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Fraud Watchdog Blogger Revealed

The author of a whistleblower blog has revealed his identity after the site was suspended due to legal threats from accused scientists.

By | January 6, 2013

FLICKR, SHARON HALL SHIPPThe previously anonymous author of Science Fraud, a blog that highlights potentially falsified images in life sciences papers, has confirmed his identity as Paul Brookes, an associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. The reveal came last week, the day after Brookes removed posts and announced that he was suspending the site in response to threats of legal action.

Since the blog was launched 6 months ago, Brookes and his team have “documented over 500 problematic images in over 300 publications,” he wrote in a blog post since taken down, according to ScienceInsider. Brookes was aware of the potential legal consequences of accusing scientists of fraud, but said in a statement on the site that he ignored cease-and-desist letters because he was merely “highlighting what's already out there and allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.”

Over the past few weeks, however, Brookes received threats from lawyers acting on behalf of scientists whose work had been discussed on the blog. Brookes wrote that one lawyer had subpoenaed his personal contact information and emailed it to dozens of other scientists, stating that “his hate website is a menace to scientific society.” The email further encouraged recipients to “please forward this email onto your institutions and ask for legal representation.”

For his part, Brookes admitted that some of his strong language and the accusatory title of the blog might have been a mistake. But he also wrote that he hopes to continue ferreting out potential falsification via a new website under his real name.

Since Science Fraud was suspended, a Brazilian scientist Rui Curi of the University of Sao Paulo, whose publications contained Western blots discussed on the blog, has had a paper featuring one of these figures retracted, according to Retraction Watch.

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Comments

Avatar of: Brian Hanley

Brian Hanley

Posts: 23

January 7, 2013

Keep it up Brookes. You are doing the right thing.  Don't pay the slightest attention to the moronic lies that attorneys throw at you. Know that when you retreat, you show them they have won. 

Also now that you can issue subpoenas yourself and file discovery motions. Learn how to write them. A major part of the game is to burden the other side with discovery. 

You see, when they file lawsuits against you, they open the door for you to really get at the truth. You are committed now. Best to see it through. 

And - when you file your discovery, file against their institution as well as the scientist in question. The university will initially defend, but then they will want it to just go away. That wil put the attackers on the defensive. 

Avatar of: RobertE

RobertE

Posts: 12

January 9, 2013

I agree with BPH. Actually, there is probably a good living to be made from filing whistleblower lawsuits against these people. After all, if fraud is shown in a million dollar federal research grant, that represents a tidy sum for the whistleblower.

I think that fraud in science is far more serious than it seems to be being treated. I would ban frauds for life, not for 3 years. The entire scientific enterprise rests on trust that results occurred as published. We generate our hypotheses and design our experiments with this trust in mind, and if the results are fraudulent, then it is likely that we will go down a blind alley following the fraudulent results with resulting waste of time and money. Fraud needs to be stamped out vigorously. It is not as if we have a shortage of scientists. Those who are unwilling to play by the rules have no place in the game.

Perhaps the only mistake that Brookes made was to use the word "fraud." Had he said "the following figures show evidence of being altered in ways that do not apparently meet current criteria for publication," then it seems he would have made no accusations, but he would point out situations that require investigation. I applaud Paul Brookes. He is a Hero of Science.

Avatar of: ethicsleftsuny

ethicsleftsuny

Posts: 1

April 28, 2014

SUNY has really lost its ethical and moral compass. It is astounding the extent to which they have a "do it but don't get caught" mentality. The egregious conduct by many of the administrators and faculty members is beyond the pale. What is the SUNY standard for making a decision when an ethical issue is involved? It is make sure there is no record and make sure there is nothing that will lead to successful litigation on the victim's part. I would not send my dog to SUNY!

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