UCL finds errors in work by biologist Cossu, but no “deliberate intention to mislead”
A cell biologist at University College London (UCL) who has had one paper retracted and another corrected has been cleared of misconduct by the university.
Here’s the full text of UCL’s statement on the investigation:
The panel set up by UCL’s Research Governance Committee to look into the queries raised by anonymous correspondent ‘Clare Francis’ into research conducted under the supervision of Professor Giulio Cossu has completed its inquiries. Because the queries were made anonymously, it was considered impracticable to pursue them through UCL’s usual procedure for investigating allegations of misconduct in academic research. Nevertheless, UCL’s commitment to good practice in research obliged us to look into the queries raised.
The allegations made by ‘Clare Francis’ concerned eight research publications. The panel found no substance to the large majority of these allegations. With respect to the few remaining allegations, the panel found that the conduct and presentation of the research in question did not always meet the standard of good practice expected of UCL researchers, and enshrined in UCL’s ‘Code of Conduct of Research’. Where specific errors were detected, the panel recommended that, where possible, corrections should be made to the published papers. Overall, the panel concluded that there was no deliberate intention to mislead on the part of Professor Cossu and that no activity had taken place that could be considered as research misconduct.
Accepting the panel’s findings, Professor Cossu has acknowledged the spirit and details of the report. He accepts that there are some errors present in previously published papers, a fact that he sincerely regrets. He will work actively with colleagues at UCL, and implement processes to ensure to the best of his ability that such errors do not occur in the future. As regrettable as they are, the investigation found no indication that the errors altered the fundamental conclusions of these studies, many of which have been confirmed by independent research groups.
We’re not sure why it is “impracticable to pursue” anonymous complaints, as we’ve argued before. We’ve asked UCL why the full report is not being made available, and which papers will be corrected. We’re also curious why Cossu has had a paper retracted if “the investigation found no indication that the errors altered the fundamental conclusions of these studies.” We’ll update with anything we learn.
Please see an update on this post.