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Chief Academic Officer Accused in Ongoing Research Scandal at UCL

New allegations of fraud committed under the watch of geneticist David Latchman were made last year.

May 17, 2018
Jim Daley

WIKIMEDIA, DILIFF

Prominent geneticist David Latchman, the chief academic and administrative officer of Birkbeck, University of London, has been accused of “recklessness” for his role in an ongoing research scandal, according to a report described by The Telegraph.

The research scandal began in 2013 after an anonymous whistleblower initially accused scientists at University College London’s Institute of Child Health (ICH), where Latchman was the dean from 1999 to 2002, of misrepresenting research in dozens of published papers, according to The Telegraph. The accusations triggered an investigation. Two scientists, Anastasis Stephanou and Tiziano Scarabelli, were found to have doctored images in seven papers on which Latchman was a coauthor.

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A January 3 article in The Guardian reported that Latchman, who was appointed Master of Birkbeck in January 2003, was cleared of misconduct after the nearly two-year inquiry, which concluded in 2015. But a new investigation, which reviewed papers published by ICH scientists between 1990 and 2013, was ordered after claims of wrongdoing resurfaced in 2017. In the new report, not yet made public, the investigation found that Latchman was “insufficiently attentive” in his role as dean of the ICH, and that he “allowed” the misconduct to occur, according to The Telegraph.

In March, Latchman told Nature that he “did not produce or directly supervise” the production of the images in question. “In my view, the investigation should focus on those actually involved in preparing the questionable figures and those directly involved in supervising their production,” he said.

While the investigation’s report did not accuse Latchman of deliberately engaging in fraud, it did say that the fact that he was listed as a coauthor on the tainted papers and was dean while the misconduct was occurring amounted to “recklessness” and “facilitated” the researchers’ fraud, The Telegraph reports.

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