An extensive misconduct investigation that took three years to complete and produced a 60,000-page report, concludes that a researcher who has come to prominence in recent years for his investigations into the beneficial properties of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, “is guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data”.
In a statement published on the university’s news website on Wednesday, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Health Center said the investigation has led them to inform 11 scientific journals that had published studies conducted by Dr Dipak K. Das, a professor in the unversity’s Department of Surgery and director of its Cardiovascular Research Center.
The internal investigation, which covered seven years of work in Das’s lab, was triggered by an anonyomous allegation of “research irregularities” in 2008.
Das has been in UConn’s employ since 1984, and was awarded tenure in 1993.
UConn Health Center said it worked closely with the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) throughout its internal investigation. ORI have received the report, and they will now conduct an independent investigation.
Inquiries involving former members of the lab are still under way, and no findings have been released as yet.
All externally funded research in Das’s lab is now frozen, and the Health Center has declined nearly $900,000 in federal grants awarded to Das.
Philip Austin, UConn’s interim vice president for health affairs, said:
“We have a responsibility to correct the scientific record and inform peer researchers across the country.”
He expressed gratitude to the individual who “chose to do the right thing” and alert the university authorities about the irregularities.
UConn has initiated dismissal proceedings, in accordance with the unversity’s bylaws.
Austin said while the university authorities are “deeply disappointed by the flagrant disregard” for the university’s code of conduct, they are “pleased the oversight systems in place were effective and worked as intended”.
He said the abuses in Das’s lab are not representative of the overall quality of UConn Health Center’s biomedical research, which “continues to pursue advances in treatments and cures with the utmost integrity”.
The 11 journals that UConn has informed are: American Journal of Physiology – Heart & Circulatory; Antioxidants & Redox Signaling; Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry; Free Radical Biology; Free Radical Research; Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry; Journal of Cellular & Molecular Medicine; Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry; Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; Molecular & Cellular Cardiology; Molecular & Cellular Chemistry.
There is a suggestion that the impact of this news on resveratrol research will be minimal.
According to a report from the Associated Press (AP), Dr Nir Barzilai, whose team conducts resveratrol research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, says Das is not a major player in the field.
Barzilai told AP lots of labs around the world are conducting extensive research into resveratrol, with encouraging results, and the new allegation will not make a material difference.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD