Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Former professor shoots dean who fired him for misconduct

with 9 comments

MountSinai_IcahnSchool_LogoA former assistant professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York fired a shotgun yesterday at two men– including the school’s dean, who had fired him six years ago.

The New York Times reports that Hengjun Chao was taken into custody on charges of attempted murder, after his shots hit Mount Sinai dean Dennis Charney and another man outside of a suburban New York deli. Both men were treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Chao was fired from Mount Sinai in 2010 after an investigating committee found that he

promoted research misconduct by directing [postdoc Ellen] Cohn to switch data or omit data without any scientific or statistical basis for doing so. He promoted a laboratory of culture and authoritarianism by rewarding results consistent with his theories and berating his staff if the results were inconsistent with his expectations.

The report of the investigation was filed by Mount Sinai in response to an unsuccessful employment suit brought by Chao following his termination. He lost that case on appeal.

Although we aren’t sure why Chao fired the shots, according to the Times:

Asked whether the shooting was an act of revenge, Chief [Charles] Ferry said, “It would seem to be.”

The investigation committee also recommended that Chao, who studied hemophilia, retract any abstracts based on the manipulated data, including any abstract submitted to the 2006 American Society of Hematology Meeting.

We’ve discovered one abstract co-authored by Chao and Cohn: “Efficient Induction of Tolerance to FIX by Direct Intramuscular Delivery of AAV1,” published by Blood in 2006 (not yet cited, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science), submitted as part of the 2006 American Society of Hematology Meeting. It does not appear to be retracted or corrected.

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) decided not to pursue findings of research misconduct, according to material filed in the case and mentioned in a judge’s opinion on whether Chao could claim defamation by Mount Sinai. Part of Chao’s defamation claim was based on a letter from former ORI  investigator Alan Price calling Mount Sinai’s investigation report “inadequate, seriously flawed and grossly unfair in dealing with Dr. Chao.”

Chao is being held without bail, according to media reports.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

August 30th, 2016 at 9:36 am

Comments
  • fernandopessoa August 30, 2016 at 10:13 am

    You couldn’t make that up!

  • Sharon Kramer August 30, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Seems like there is something missing from this story that is probably buried in the court pleadings. He was studying hemophilia. Who was funding that research and what happened to that funding after the brew-ha-ha?

    • Ivan Oransky August 30, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Thanks, the funding sources are all included in the link to the investigation report that we include.

  • MannyHM August 30, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Chao ended his career and his freedom with this heinous act of firing his shotgun. Was he unfairly judged and mistreated ? Why resort to such a solution ? An in-depth investigation is needed.

  • gagan sidhu August 30, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    found another manuscript with Cohn & Chao:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1538-7836.2007.02522.x/full

    this one sheds some insight to the funding sources:

    Financial support for this work was received from National Institutes of Health (NIH) RO1-HL076699 to H. J. Chao. H. J. Chao is a researcher for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF).

    interesting!

  • Matt Hodgkinson August 30, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    He was on Twitter, complaining of perceived injustice for two years without anybody noticing: https://twitter.com/hengjunc. He had some new funding: http://dbafoundation.org/dba-gene-therapy-research-funded-by-dbaf-dbac/

    • ohman August 31, 2016 at 7:51 am

      Yikes…from Chao’s Twitter, an unattributed quote from Malcolm X: “If someone puts their hands on you make sure they never put their hands on anybody else again.”

  • KK August 30, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    “….is a researcher for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF)” – what does this mean? The paper is published from mssm but he is working for..?

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