There is an interesting story over at retraction watch.
Last month, PubPeer announced that a scientist had threatened to sue the site for defamation. At the time, all PubPeer would say was that the “prospective plaintiff” is a US researcher” who was “aggrieved at the treatment his papers are getting on our site.”
Today, PubPeer revealed the that the prospective plaintiff was Fazlul Sarkar, a distinguished professor of pathology at Wayne State University in Detroit. Sarkar’s attorney, Nicholas Roumel, tells us that Sarkar had a job offer from the University of Mississippi, which rescinded it after seeing comments about his work on PubPeer.
The part that interests me is, as you might predict, that the offending "comments" at PubPeer detail retractions, suspicious figures and basically edge right up to calling Sarkar a cheater. A data faker. A fraud.
If it is indeed the case that this guy had a job offer at a different University and it was revoked, we may finally be seeing a clear success of post-publication review.
One of the thornier problems involved with nailing a data faker is the twin whammy of Universities having no skin in the game once a data faker has departed their employment and a general fear of being sued for defamation if data faking cannot be proved.
There was a prior case detailed on this blog in which a pair of scientists hop-skipped-and-jumped across three Universities until eventually disappearing. There is a fair bit of high quality rumoring that they finally got busted for data fakery.
There are other cases, even in the ORI findings, where a given scientists seems to have a short tenure at a given University and moves quickly along. Eventually, the person is busted and it may become clear that some of the fraudulent work stretches back to a prior appointment.
What one wonders is how many times a scientific fraud departs his or her University before an investigation can come to a conclusion? Gets out of Dodge before the posse arrives. Given the usual lengthy process of investigation, she or he would know long before any finding can be made public that the heat was coming. Long enough to search out a faculty appointment elsewhere. Perhaps at a lower-profile institution that cannot believe their good fortune that such a high-flier wants to work there (and bring all that grant money!).
Maybe this is a case where the University got wind of the cheating before they hired the guy. Thanks to publicly available comments on his suspicious data.