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Two counts of misconduct

The Office of Research Integrity announces two new findings of research misconduct

By | April 28, 2011

Sabotaging students The United States Office of Research Integrity (ORI) found former University of Michigan postdoc Vipul Bhrigu guilty of research misconduct for altering experiments and thus the data record, according to a linkurl:report;http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/2011-10150.htm published yesterday (April 27) in the Federal Register. "We are very happy that the ORI has been able to come to this conclusion," linkurl:Theo Ross,;http://www.sitemaker.umich.edu/rosslab/home Bhrigu's former PI, of the University of Michigan told The Scientist in an email. "Ecstatic may be a better word."
Image: Wikimedia commons
Last year, one of Ross's graduate students, Heather Ames, noticed that she kept making the same mistakes while performing experiments, and that as she corrected these errors, new ones would pop up. She grew suspicious, especially after successfully running her experiments in her boyfriend's lab, and accused postdoc Bhrigu of intentionally manipulating her experiments, including switching the labels on cell cultures, adding alcohol to her culture media, and tampering with materials related to western blots. Bhrigu was eventually caught on tape bringing a bottle of alcohol to the fridge where her media was kept. Upon seeing the video, Bhrigu confessed. In June 2010, Bhrigu pled guilty to misdemeanor charges for malicious destruction of property in district court, landing him 6 months of probation and nearly $10,000 of initial fines and costs. And now the ORI has concluded the actions also constitute research misconduct, and have banned Bhrigu from contracting or subcontracting with any US government agency or serving in an advisory capacity to the US Public Health Service. While the statement from ORI notes that he "knowingly and intentionally tampered with research materials," normally cases in which research materials are destroyed or otherwise "sabotaged" are considered destruction of property, wrote ORI spokesperson Ann Bradley in an email. But because the materials were in his own lab, and because his actions effectively altered the experimental results, this case falls under ORI's jurisdiction, she wrote. "The case is unlike any that [ORI senior staff] have seen," Bradley said. --Hannah Waters Copycat images The ORI also announced another linkurl:finding;http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/2011-10157.htm of research misconduct yesterday -- that of Junghee Shin, who was a PhD student in the laboratory of linkurl:Felipe Cabello;http://www.nymc.edu/People/Felipe.C.Cabello/index.html at New York Medical College. The agency concluded that Shin engaged in misconduct when she altered microscopic immunofluorescence images in papers she submitted for publication after graduating from the institution. According to an emailed statement from Donna Moriarty, a college spokesperson, a "reviewer raised questions about the data" submitted by Shin for publication. The paper, which reported studies of an immunogenic lipoprotein made by the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, was submitted to Infection and Immunity but never published. Another of Shin's papers containing manipulated figures, however, was linkurl:published;http://iai.asm.org/cgi/content/full/72/4/2280 in an April 2004 issue of Infection and Immunity. It was later linkurl:retracted;http://iai.asm.org/cgi/content/full/76/10/4792 in October 2008 after the questions arose regarding the new manuscript. "We have found that the results presented in Fig. 5 cannot be verified in the data record," the authors wrote in the retraction. The figure illustrated the results of immunofluorescence experiments that provided evidence for the partial exposure of an immunodominant protein on the surface of Lyme disease bacteria. It seems that Shin had copied and pasted images of cells staining positive for the same protein. By the time the paper was pulled from the record, however, another study had documented similar results, confirming the retracted paper's conclusions. Because Shin's work was funded by R01 National Institutes of Health, ORI conducted its own investigation, finding Shin guilty of research misconduct and requiring Shin to be closely supervised when participating in government-funded research for the next 3 years. --Bob Grant Correction: This story has been updated from its original version to correctly state that it was not Ames herself who caught Bhrigu on videotape. The Scientist regrets the error.
**__Related stories:__*** linkurl:Opinion: Broadcasting misconduct;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/58086/
[23rd March 2011]*linkurl:Misconduct and adventure;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57993/
[17th February 2011]*linkurl:10 retractions and counting;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57449/
[26th May 2010]
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Comments

Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 74

April 28, 2011

My, my. Note that it was the P.I. that backed the first. In the first, the local police got involved and he was prosecuted. Dear me! The DOI couldn't look the other way when the jerk had been arrested! \n\nThe second is puzzling, since I provided stronger documentation than "suspicion" for a paper and the editor of the journal claimed she could do nothing. DOI also said the same thing. \n\nIn both cases, what are the um, "penalties"? \n\nOh my! The miscreants are gummed by the toothless wombat on their toes! Poor widdle toes! Gum, gum, gum! Gum, wombat, gum!
Avatar of: Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee

Posts: 50

April 28, 2011

One must be careful when discussing particular cases, but it's important to bear in mind that every one of us is capable of acting, at one time or another, in a way that is or appears to be malicious.\n\nEven people such as police officers who are trained in such matters can, at least in the first instance, fail to consider the possiblilty that antisocial behavious may be associated with a degree of psychiatric disorder that renders the person irresponsible.\n\nUnless there is some specific reason to consider ordinary jealousy, someone who messes up a colleague's experiments should be considered to be ill pending expert medical advice.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 15

May 3, 2011

I suspect lab sabotage by other enviable "colleagues" especially junior ones does occur more often than we would like to admit.\n\nOn a separate issue, can someone please decipher the response written by Ellen Hunt below? I haven't the faintest idea what she is talking about.\n\nEllen - would please re-submit in a concise, professional and readable format - that would be really nice. Thanks.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 9

May 17, 2011

It is sad that some people from other countries do not understand that err and failure are allow in science. It is part of science. No they need to go and sabotage. Unfortunately their ethics and principles are so bad that they can coup with valid competitors and intelligent people. they believe they are the best, perhaps in their country but if they came here also indicate they want better situations for everything, including science. Why we do not start teaching people when they come to this country some of the ethics values and consequences if they do it in different or unethical way

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