Duke cancer scientist asks to retract journal article, sparking negative news coverage

An academic integrity/research misconduct case at Duke is generating some very negative coverage for the university.  A professor with Duke’s s Department of Medicine and Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy has requested that a journal article be retracted after his co-author re-assessed the data and determined that they didn’t support the article’s findings (others previously raised questions about the research).  The researcher, Dr. Anil Potti, had already been suspended over questions surfaced about his resume. Click here for the article in  The News & Observer of Raleigh on Saturday.  An N&O columnist decided to pile on with a critical piece in this morning’s edition, showing how quickly a such a situation can go from bad to worse.  And it doesn’t look like the issue will go away.  As bad as it is for Duke’s reputation, the case is bad news for all researchers and research institutions, considering the increasingly hostile views toward science being promoted by many politicians (which, admittedly, are also held by many members of the public).

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One response to “Duke cancer scientist asks to retract journal article, sparking negative news coverage

  1. Well…if any of our faculty who are being required to take Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) training were questioning why, they should wonder and/or complain no more! I would like to also say the following:
    I am sad: This case involved CANCER research on HUMAN SUBJECTS. Cancer patients are so vulnerable because they are fighting one of the toughest diseases known to man. While his research may not have been able to save lives, the intent is to do no harm. I am going to continue to hold to my belief that the intentions of the majority of scientists are good toward society. So then I question where this person’s intent went horribly wrong and why. Typical responses would be the pressure by the institution or peers to be productive in research. In this case, the fact that he falsified his credentials and that Duke after investigating him, still supported him, says that he would not have the institution to blame. The human subjects do because Duke failed to do the math.
    I am concerned: There was little discussion about the Co-PI’s responsibility in this case. Should he be held accountable on some level as well? Why wasn’t the data verified before publication? Co-PIs have a lot of, if not the the same level of, responsibility as the PI. They carry out the procedures of the study and can oversee the project in the absence of the PI. Maybe his contribution to the study did not involve the data being referred to in the article.
    I am encouraged: Efforts to monitor research compliance at A&T have increased through a more structured process. We have begun with the Protocol Review and Education Program (PREP). IRB-approved protocols will be randomly selected for review. This is a QA process to ensure that the IRB is doing its job to protect human subjects and support our researcher’s intent to do no harm. Research Compliance is the “wind beneath the wings” of our goal to impact global issues. When we are ready to contribute to generalizable knowledge, the research can stand the test of intent. That’s what compliance is all about. Whenever research cannot stand the test of intent, then the phenomenon of concern (in this case cancer research) takes giant steps backward, especially in public trust and regulatory scrutiny. Encourage your colleagues to follow the regulations. Add some peer pressure in that direction, it’s good for them!

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