A Scientific Misconduct Oddity

May 10 2010 Published by under Conduct of Science, Ethics, Scientific Misconduct

A recent notice (NOT-OD-10-095) of scientific misconduct from ORI has a curious twist I've not seen before.

Scott J. Brodie, DVM, Ph.D., University of Washington: Based on the findings in an investigation report by the University of Washington (UW) and additional analysis conducted by ORI in its oversight review,
ORI found that Scott J. Brodie, DVM, Ph.D., former Research Assistant Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine, and Director of the UW Retrovirology Pathogenesis Laboratory, UW, committed misconduct in science (scientific misconduct) in research supported by or reported in the following U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) grant applications:
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).
Specifically, ORI made fifteen findings of misconduct in science based on evidence that Dr. Brodie knowingly and intentionally fabricated and falsified data reported in nine PHS grant applications and progress reports and several published papers, manuscripts, and PowerPoint presentations. The fifteen findings are as follows:
1. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure that was presented in manuscripts submitted to the Journal of Experimental Medicine and the Journal of Virology and in several PowerPoint presentations that purported to represent rectal mucosal leukocytes in some instances and lymph nodes in other instances.
2. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified portions of a three-paneled figure included in several manuscript submissions, PowerPoint presentations, and grant applications.
3. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure included as Figure 1N in American Journal of Pathology 54:1453-1464, 1999, three NIH grant applications, and several PowerPoint presentations.

PowerPoint presentations?
What the hell are those doing in there?
Don't get me wrong, data faking is data faking. I'm not down with that at all. But given the length of the accusation findings in the Notice (there were 15 total listed) throwing in the extra bit about PowerPoint presentations is odd.
What's next?
"Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure included in several manuscript submissions, grant applications, PowerPoint presentations, and described in email exchanges with collaborators, conversations in the hallway at meetings and private conversations with his graduate students"

12 responses so far

  • becca says:

    I've never read the scientific misconduct notices, so I have no basis for comparison. It seems to me a reasonable thing to include though. Afterall, it's entirely possible a greater *number* of people were exposed to the faked data during public talks than during grant applications.

  • JohnV says:

    I wonder if the recent email jihad being waged by the state of Virginia is causing the NIH to be more thorough about this sort of thing?
    That way the next reactionary AG with a bone to pick (about HIV in this case) can't be like "OMG the NIH supported this data falsification".

  • neurolover says:

    My theory is that many of the counts are about falsification in grant applications & *submitted* versions of manuscripts, and that the offender might have argued that these falsifications were inadvertent (for example, that placeholder figures "accidentally" got submitted).
    There are a some examples of falsification in *published* manuscripts, but they may have wanted to bump up the number of falsifications to justify the punishment, and a powerpoint presentation, which is presumably *presented* leaves less room for arguing "accidental" duplication.
    Mind you, what I find weird about it is the reference to Powerpoint -- what if the guy had used keynote in some of his presentations, then, would they have said Keynote & Powerpoint? I think the point they're arguing is that the presentatios constituted some for of "publication", not referencing powerpoint specifically.

  • queenrandom says:

    I read it like neurolover, although it is odd. I assume A) they're talking about a particular figure, ergo they can't reference submitted abstracts and B) they're only referencing things that they have physical proof of, so they're not citing talks given at conferences or invited talks. It looks like CYA lawyer-speak to me. Not to say it isn't weird, but it is what it is.

  • Pascale says:

    I have read a fair number of these misconduct notices (is it anyone I know? will it screw up my science?) and cannot recall one that specified PowerPoint or presentations prior to this time. Were these presentations made available online or on a meeting CD or something? Otherwise, I consider most presentations too "ethereal" to constitute the sort of "paper-trail"* that usually gets you in trouble. You give a talk, collect more data, and change your perspective on something. That's why the published paper is the coin of the realm in academia - it's to science what the permanent record is to elementary school.
    *we really need to come up with a new term for "paper-trail" since most of our communications now exits as pixels on a screen or 1's and 0's on a server

  • Art says:

    Can they nail you for "knowingly and intentionally" using an annoying and abusive color scheme and font.
    If they can start nailing people for knowingly and intentionally delivering an excessively boring PowerPoint presentation they might be on to something.

  • bioephemera says:

    Just don't falsify a Tweet. Then your career will be over FOR SURE!

  • Namnezia says:

    In one of the other notices a graduate student is cited for falsifying data in her PhD thesis (and papers, etc.). Is your thesis considered a public document?
    http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-10-085.html

  • ginger says:

    Well, it's not unheard-of for people to put their slides from big meetings up at their lab websites after the fact. Maybe he did that?

  • I've been reading these announcements for years, and I've never seen them refer to Powerpoint before. And yes, a PhD thesis is for pretty much all purposes considered a publication.
    Wow! That bag of fuck sure was a busy fucking beaver, wasn't he?
    (Fucking cat just farted nastily while I was typing this comment.)

  • neurolover says:

    "Can they nail you for "knowingly and intentionally" using an annoying and abusive color scheme and font."
    Yes. Be very careful.

  • ginger says:

    I beg your pardon, CPP, he was a busy fucking Husky.

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