From the NYT account of the shooting of Dennis Charney:
A former faculty member at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine... , Hengjun Chao, 49, of Tuckahoe, N.Y., was charged with attempted second-degree murder after he allegedly fired a shotgun and hit two men
why? Presumably revenge for :
In October 2002, Mr. Chao joined Mount Sinai as a research assistant professor. He stayed at Mount Sinai until May 2009, when he received a letter of termination from Dr. Charney for “research misconduct,” according to a lawsuit that Mr. Chao filed against the hospital and Dr. Charney, among other parties, in 2010. He went through an appeals process, and was officially terminated in March 2010.
As you might expect, the retraction watch blog has some more fascinating information on this case. One notable bit is the fact that ORI declined to pursue charges against Dr. Chao.
The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) decided not to pursue findings of research misconduct, according to material filed in the case and mentioned in a judge’s opinion on whether Chao could claim defamation by Mount Sinai. Part of Chao’s defamation claim was based on a letter from former ORI investigator Alan Price calling Mount Sinai’s investigation report “inadequate, seriously flawed and grossly unfair in dealing with Dr. Chao.”
Interesting! The institution goes to the effort of firing the guy and manages to fight off a counter suit and ORI still doesn't have enough to go on? Retraction watch posted the report on the Mount Sinai misconduct investigation [PDF]. It makes the case a little more clear.
To briefly summarize: Dr. Chao first alleged that a postdoc, Dr. Cohn, fabricated research data. An investigation failed to support the charge and Dr. Chao withdrew his complaint. Perhaps (?) as part of that review, Dr. Cohn submitted an allegation that Dr. Chao had directed her to falsify data-this was supported by an email and a colleague third-party testimony. Mount Sinai mounted an investigation and interviewed a bunch of people with Dr. titles, some of whom are co-authors with Dr. Chao according to PubMed.
The case is said to hinge on credibility of the interviewees. "There was no 'smoking gun' direct evidence....the allegations..represent the classic 'he-said, she-said' dispute". The report notes that only the above mentioned email trail supports any of the allegations with hard evidence.
Ok, so that might be why ORI declined to pursue the case against Dr. Chao.
The panel found him to be "defensive, remarkably ignorant about the details of his protocol and the specifics of his raw data, and cavalier with his selective memory. ..he made several overbroad and speculative allegations of misconduct against Dr. Cohn without any substantiation"
One witness testified that Dr. Chao had said "[Dr. Cohn] is a young scientist [and] doesn't know how the experiments should come out, and I in my heart know how it should be."
This is kind of a classic sign of a PI who creates a lab culture that encourages data faking and fraud, if you ask me. Skip down to the end for more on this.
There are a number of other allegations of a specific nature. Dropping later timepoints of a study because they were counter to the hypothesis. Publishing data that dropped some of the mice for no apparent reason. Defending low-n (2!) data by saying he was never trained in statistics, but his postdoc mentor contradicted this claim. And finally, the committee decided that Dr. Chao's original complaint filed against Dr. Cohn was a retaliatory action stemming from an ongoing dispute over science, authorship, etc.
The final conclusion in the recommendations section deserves special attention:
"[Dr. Chao] promoted a laboratory culture of misconduct and authoritarianism by rewarding results consistent with his theories and berating his staff if the results were inconsistent with his expectations."
This, my friends, is the final frontier. Every time I see a lower-ling in a lab busted for serial faking, I wonder about this. Sure, any lab can be penetrated by a data faking sleaze. And it is very hard to both run a trusting collaborative scientific environment and still be 100 percent sure of preventing the committed scofflaws. But...but..... I am here to tell you. A lot of data fraud flows from PIs of just exactly this description.
If the PI does it right, their hands are entirely clean. Heck, in some cases they may have no idea whatsoever that they are encouraging their lab to fake data.
But the PI is still the one at fault.
I'd hope that every misconduct investigation against anyone below the PI level looks very hard into the culture that is encouraged and/or perpetrated by the PI of the lab in question.