Imperial clears Jatinder Ahluwalia of misconduct, blames “protracted negotiation” with Novartis for delay
As first reported in the Times Higher Education today:
Following a review of allegations of misconduct in the PhD research of Dr Jatinder Ahluwalia the presiding investigation panel has found no evidence to suggest fraud.
We’ve uploaded the entire report here.
Ahluwalia, as Retraction Watch readers may recall, has had a paper in Nature retracted, as well as one in the Journal of Neurochemistry. The Nature retraction followed an investigation at University College London, where he was a postdoc, and he then left the University of East London after we reported that he had been dismissed from Cambridge the first time he had tried to get a PhD.
Imperial, where he earned his doctorate, began investigating more than two years ago. They began looking in whether he should lose his PhD after the Journal of Neurochemistry retraction, because that paper formed the basis of his thesis. They found:
The panel determined that there was no evidence of research misconduct in Dr Ahluwalia’s thesis. It noted that fraudulent activity by Dr Ahluwalia had been reported elsewhere but that this did not suggest that misconduct had occurred at Imperial. As no evidence of fraud or misconduct at Imperial had been identified, the award of the PhD should stand.
Part of the reason the investigation took so long was because of problems accessing Ahluwalia’s data, given that his supervisor was a Novartis employee:
An initial confidential review of the thesis and publications was carried out by a private firm contracted for the purpose and identified the need for further investigation. In parallel to this a protracted negotiation ensued between the College and Novartis for the panel to have access to Dr Ahluwalia’s notebooks which were in Novartis’ possession. Eventually supervised access to the notebooks on Novartis’ premises was agreed by Novartis.
The university made a number of recommendations, starting with trying to prevent that last issue in the future:
When making agreements with industrial partners either for joint supervision or for sponsored research the College must ensure it retains access to all data and laboratory books. The panel will share this recommendation with the College’s working group on collaborative provision.
It would appear that in this case the work carried out in the commercial company was not fully integrated into the work overseen by the College.
Read the entire report here.