But what makes the story a bit juicier — and yes, it’s sad that fabricated data is a bit ho-hum for us — is that one of the authors of the article appears to have been caught in the act of instructing the first author to make up results.
The article, “Synthesis, Structure, and Catalytic Studies of Palladium and Platinum Bis-Sulfoxide Complexes,” appeared last month and came from a group at the Institute for Organic Chemistry at the University of Zurich. The authors were Emma E. Drinkel, Linglin Wu, Anthony Linden and Reto Dorta.
As ChemBark reported earlier this week:
While the paper itself is a straightforward study of palladium and platinum bis-sulfoxide complexes, page 12 of the corresponding Supporting Information file contains what appears to be an editorial note that was inadvertently left in the published document:
Emma, please insert NMR data here! where are they? and for this compound, just make up an elemental analysis… [our italics]
This statement goes beyond a simple embarrassing failure to properly edit the manuscript, as it appears the first author is being instructed to fabricate data. Elemental analyses would be very easy to fabricate, and long-time readers of this blog will recall how fake elemental analyses were pivotal to Bengu Sezen’s campaign of fraud in the work she published from 2002 to 2005 out of Dalibor Sames’ lab at Columbia.
The compound labeled 14 (an acac complex) in the main paper does not appear to correspond to compound 14 in the SI. In fact, the bridged-dichloride compound appears to be listed an as unlabeled intermediate in Scheme 5, which should raise more eyebrows. Did the authors unlist the compound in order to avoid having to provide robust characterization for it?
Chemistry Blog posted a letter from John Gladysz, the editor of the journal, which is a publication of the American Chemical Society:
Wednesday 07 August
Dear Friends of Organometallics,
Chemical Abstracts alerted us to the statement you mention,which was overlooked during the peer review process, on Monday 05 August. At that time, the manuscript was pulled from the print publication queue. The author has explained to us that the statement pertains to a compound that was ”downgraded” from something being isolated to a proposed intermediate. Hence, we have left the ASAP manuscript on the web for now. We are requiring that the author submit originals of the microanalysis data before putting the manuscript back in the print publication queue. Many readers have commented that the statement reflects poorly on the moral or ethical character of the author, but the broad “retribution” that some would seek is not our purview. As Editors, our “powers” are limited to appropriate precautionary measures involving future submissions by such authors to Organometallics, the details of which would be confidential (ACS Ethical Guidelines, http://pubs.acs.org/page/policy/ethics/index.html). Our decision to keep the supporting information on the web, at least for the time being, is one of transparency and honesty toward the chemical community. Other stakeholders can contemplate a fuller range of responses. Some unedited opinions from the community are available in the comments section of a blog posting: http://blog.chembark.com/2013/08/06/a-disturbing-note-in-a-recent-si-file/#comments
If you have any criticisms of the actions described above, please do not hesitate to share them with me. Thanks much for being a reader of Organometallics, and best wishes,
We have tried to reach Dorta by email and will update this post if we learn anything.