He’s also earned his fourth retraction. The new notice, along with one we’ve uncovered from 2014, provide some information on the extent of the deception of Robert Frumento, who left Columbia a decade ago, around the time that the now-retracted papers were published.
Here’s the new retraction notice:
At the request of the Editors and Robert C.M. Stephens, the following article has been retracted.
Robert C.M. Stephens, Catherine M.N. O’Malley, Robert J. Frumento, Michael G. Mythen, and Elliott Bennett Guerrero Low-dose endotoxin elicits variability in the inflammatory response in healthy volunteers. Journal of Endotoxin Research August 2005 11: 207–212, doi:10.1177/09680519050110040401
It has been brought to the attention of the Editor and the Publisher that a research misconduct investigation was carried out by Columbia University into allegations made against Mr Robert J. Frumento regarding the data reported in above article. The investigation concluded that Mr Frumento had fabricated data for white cell counts, platelet counts, and CRP.
Please note that Journal of Endotoxin Research was the former title of Innate Immunity.
We asked Columbia’s research integrity officer, Naomi Schrag, for more information on the investigation. She was not able to tell us much:
We deeply regret that one of our former employees, who has not worked at Columbia since 2006, engaged in research misconduct, which was identified following a University investigation.
Under the University’s policy, further details of the investigation cannot be shared.
Robert C.M. Stephens, who works at University College London, told us that he was responsible for analyzing the data that Frumento collected, and did not notice that anything was amiss:
I’m not sure exactly when in the process Columbia thought some of the results [were] strange — I don’t know that level of detail. At some point they became suspicious that some of Robert Frumento’s data was suspect…it wasn’t all of it, it was some part.
He added that he didn’t know why Frumento had fabricated some of the data:
I mean it’s crazy. He could have said, ‘I don’t have a data point.’ Shit happens…it would be annoying, but that’s ok. I don’t know what his motivation was.
We reported on two other retractions of Frumento’s papers in 2013 — one bearing a notice with this vague wording:
The corresponding author, Dr. Robert N. Sladen, has requested the retraction at the direction of the Columbia University Standing Committee on the Conduct of Research, due to research misconduct by one of the coauthors.
At the time, we lamented that the journal didn’t clarify which author had committed misconduct, putting all under suspicion. That notice has since been updated with an additional explanation, specifying that Frumento was responsible for the misconduct:
The University completed an investigation into allegations of research misconduct against Mr. Robert Frumento, who was previously employed as a Research Coordinator by the Department of Anesthesiology. The University has concluded that there was evidence of falsification and fabrication by Mr. Frumento, who had primary responsibility for collecting and analyzing data for this paper. The findings include numerous discrepancies between the source material and the reported data, which provided false support for reportedly significant results. The University concluded that these findings constitute research misconduct by Mr. Frumento. In addition, the University found that some of the credentials claimed by Mr. Frumento were not accurate. In the article his degrees are listed as “Robert Frumento, MS, MPH”. The University found that Mr. Frumento had not received a Master of Science degree from any institution.
We also missed a retraction from 2014 for a paper co-authored by Frumento, “A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Assessing the Anti-inflammatory Effects of Ketamine in Cardiac Surgical Patients,” published and pulled from the Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia. Here’s the retraction notice, which contains some similar language to the one above:
The above article is being retracted at the request of the corresponding author, Dr. Ervant Nishanian. Dr. Nishanian requested the retraction for the following reason: Columbia University has concluded that one of the co-authors of this article, Mr. Frumento, falsified and fabricated CRP data upon which the conclusions of this article were drawn. In addition, the University found that some of the credentials claimed by Mr. Frumento were not accurate. In the article his degrees are listed as “Robert Frumento, MS, MPH”. The University found that Mr. Frumento had not received a Master of Science degree from any institution.
The 2006 paper has been cited 43 times.
We have not been able to confirm Frumento’s current whereabouts, though he may have been affiliated with the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium following his stint at Columbia.
Update, 1:15 PM EST:
A couple of readers have pointed out that Frumento appears to work at International Research Services, Inc. in Port Chester, New York, and teaches a course called “Cosmetic Claims Support Studies” for researchers and marketers. Here’s his bio from the course page:
Robert James Frumento, Vice President of Clinical and Corporate Operations with International Research Services, Inc. (IRSI), has over 20 years of experience in clinical research execution and design and has been leading the operational and clinical teams at IRSI since 2010. Mr. Frumento has working experience in academic , pharmaceutical and consulting fields of clinical research with an emphasis on operations and study design. He has served as the primary investigator on over 150 cosmetic claims substantiation trials. Mr. Frumento is published in many peer reviewed journals.
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