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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Resveratrol fraud case update: Dipak Das loses editor’s chair, lawyer issues statement refuting all charges

with 24 comments

Das, via UConn

Many Retraction Watch readers will now be familiar with the case of Dipak Das, the resveratrol researcher about whom the University of Connecticut issued a voluminous report yesterday — summary here — detailing 145 counts of data fabrication and falsification. This has been a fast-moving story, so we wanted to highlight a number of updates to our original post, and offer a few more.

First, we have confirmed with publisher Mary Ann Liebert this morning that Das has been relieved of his duties as co-editor in chief of Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. He had shared that post with Chandan Sen, and his name as been removed from the masthead of that journal. Here’s a statement from the publisher:

Antioxidants and Redox Signaling (ARS) is in its 16th consecutive year of publication and has an impact factor of 8.209.  Although Dr. Das was listed as Co-Editor, he reviewed only 1 or 2% of the articles and did not have decision-making responsibility on the journal.  Yesterday, I advised Dr. Das that he was being dismissed from his position.  The integrity of ARS is of the very highest priority to the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Dr. Chandan Sen, who has been the driving force of the journal since its inception.  Dr. Sen’s Editorial concerning this matter will be posted on our website today and in the official journal ASAP.  A formal retraction of two articles coauthored by Dr. Das will also be published and uploaded to Medline.

And here is the editorial, which notes the two studies that will be retracted:

Commitment to Intellectual Honesty and Personal Responsibility

Chandan K. Sen

 January 11, 2012

Scientific integrity represents the core of the research enterprise and the sharing of scientific information. It is this commitment to intellectual honesty and to responsible conduct and reporting of research that propels the successful advancement of knowledge. This afternoon I received a notification from officials of the University of Connecticut indicating that their investigation on research misconduct has found Antioxidants and Redox Signaling (ARS) Co-editor Professor Dipak K. Das guilty of fabrication and falsification of data. To demonstrate its commitment to protecting the integrity of science, ARS has terminated Dr. Das’s position as Co-editor effective today. The report on findings of the investigation has identified that two articles published in ARS by the Das laboratory suffer from fabricated data.1,2 Both articles have been retracted effective today.  Formal retraction notices will be issued on the Publisher’s website (www.liebertonline.com/ars) and published in the Journal imminently.  These actions reinforce the high standards necessary to advance the science that underpins the value that ARS brings to its community.

References

  1. Malik G, Gorbounov N, Das S, Gurusamy N, Otani H, Maulik N, Goswami S, Das DK. Ischemic preconditioning triggers nuclear translocation of thioredoxin and its interaction with Ref-1 potentiating a survival signal through the PI-3-kinase-Akt pathway. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2006; 8(11-12):2101-2109.
  2. Muinck ED, Nagy N, Tirziu D, Murakami M, Gurusamy N, Goswami SK, Ghatpande S, Engelman RM, Simons M, Das DK. Protection against myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury by the angiogenic Masterswitch protein PR 39 gene therapy: the roles of HIF1alpha stabilization and FGFR1 signaling. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2007; 9(4):437-445.

The 2006 paper has been cited 23 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the 2007 paper has been cited just once.

Late last night, we also received a statement on behalf of Das in which he

claims all of the allegations against him can be “easily refuted” and that the charges against him involve prejudice within the university against Indian researchers

The statement — which is reproduced in total at our original post — also claims that Das was “prevented from making a timely response to all of these charges,” although as we noted yesterday, his answer to university investigators has been made public by UConn.

And in a narrative that will be familiar to Retraction Watch readers, Das tries to place the blame on biased whistleblowers:

Another student researcher who worked in Dr. Das’ laboratory in 2008 discloses that the informant in this case was a trouble maker who chased away many other researchers by intentionally causing friction in Dr. Das’ lab.   The former student says the university informant in this case even attempted to “pour wine down her mouth,” hoping to get her to reveal negative things about Dr. Das.   The student says she did not witness any scientific irregularities in Dr. Das’ lab during her tenure there, which included Western Blot tests that were alleged to be doctored.

It may just fit the classical definition of “irony” that he blames wine, given his area of research.

The statement concludes with an attempt to distance Das from Longevinex, a company with which he has worked. It’s a bit convoluted, as the company did in fact fund some of his work, as the statement notes.

While the news media made quick association between Dr. Das and a particular brand of resveratrol pill he has tested, Dr. Das has no commercial relationship and does not serve as a paid consultant to any manufacturer of resveratrol pills.   He served as an unpaid expert for an online interview of a particular brand of resveratrol, a pill that his laboratory found to be superior to plain resveratrol in laboratory studies.  A spokesman  for that company, Bill Sardi, managing partner for Resveratrol Partners LLC, dba Longevinex®, says his company has donated product to researchers including Dr. Das’ lab and has underwritten some of the expenses involved in conducting tests, but no researchers have received pay offs or have personally profited from their studies involving his product.  Mr. Sardi says his company has not sought to influence the outcome of any independent or sponsored studies.  Resveratrol Partners LLC is a private company based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The company sent us a few statements last night, the highlight of which is

We have now had opportunity to read the entire report by the University of Connecticut and find it particularly disturbing in its details and implications. As a company we do not wish to be associated with scientific research that does not meet the highest level of scientific standards. We stand with the University of Connecticut in its efforts to root out any scientific fraud.

We’ve also found a 2011 issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences that includes 21 articles on resveratrol and co-edited by Das.

You can also read our coverage for Reuters, a story in the New York Times that quotes Adam, and a good blog post by Tom Bartlett at The Chronicle of Higher Education, among other items. We’ll continue to update as we find out more information.

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24 Responses

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  1. “Another student researcher who worked in Dr. Das’ laboratory in 2008 discloses that the informant in this case was a trouble maker who chased away many other researchers by intentionally causing friction in Dr. Das’ lab.”???

    The classic approach. Toss the student(s) under the bus. We see this behavior all over science nowadays.

    It seems highly unlikely that unfounded allegations by some single ‘student researcher’ could sustain an investigation of such magnitude, dismissal proceedings at a major university, and whereby even journal editorial boards are dumping Das in short order and retracting articles effectively on-the-spot.

    As always, and as I believe someone else mentioned on the other thread for this story, the real tragedy is all the truly competent and promising researchers who didn’t get jobs, grants, published papers, etc., because they were crowded out by this nonsense.

    In the future, the 1990s and 2000s (and early 2010s) will likely be viewed as the equivalent of the ‘steroid era’ in major league baseball. Hard to know what/who to trust.

    This is also a good lesson for the private sector: stop giving all your money and support to the hucksters!! Word up, good science is damn hard work, and takes time and causes headaches.

    Sierra Rayne

    January 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    • Right you are, whatever your identity is. But I would really wait to see the fate of Dr. Maulik.

      Diptarka Ray

      January 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm

      • Cancer is a multi-step process. – should prevent it at an early stage otherwise it is difficult to handle!! . What would happen if a person at the verge of retirement is implicated in scitnfic misconduct? What about the students/first authors and co-authors of those papers? Look at Dr. Damodaran Chendil case earlier – not sure what is happening either. As I pointed out on that blog recently – he is still invited by people to give talks and I am sure publishing well soon and might even funded well. http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/cancer-journal-retracts-herbal-medicine-paper-citing-misconduct-probe/
        I think once an investigatin is intiated (of course we always say that one is not guilty until it is proven), the community should be very careful about them.

        Ressci Integrity

        January 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      • My identity is already given with my name.

        Sierra Rayne

        January 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      • I’m glad that Sierra Rayne actually uses his real name. There’s so often comments left on these articles with members who use pseudonyms rather than leaving their real names. Not that it’s not their right to remain anonymous, but I always skip over the comments (ok, not all, but most) that have fake handles.

        Brad Casali

        January 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm

      • Interesting Diptarka. I found at least 15 papers of Prof Das with a one called Diptarka Ray. By any chance, you have worked with Prof Das..just curious to know..I don’t understand the need to see the fate of Dr. Maulik.

        Ressci Integrity

        January 13, 2012 at 10:10 am

      • Indeed, Diptarka, Ressci Integrity is correct. I assume you are the real Diptarka Ray from Das’ group?

        Can you shed any insights on the issues at hand at UConn?

        Interesting LinkedIn profile you appear to have: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/diptarka-ray/17/a76/216

        According to this page, you completed a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Botany at Scottish Church College between 2001-2004, but then also list a M.Sc. in “Plant Science andd herbs (Ecology Special)” [sic] from the University of Calcutta between 2001-2006. You started your M.Sc. at the same time you started a B.Sc.?

        Sierra Rayne

        January 13, 2012 at 10:33 am

    • I am also wondering what is happening with
      Damodaran Chendil and the inquiries made to several journal editors. Did anyone respond?

      MT Orr

      January 12, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      • Yes, at least one journal editor replied re: Chendil and said they were looking into the matter (I posted the editor’s reply back on the Chendil discussion page when I received it). No other responses whatsoever from the other editors.

        Sierra Rayne

        January 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    • I agree completely, Sierra. So many examples of a student taking the fall when the professors get caught neglecting their obligations. So many examples of scientists who have high standards being called troublemakers for pointing out defects. So many instances of money being thrown in the direction of a huckster instead of directed toward valid but less flashy research. And yes, it is unlikely that the investigating committee could have found so many problems with the data if this were only a case of a disgruntled student making false accusations. Love your suggestion that this is science’s ‘steroid era’.

      JudyH

      January 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    • Cheer for this sentence: “Good Science is damn hard work, and takes time and causes headaches”. In my study, to find the project costs around 2 years and then after working on it for another 2 years, I published my first first-author paper. I believe it is a wonderful discovery, however, I didn’t get enough finacial support in my study. Life was very hard during that time, not just causing headaches.

      Elizabeth

      September 6, 2013 at 3:05 pm

  2. Seems the editors of the blog now have to declare a conflict of interest as they are actually journalists providing articles to Reuters etc…. “a labor of love” as they wrote in previous posts ??

    scienceobserver

    January 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    • Perhaps you missed our “about” pages, available on the upper right-hand corner of our homepage. We are both working journalists, as we have made clear from day one, and my day job is as executive editor of Reuters Health, which is stated clearly there.

      ivanoransky

      January 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    • There are no ‘conflicts of interest’ regarding the truth. Who cares who someone works with or for or why?

      We see these types of red herrings all over the place nowadays.

      In science and science journalism, we need to stick to the objective issues and assess the merits of a case on its facts.

      Sierra Rayne

      January 12, 2012 at 8:58 pm

  3. Don’t you mean “rebutting” rather than “refuting”?

    Thomas

    January 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    • We were quoting the attorney’s statement, which used “refuted.”

      ivanoransky

      January 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      • He meant “rebutted” but he claimed “refuted.” Another example of attorney-speak.
        PS Isn’t a whistleblower a troublemaker by definition? Shouldn’t be derogatory unless the “trouble” is undeserved.

        Conrad T Seitz MD

        January 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      • Dr. Seitz, love the icon. Is that a see-no-evil monkey?

        As a person who has been punished for being a troublemaker, I would protest that I didn’t make the trouble, I merely reported it. The person who made the trouble is the one who should be punished, not me. And I agree with you that there should be nothing derogatory in whatever label is attached to those who report, unless the reports are false. Unfortunately, administrators would rather shoot the messenger than admit that wrongdoing has occurred on their watch because of their lax attention to basic duties, or even because of their negative example. I do love that icon. Reminds me of several administrators I know.

        Judy

        JudyH

        January 13, 2012 at 10:01 pm

  4. sorry.. B.Sc was from 2001-2004 and then the master from 2004-2006. And yeas, I am the one. Maulik was the one in Das group and was heavily involved but somehow not in accusation list!

    Diptarka Ray

    January 16, 2012 at 6:00 am

    • This seems to imply some type of group knowledge/agreement in the Das group regarding problematic activities, rather than just the PI acting alone and/or some ‘rogue’ students/post-docs?

      Sierra Rayne

      January 16, 2012 at 8:03 am

    • Mr. Ray,

      Would you please contact me. I am still at the same e-mail that we have communicated in the past.

      Len

      Len

      January 16, 2012 at 10:00 am

    • Wasn’t there a mention in the summary that additional people from the lab were under investigation by some other integrity board at the university? As the scope of the fraud became clear, the committee was told to restrict its investigation to Das, but names turned over by the Das committee will be looked at. And I believe there was even a hint that the Das committee continued to turn up names even as they were trying to wind up their work, so maybe there will be yet more to the story.

      JudyH

      January 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm

  5. good that you have moved away…but be careful in implicating people….i guess publications themselves will tell who are involved and who are at the periphery. Be vigilant..

    Ressci Integrity

    January 16, 2012 at 7:55 am

  6. Does anyone have a copy of the final narrative.pdf file? I teach a course in ethics and wanted to look at this and maybe show it to my students. The UCONN link for the file has gone dead.

    Thanks,

    PT

    Patrick Thorpe

    January 31, 2012 at 7:51 am


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