Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weight loss surgeon who made up data loses job at University Hospital Leipzig

with 33 comments

Edward Shang

Edward Shang, a weight loss surgeon who has now retracted two papers for fraudulent data, is out of his job at the University Hospital Leipzig.

According to a university release — which was apparently retracted for about an hour and which we’ve had trouble accessing at various points this morning — Shang’s employment contract with the Leipzig hospital is “terminated by mutual agreement with immediate effect.”

The release also says that in addition to the retracted study in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, there will be five more retractions, all of papers Shang first-authored while at Mannheim. That number includes, by our reading of the release, the Obesity Surgery retraction whose confusing story we’ve been covering.

Shang has worked at the University Hospital of Leipzig since September 2010, after leaving the University of Heidelberg, where he was a member of the Mannheim medical faculty. Heidelberg has yet to announce the findings of an investigation into Shang’s work there. Leipzig has also examined three papers on which Shang is an author of co-author, and found them “to be correct,” and has an independent commission now looking at unpublished data from his ongoing research projects.

The notice also says that patients and colleagues, “without exception,” held Shang’s clinical work in high regard.

Hat tip: Ralf Neumann

  • Ed Goodwin May 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    It seems like the Germans take scientific integrity more serious than Americans.

    • Marco May 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Ed, check the Bulfone-Paus stories on retractionwatch, and you might not be that certain in your statement.

      it also took some time before German universities started reacting to the rampant plagiarism in the PhD theses of several German politicians.

      • Ed Goodwin May 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm

        Marco, Yes there is always a story behind the story, note that I used the word “seems”. But I can tell you from personal experience that the NIH office of research integrity is a joke.

      • Rafa May 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm

        I must emphasize that in Brazil universities NEVER take any serious action when faced with blatant fraud evidence. Quite recently one of the authors directly claimed there were published falsified data in one of his recent papers, and still the main responsible university said “it was an unintentional small mistake, the wrong results were sent by mistake”. This went to the newspapers, and no-one cares.

        Thus, complain about your countries as you will, but still US and Germany are much more serious than the 3r world…

    • Lilly May 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      After numerous scandals made ​​public, I think that the German authorities decided to put an end to all this and there will be no mercy for cheaters. I spent four years in a German research center and I can tell you that there are a lot of scientific frauds in Germany. The few cases reported in the media are just the tip of very large iceberg. Having a good image is very important in Germany…

      • Marco Berns May 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm

        Please tell.

      • Sebastian May 10, 2012 at 4:50 am

        Yes, please do tell. This is the place and time to do it.

      • Ressci Integrity May 10, 2012 at 9:38 am

        I suspect this is happening in many big institutes…probably big guns are involved as well. Please disclose this information and before that get protected yourself.

      • Ressci Integrity May 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

        i remember there was one famouse haematologist from Tubingen who had some problems with irregularities in the research papers….

  • Ralf Neumann May 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    It’s quite easy to take action when fraud is immediately admitted by the actors — as seems to be the case here and is in sharp contrast to the Bulfone-Paus story. You can’t compare the two cases.

  • Marco Berns May 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    In no particular order, some German cases:-
    1. Joachim Boldt (pharmacology/anaesthesia)
    2. Herrmann/Brach (cancer)
    3. Bulfone-Paus (immunology)
    4. Jan Hendrik Schön (physics).

    • Ralf Neumann May 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      What do you want to make clear by the cases? In 1,2 and 4 action was definitely taken quite rapidly after their emergence (I was personally involved in two of them). If you want to prove that fraud is not followed with due consequence in Germany you should better refer to other examples, like the Savaskan case at the Charite clinic or Mertelsmann’s role in the Herrmann/Brach affair.

      • Marco Berns May 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm

        In reply to Ralf Neumann May 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm

        It was a point of general information.

        Ralf Neumann, you make a good point ” If you want to prove that fraud is not followed with due consequence in Germany you should better refer to other examples, like the Savaskan case at the Charite clinic or Mertelsmann’s role in the Herrmann/Brach affair.”

        I simply wanted to point out the most prominent cases, and that Germany is most likely no different from the USA, or anywhere else, which is really in response to Ed Goodwin May 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm where he said “It seems like the Germans take scientific integrity more serious than Americans.” I do not believe, with the evidence you mention, that Ed Goodwin’s statement is true. I am glad that Ed made the statement, because it does open up the topic of national differences.

        My fundamental belief is that you have to take each case on its merits, and that scientific misconduct, and fraud, know no national boundaries, otherwise people get defensive about their own national group, which I think is silly and misdirected. There is in any case a globalisation of scientific misconduct, e.g. the Alirio Melendez case, 3 retractions, one expression of concern, spanning Glasgow, Scotland, Singapore, and Liverpool England.

      • Ralf Neumann May 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm

        In reply to Marco:

        I didn’t understand Ed’s post as claiming that researchers in Germany are generally more honest in terms of scientific integrity when compared to their US colleagues, but rather that in the meantime more due action is taken in cases of misconduct than in the US. Well, there are indeed examples for this whereas, however, there are also examples pointing to the opposite (see earlier posts).

  • Marco Berns May 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    In reply to Ed Goodwin May 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm
    Dear Ed, as you can tell, I welcome your comments, and am in full agreement with you about the NIH office of research integrity. A few days ago I asked the head, John Dahlberg, why a recommendation for retraction had not been carries out (full e-mails can be supplied).

    I asked him why J Immunol 150, 1908-1912. 1993 was not retracted, even though in the Federal Register:
    it states
    “She (Weishu Y. Weiser) has agreed to submit a letter to the Journal of Immunology…”Recombinant migration inhibitory factor induces nitric oxide synthase in murine macrophages” (Journal of Immunology 150:1908-1912, 1993).

    It carries an erratum:,%201908

    John Dahlberg replied (On 4/30/12, Dahlberg, John E (HHS/OASH) wrote:)
    that “This paper was published 19 years ago, and it’s relevance to today’s research would be minimal at best given the science during this period.”

    I did not know that there was a statute of limitation, and how does he know what science has happened in this area? Dr. Pangloss would be more critical.

    • Ed Goodwin May 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks, Marco, ORIs window of action is 6 years. That is much too short in
      view of how long it takes for fraud to be exposed. John Dalhberg will do anything
      to avoid doing the job that the taxpayers pay him for. Four years ago I handed him
      a slam dunk case of falsification in hip protector research. His final response
      was that ORI has the discretion to investigate or not without giving any reason.
      OHRP has recently acted against these researchers based on the exact same information I supplied to ORI (reported on recently in retraction watch). With people like Dahlberg watching the store we can expect fraud and corruption to be the norm in federallly funded grants. Its just a disgrace!

    • vhedwig May 10, 2012 at 9:48 am

      ORI is part of HHS, but not under the jurisdiction of NIH. It often gets referred to as “NIH’s office” but actually it has power to tell NIH to do things (like ban people from study section) rather than the other way round. Also, ORI don’t actually investigate. They oversee an investigation by the plaintiff’s institution, and make recommendations to NIH. The institution is typically the agency that contacts the journals asking for retraction. If the institution covers things up, there’s very little ORI can do. I’ve yet to see a single case where ORI published a report saying they were dissatisfied with an institution’s internal investigation.

      Regarding Dahlberg, I’m not sure why all the bashing here. He’s always replied promptly to my emails and seemed like he was on top of things. ORI also has a new boss this year, so maybe things will improve as a whole. In the specific case mentioned here (hip protector research), if it was really a “slam dunk”, why not contact the journals directly? Why not make a blog about it? Why not call out the misconduct at a scientific meeting? We are lucky that in today’s media, ORI is just one way of dealing with fraud. There are alternative methods to accelerate the downfall of fraudsters, as you can see by visiting any of the blogs of Jiichi Jigen (Aggarwal, Wang, Kato, Karin, Mori, Hattori etc.)

      • Ed Goodwin May 10, 2012 at 10:00 am

        to vhedwig, Thanks. Perhaps you have never presented Dahlberg with a case that he might have to actually do his job. Granted its a tough job, but if one can’t stand the heat he should get out of the kitchen. Wity regard to the actions that you think I should take—I have done it all over the past 4 years from Harvard, JAMA,
        Seanator Grassley oversight, inspector general, Donald Wright, state courts, JAMDA,
        and the authors. You can read the Boston Globe story about all this at

      • elledr1ver May 11, 2012 at 8:00 am

        I tend to agree with vhedwiig. The problem is that ORI has a small budget and no mandate to really try and root out problems. Under the current system, they have to pick and choose what they investigate because of limited funding and, as stated above, their job is to oversee investigations by the university. The real question is not about Dr. Dahlberg, but about why universities are allowed to investigate themselves. After all, the grant is given to the university, not the investigator. If this occurred in the private sector, we would be outraged. I haven’t seen this issue raised in any editorials even though fraud is getting quite a lot of press these days (partially thanks to the work of Ivan and Adam).

        I also think it would be great if Ivan or Adam could get an interview with ORI so that we could hear their side of the story. Being a government agency, however, it is difficult to get anything on the record because of rules requiring vetting everything through various public relations departments…

  • Fernando Pessoa May 10, 2012 at 3:11 am

    Does getting prizes tell us something?

    The German presentation is quite professional.

  • Lilly May 10, 2012 at 11:34 am

    To Sebastian, Marco and Ressci Integrity:

    I do not want to target a specific individual or research center here, and I do not think that Germans are less honest than other people (there are cheaters in every cultures), but what I can say is that in Germany the pressures to succeed are huge, much more huge than in North America (in North American you must be successful also, but in Germany it is 10 times more important). Holding a title is very very important and to have a perfect image of success is also very very important. Also, it is not in German culture to criticize an established system or request changes or go against this system. So may be, this is why they have many cases of “scientific frauds” (doctoral thesis scandals and corruption in many Universities related to this, many retractions, scandals with private medical clinic etc..). On the other hands all these scandals shock public opinion and I believe that there is now a willingness among university authorities to “be efficient to solve these problems”.

    • David Hardman May 10, 2012 at 11:41 am

      You should put your money where your mouth is.

  • Marco van de Weert May 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I can see I need to add my last name here, as there are now multiple “Marco’s”! So, Lilly, did you mean to address me or Marco Berns?

    • Lilly May 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Marco Berns

  • Fernando Pessoa May 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Sorry for being boring, but has anybody heard any resolutions to the Bulfone-Paus case, and to the Alirio Melendez case?

    The Bulfone-Paus case first hit the press in September 2010,

    also mentioned in Decemeber 2010

    The first rumblings in the Alirio Melendez case were in November 2010:

    Surely these things should be resolved in our lifetime?
    Soon it will be the summer holidays, then Christmas.

  • Marco Berns May 11, 2012 at 9:15 am

    In reply to elledr1ver May 11, 2012 at 8:00 am.

    Many thanks for pointing out “The problem is that ORI has a small budget and no mandate to really try and root out problem”.

    What I was asking was for clarification about something in the record. Perhaps I did ask the wrong person.

    I asked why J Immunol 150, 1908-1912. 1993 was not retracted, even though WY Weiser had promised to write a letter of retraction to the Journal of Immunology.

    Perhaps that was all, simply to wite a letter of retraction, not actually have something retracted.

    • elledr1ver May 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

      “Perhaps that was all, simply to wite a letter of retraction, not actually have something retracted.”
      I think (but don’t know for sure) that you are correct. It’s not clear to me (again, it would be great to hear from ORI) what exactly ORI’s enforcement options are. Clearly they can restrict NIH funding and serving on things like Study Section, all of which are government functions. Journals are not government entities so I doubt that ORI has any jurisdiction over them. So maybe requiring a letter is all that they can legally do.

      In regard to things like NIH grants, one wonders exactly what happens to a grant once an ORI finding is made. In the Das case, it sounded like the University turned down future funding from the grant. But in other cases, I’ve heard the grant was transferred to another faculty member at the university – even though some of the misconduct was in grant applications. But I don’t know for sure.

      Anyone have firm information on this kind of thing?

      • Ed Goodwin May 11, 2012 at 10:37 am

        I certainly agree that universites should not self-police.
        ORI is the most important department in the 430 billion PHS.
        If the director has conscience and courage he would fight for a budget
        or quit, rather than collecting a paycheck and making excuses.

      • elledr1ver May 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm

        @Ed Goodwin. I understand your frustration but I feel the push would have to come from the “outside”. An agency of the government asking for money is viewed as self-serving. And enforcement is not a politically popular topic as opposed to asking for money to cure a disease. Also, asking for more enforcement funding draws attention to the problem which, as we can see from this blog, many try to suppress. The motivation for increased ORI funding would have to come from outside of ORI – ideally the NIH, universities, and even the investigators themselves. Sadly, I’m not confident that this will occur in foreseeable future. But one can hope…

  • Ed Goodwin May 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Thank you, eledrlver, The main thing we all should be concerned about is usefull, high quality research and publications. A bunch of slugs collecting paychecks in a sham department (ORI) is a diservice to the taxpayer and the honest scientific
    community. There is little courage in the whole system.

  • Marco Berns May 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Largest selling daily newspaper in Germany, das Bild, is picking up on the story:

  • Jacky May 15, 2012 at 11:40 am

    A new blog focusing on plagiarism and academic misconduct in Asia

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