Resveratrol researcher Das in video: Yes, I manipulated images, but only because the journals asked me to
Dipak Das, who until earlier this year ran a high-profile cardiovascular research center at the University of Connecticut, has recorded a slick looking video defense against allegations that he cooked data and manipulated images in scores of published studies, 12 of which have been retracted to date.
Das, who was hit with a 60,000 pages of allegations stemming from a three-year investigation by the university, spends the bulk of the documentary-style interview — which is available on YouTube — talking about the wonders of resveretrol. But he gets into the misconduct charges at about the 15-minute mark.
A couple things jumped out at us. The first is that, as the narrator intones at about 15:30, Das admits doctoring his Western blots — at the behest of the journals in which he published!
Dr. Das concedes that Western Blot images were altered, but only at the demand of journal editors.
Das goes on to explain how the editors demanded that he and his colleagues “enhance” the images because the backgrounds were too dark or the protein bands were difficult to see. He calls that a “routine process.”
In fact, Das has a point there. Inappropriate manipulation of Western blots does appear to be fairly common, in about one percent of papers, according to work by the Journal of Cell Biology and others. But that doesn’t make it right, as everyone from COPE to the ORI makes clear.
You can watch the whole video here:
Update, 5:20 p.m., 6/18/12: We asked Bill Sardi, managing partner at the resveratrol maker Resveratrol Partners (which does business as Longevinex), whether his company had a hand in the Das video. He answered our question, and then some.
Yes, we put up the money for the taping. We will disclose that in an upcoming release.
Because the university has terminated Dr Das and he has no legal recourse without putting up hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the attorney general of the state of Connecticut, and because he has not been given due process (present evidence refuting the UCONN allegations), we elected to put up money to air his side of the story. There were no edits to his answers. Whether he delivers a convincing defense is up to online viewers. I don’t personally think Dr. Das’ letters to UCONN were appropriate or convincing, but we are personally aware that Dr. Das has been affected by the stroke he claims to have experienced. So we don’t believe he was in a solid state of mind to address the allegations by the university at that time. He appears to have improved his health. The over-riding issue is why the university is sending letters to journals to expunge 40 years of research conducted at three different institutions by numerous researchers when the evidence to refute UCONN’s allegations no longer exists (records storage is 5 years). Also, UCONN claims it lost the original computer disc with all the evidence on it. The UCONN review board never examined the original western blots but only “representations” of western blots in their 25-page summary which were analyzed by computer software.
We as a company are aghast that the scientific community has elected to condemn Dr. Das based upon hear-say evidence. If a university can “out” a researcher unfairly this time, then all researchers are at risk. The university originally issued false allegations that stated this negated the scientific conclusions that resveratrol averts mortal heart attacks in lab animals when the western blots only dealt with the mechanisms involved, not the conclusions. Canadian researchers in a published paper begged that resveratrol research for the heart not be brought to a halt over this case and that the science is solid, validated by others. But in 8 years since resveratrol pills have been on the market, cardiology has not launched or even proposed a single human clinical trial involving resveratrol. That the product we make was shown to be about twice as cardioprotective as plain resveratrol is also of significance. If there is doctored science, Longevinex wants no part of it. To this point, we cannot find any significant evidence for fraudulent science. That the UCONN withdrew its website and took it offline after we refuted manyof its false allegations against Dr. Das is a tacit admission UCONN over-stated its claims against Dr. Das. We have talked to Dr. Das’ former students and his attorneys before coming to these conclusions. Your news source (RetractionWatch) and the Hartford Courant were the only outlets to obtain a counter opinion. That is out of over 300 news sources that covered this story worldwide. The allegations were so overwhelming and drew so much public attention, the news agencies never followed their obligation to obtain Dr Das’ side of the story. But there are no corrections now which will right the wrong. The public has been unduly frightened away from resveratrol pills and according to Rush Limbaugh, Dr Das “made it all up.” No retractions will be forthcoming from Mr. Limbaugh, that icon of science.
By the way, at least one commenter has been puzzled by a term Das uses in the video to burnish his resume. He called himself a skouser, and said that title was the
highest decoration a university can give.
We couldn’t find that word anywhere, either, at least as it might pertain to academic honorifics. We’re guessing Das wasn’t referring to this use of the term:
a combination of wraparound skirt and loose-fitting trouser that has become the must-have fashion item for every teenager this side of Finland.
It’s hailed as adaptable, youthful, multi-cultural and all-round All Saint, but does any self-respecting female really want to be seen in something that looks as though she threw it on in the dark?
Also known as “skants” by Americans, or “twofers” – short for two for one – skousers are this year’s hottest seller.
Sc.D. and the highest honor [HONORARY SCOUZA] from the University of Debrecen was presented to Dr. Dipak Das during November, 2007.
The term seems to derive from “Honoris Causa.”