NUS: Melendez committed “serious scientific misconduct,” but don’t expect to get any details
Alirio Melendez, a former National University of Singapore immunologist whose story we’ve been following here since a retraction in September of last year, committed misconduct on an “unprecedented” scale, according to the university, involving more than 20 papers.
Nature’s Richard van Noorden has the scoop:
After a 19-month investigation, the National University of Singapore (NUS) today says that it has determined that one of its former scientists, the immunologist Alirio Melendez, has committed “serious scientific misconduct”. The university found fabrication, falsification or plagiarism associated with 21 papers, and no evidence indicating that other co-authors were involved in the misconduct, it says.
Melendez has retracted five papers so far, as we’ve reported, but NUS wouldn’t give the whole list. They tell Nature:
“It’s standard procedure that for research-misconduct investigations such a report and the list of papers would be kept confidential,” an NUS spokesperson explained to Nature. She said that the university is now contacting journal editors and co-authors about each of the papers involved, and added that normally the university would not make a public statement at all, but in this case “the scientific misconduct uncovered was unprecedented”. When asked whether the report would remain permanently under wraps, she added: “I don’t think it will be released at a later date.”
Translation: Well, there you have it, folks, please move along, nothing to see here. It’s “standard procedure” to sweep misconduct investigations under the carpet, so we’ll just keep doing things our way, thank you very much. We released a statement this time because the misconduct was “unprecedented.” But misconduct with precedent? We’re not going to release reports about that.
Considering the scope of some cases of misconduct nowadays, that’s a pretty high bar. Maybe NUS won’t release any reports unless they find someone who has retracted 173 papers, since 172 is the current (unofficial) record. Then again, as NUS points out, this is “standard procedure” — neither of Melendez’s two other previous employers, the University of Liverpool and the University of Glasgow, have commented on their investigations, either.
Hurrah for transparency! Makes you really think you’re getting the whole story whenever these places send out press releases, doesn’t it?
By the way, as Retraction Watch readers well know, this kind of information blackout doesn’t have to be standard procedure. Just ask the University of Connecticut, Erasmus Medical Center, Tilburg University, and others who’ve been involved in high-profile misconduct cases.