Weekend reads: Fired for challenging authorship?; homeopathy paper earns a flag; sentenced to playing piano — for embezzling research funds

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The week at Retraction Watch featured more than a dozen corrections at Sloan Kettering, three retractions from the principal investigator of a multi-million dollar Federal grant; and a rift at an international medical association over plagiarism. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

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4 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Fired for challenging authorship?; homeopathy paper earns a flag; sentenced to playing piano — for embezzling research funds”

  1. I feel bad for the Rutger’s researcher in Meredith Waldman’s article. To me, the issue of whether she did enough of the actual work to be a co-first author (or whether she was deliberately excluded from the opportunity to actively participate in work she helped initiate) is not the key takeaway. Rather, it’s that she was going to be terminated if she didn’t get promoted to Assistant Professor in the next year (which basically requires that CNS first author paper). Per the article:

    “She was promoted in 2016 to instructor—a short-term faculty position below assistant professor that doesn’t necessarily involve teaching. Rutgers guidelines stipulate that instructors who are not promoted to assistant professor within 3 years ultimately lose their jobs.”

    At the end of the day, fighting for that first author position wasn’t really much of a choice. It was her only chance. And it was a longshot. She obviously got railroaded out. But that only accelerated the inevitable. With this on her academic record, at 56 years of age and minimal experience or transferable skills that would help her obtain employment in a different field, she is in a tough spot. Hopefully, she’ll be able to find a decent lab tech job somewhere.

  2. The firing of the Rutgers researcher seems very fishy. Missing a meeting with a PI you have worked with for 7 years? In most labs that I know of, collegiality – dare I say, humanity – would prevail. The meeting would be rescheduled, the PI would check with you to make sure everything is OK. The manner of the firing and the “reasons” given do not seem credible. Treating employees as disposable reagents is despicable, but appears endemic in conditions where one is beholden to the whims and fancies of one PI – like a sharecropper to the landlord.

  3. Indeed. As recommended in many ethical guidelines, it seems that in certain labs you should always negotiate the authorship order in advance. Apparently with some PIs, you’d better have it also written down in case of later disagreements. Another point: this case also shows how skewed the publication processes are in some fields; one publication determines your career.

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