to light," he said. "I hate to say it, but this probably happens more often than we think."
Only slightly self-serving there, guy. I mean, "everybody's doing it", right? So you must not be so unusual and hey, you 'fessed up so you are a white hat.
He also claims the move to the private Merck gig was unrelated to the data fakery. It might have been. But was the confession similarly unrelated? One suspects not. One suspects Fogel's attitude toward this issue would have been quite different had he still been in the grant-funded, publish-or-perish pipeline.
As I continue to hammer at with these cases, it is all about the contingencies. The contingencies for one's personal and professional future shape decision making about faking in the first place, willingness to call out fraud, defense against accusations of fraud, etc.
In this case, once this fraudulent scientist was in a situation where confession did not jeopardize his livelihood, he was willing to take the embarrassment and confess. I mean, perhaps his current company would sack him over a fraudulent CV or something. But they wouldn't have to do so if he was doing good work for them and the management structure liked him. In contrast (and this is an honest question), isn't an ORI finding of misconduct pretty much the end of the career in academic NIH funded research? So on the face of it, I'd be much more likely to score this relatively unusual case as a reflection of the unusual circumstances of Fogel's employment.