Harvard prof falsified sleep data

A former assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston falsified and fabricated data in a study of sleep apnea, the Office of Research Integrity linkurl:reported;http://ori.dhhs.gov/misconduct/cases/Fogel.shtml last week. linkurl:Robert Fogel,;http://pulmonaryfellowship.hms.harvard.edu/NewFiles/Staff/FogelFrameset.html a pathophysiologist who worked in the Brigham's division of sleep medicine from 1998 to 2004, fiddled with approximately

Apr 9, 2009
Elie Dolgin
A former assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston falsified and fabricated data in a study of sleep apnea, the Office of Research Integrity linkurl:reported;http://ori.dhhs.gov/misconduct/cases/Fogel.shtml last week.
linkurl:Robert Fogel,;http://pulmonaryfellowship.hms.harvard.edu/NewFiles/Staff/FogelFrameset.html a pathophysiologist who worked in the Brigham's division of sleep medicine from 1998 to 2004, fiddled with approximately half the physiologic, anatomic, and sleep-related data in a 2003 linkurl:study;http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=25806 in the journal __Sleep__. He also made up some anatomic data that he claimed were obtained from computed tomography (CT) scans. The study investigated the role of obesity in obstructive sleep apnea, a breathing-related sleep disorder. "What I did was obviously horrendously wrong," Fogel, now director of clinical research in the respiratory and allergy division at the Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway, NJ, told __The Scientist__. "I take whatever consequences come from that." The falsified paper was the first part of a longer term study that followed 14 severely obese people suffering from sleep apnea both before and after undergoing gastric bypass surgeries. The misconduct came to light in 2006, two years after Fogel joined Merck, when Fogel's former supervisor, linkurl:David White,;http://sleep.med.harvard.edu/people/faculty/148/David+P+White+MD asked him to coauthor the follow-up study. Fogel then confessed that he had fudged his original data to create the appearance of a positive result. His move to Merck was unrelated to the fraudulent study, he said. "I moved numbers around to make the data look like there was something there," he said. "I never really thought through the consequences, and once I did this I got myself into a loop that I found I couldn't get out of." Fogel contacted HMS's research integrity office with his confession. Harvard officials then conducted a thorough review of Fogel's 30-odd studies stemming from his time at the Brigham, and found no other instances of wrongdoing. "This is the only paper where I ever did something wrong," Fogel said. The case was then brought forward to the ORI, and quickly settled. "He's both the complainant and the respondent," linkurl:John Dahlberg,;http://ori.dhhs.gov/about/contact_ori.shtml director of the division of investigative oversight at ORI, told __The Scientist__. "It's the only time I remember seeing that." The falsified paper, which has been cited 16 times, according to ISI, reported that the shape and volume of the airway tract interact with obesity to predispose patients to sleep apnea. "The conclusion is not supported by the data," said Fogel, but he noted that other studies have also implicated airway shape in the development of sleep apnea. Some of the research also appeared in a preliminary abstract published in the same journal in 2001. Both the paper and abstract were linkurl:retracted;http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=27420 in February. White and linkurl:Gretchen Brodnicki,;http://hms.harvard.edu/public/deans/brodnicki.html HMS's dean for faculty and research integrity, declined to comment for this story. "All HMS reviews of such matters are, and remain, confidential," HMS spokesperson linkurl:David Cameron,;http://hms.harvard.edu/public/news/about.html wrote in an email. Fogel voluntarily agreed to exclude himself from Public Health Service-funded research for a period of three years unless he is under active supervision. "If I hadn't come clean, this probably never would have come to light," he said. "I hate to say it, but this probably happens more often than we think."
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[9th February 2009]