National University of Singapore official who co-authored Melendez papers won’t be part of investigation

Barry Halliwell, courtesy NUS

The Alirio Melendez case is likely to become quite complicated, as the National University of Singapore (NUS) looks into about 70 papers by the researcher whose work has already been the subject of a retraction and Expression of Concern. One such wrinkle seemed to have already surfaced when a blog called the Gigamole Diaries pointed out last week that an NUS dean apparently connected to the investigation had co-authored two papers with Melendez:

…the authorship list for Melendez papers reads almost like a Who’s Who in the medical school, and includes heads of departments, Vice Deans and prominent individuals in the office of the NUS Vice President. Interestingly Prof Barry Halliwell, who is NUS Deputy President (Research and Technology), and who has been cited as fronting the investigation into the Melendez publications is himself associated with at least 2 Melendez publications.

We checked with Halliwell, who has indeed spoken to numerous media outlets about the investigation. He tells us:

NUS  always takes conflict of interest issues very seriously. The panel conducting this enquiry is completely independent and I am not involved. They are aware of these papers, which were identified at the start of the enquiry.

So while we can see the source of confusion, none of  the media reports has cited Halliwell “as fronting the investigation,” and the fact that he’s not involved seems appropriate, given his conflict of interest. We thank Halliwell for his quick and thorough response, and we’ll continue to follow this case.

109 thoughts on “National University of Singapore official who co-authored Melendez papers won’t be part of investigation”

  1. You might be forgiven for thinking that Professor Barry Halliwell was playing some role in the investigation of the 70 papers by Alirio Melendez from what you read in recognized news outlets.

    “Confirming it was investigating the work of Dr Melendez, Professor Barry Halliwell, deputy president of research and technology at the National University of Singapore, said: “The university takes research integrity extremely seriously.

    “Faculty, staff and students of the university community engaging in research are expected to adhere to the highest standard of ethics and research integrity.”

    He added: “NUS is committed to ensuring all allegations of research misconduct are investigated thoroughly and fairly, within as short a time as possible.””

    From:

    http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/education/university_and_college_news/2011/10/12/liverpool-university-academic-professor-alirio-melendez-suspended-over-fake-research-investigation-100252-29580675/2/#ixzz1bhqG21xR

    also:

    “Barry Halliwell, deputy president of research and technology at Singapore, said the investigation was being conducted “in the interest of thoroughness”.

    He said Professor Melendez had authored nearly 70 papers and Singapore was investigating all of those on which it was listed as an affiliation, plus related papers published before Professor Melendez joined the institution in 2001. Professor Halliwell said Singapore was “coordinating closely” with Liverpool and Glasgow and would conduct its investigation “as swiftly as possible, subject to thoroughness”.”

    From:

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=417768

  2. The devil is in the details! Who advised on the selection of members for the Panel?! Who made himself the spokesman internally and externally?! Why didn’t Halliwell come straight right in the beginning and remove himself from talking with the media? Retraction Watch should not take what it hears for granted.

  3. @Clare Francis: After reading your comments (not only here but on the other thread with Dr. Melendez), you seem to making politically correct statements (rather supporting the Professors) though these individuals are under investigation. In fact, you may be wrong in the assessment. Time will tell..
    @A de Novo: good assessment. My gut feeling is that if abnormal science checks Prof Halliwell’s papers, they might find something really really interesting and thought provoking!!! In fact, he was the latest Outstanding Researcher Award winner of the School of Medicine, NUS. A worthy person to be investigated…

    1. @Lost in Science: My suspicion is that there would not be anything damaging in the two papers of Halliwell’s, at least not damaging to Halliwell directly. I would not take the internal Outstanding Researchers Awards seriously, as they are often based on the number of papers published by an individual. It is not uncommon in certain parts of Asia (and in certain other continents) for senior individuals to be listed as coauthors. (See the blog in Ivan’s posting, the Gigamole Diaries). My service on various committees in the Asia Pacific region was an eye-opener. How can a Dean, a Vice President or a Deputy President who have heavy administrative loads (as in Singapore) have 30 or 40 publications per year? You go and use a piece of special equipment in a person’s lab, and he or she often expects to be a coauthor in the paper! How can one direct a meaningful investigation on ethics with a record like that?!

  4. Dear LOST IN SCIENCE,

    My comment of October 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm about professor Melendez being reported as saying he was on another continent was meant to be ironic. One might ask if it is good practice to be so removed from the laboratory?

    My comment of October 24, 2011 at 9:44 am was to let people know what is on the record of reputable news outlets.
    The impression I got from these reports was that Professor Barry Halliwell was part of the investigation. Now that I read from the blog entry that he has a conflict of interest I cannot take his pronoucements about “the highest standard of ethics and research integrity” quite so seriously.

    Professor Barry Halliwell might have been more transparent from the start and told the reporters that he had a conflict of interest. Do the reporters have to ask him this question each time they interview him?

    Professor Barry Halliwell’s satement that “Singapore was “coordinating closely” with Liverpool and Glasgow and would conduct its investigation “as swiftly as possible, subject to thoroughness” no longer sounds quite so convincing as to me it sounds like Singapore is not “coordinating closely” with itself.

    I hope that puts my comments into context

    1. @Clare Francis: Well put! I think that Lost in Science just misunderstood your point. By the way, some of my comments in response to Lost in Science would resonate with yours. My contacts in Singapore from the institutions in question tell me that what one hears from there on being sensitive to conflicts of interest is a lot of hogwash.

  5. Dear Both, thanks for clarification. Yes, I misunderstood the postings…It is clear now and we all seem to agree upon the way this is being handled. Ironically, Prof Halliwell seems to be doing well – both in research and administration – in publishing and securing grants.
    I was not talking about his two papers with Dr. Melendez – probably other papers from his laboratory. If one publishes that many number of papers per year – it is always extraordinary!! This is going to be a huge one though if at all an association is made…

    1. @gigamole: Do you know the names of the panel members? In a matter as serious as this one, everything should be transparent, especially because of the international impact of the publications and the alleged acts. I understand that most at NUS know only what they read in the local paper and on the web.

      1. From the list of authors in the blood paper, the two senior most authors – Professor So Ha Chan and Professor David Michael Kemeny are the potential members to be in the investigation committee. Some one inside NUS can provide accurate information. My bet is on these two. Conflict of Interest is also considered as unethical right? Hey, one common thing here: Professor Kemeny and Professor Halliwell came from the same institute in the UK – Kings College, London…There is another person who is also listed as co-author with Dr. Melendez – Professor Philip K Moore – Pharmacology Department is also from Kings College, London. Check them out.

  6. Dear LOST IN SCIENCE,

    You mention that Professor Halliwell is doing well in publishing.

    There are these higly overlapping publications, picked out by the U.S. government funded database:

    http://spore.vbi.vt.edu/dejavu/duplicate/53031/

    http://spore.vbi.vt.edu/dejavu/duplicate/68304/

    Being a while ago does not make them les real.

    They are by somebody called B Halliwell, and are on the same subjects that professor Barry Halliwell works on.

    Here is what he works on according to his official website:

    http://www.nus.edu.sg/aboutus/management/halliwell-cv.php

    “Research in my laboratory concentrates on two major areas (1) the molecular mechanisms of free radical (including nitric oxide) ¬induced damage, how it can be affected by endogenous and diet-derived antioxidants and the significance of this for human disease and nutrition and (2) molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration.”

    Could they, by chance, be the same person? Halliwell is a relatively rare surname.

    1. @Clare Francis: They are the same B Haliiwell. The second set of papers you mention (#68304) seem pretty similar. One would have to read the full articles to see if one is a repackaging of another. The more recent of the two in the first set packages itself as an “update”. How much is really new in the second one requires further examination. By the way, I am also told that Halliwell has prepared guidelines against “self-plagiarism” at NUS! As for large numbers of publications, one should be forewarned about how that is done: There are many administrators at NUS with 30 or more publications per year in the last few years. Each of these papers often names about 10 or more individuals as coauthors. It is not unusual for center directors, heads, deans, etc. to be listed as coauthors! This was one of the first things that struck me when I visited Singapore the first time.

    2. With all due respect, the examples you cite from Dejavu are clutching at straws. In both cases, it appears they are review articles. It is quite common for an author to re-hash old material in reviews. There are really only a certain number of ways to say a particular thing, and when you publish 30-40 papers a year, some repetition is expected. One example – type the phrase “mitochondria play an important role in cell death” (with the quote marks) into Google or PubMed and see how many papers show up.

      It is also quite common to turn a blind eye to self-plagiarism in the method section (again, there’s only so many ways you can describe a method!) The important part is the results, and to some extent also the discussion. If the results are plagiarised then you have a case. If the figures are duplicated, you have a strong case. A bit of repetition in the abstract of a review article is nothing to get excited about.

      1. I agree with Virgil in this point. In my view, a similar study done in a different set of circumstances (i.e. a genetic association study done in a different population) could be a not very original but valuable confirmatory research and be worth publishing. If the authors use mostly the same wording as the initial study,, the authors should not be blamed of plagiarism; maybe of lack of imagination. Of course, they should include the specific methods employed (if different) and, in the discussion, they should include the already published article. The results is the crucial point, they should be originally obtained and contribute in some way to the field.

  7. Thhere are some editorial issues against republication of narrative. Also, this can lead to unnecessary increase in the number of pages of scientific literature to the good of no one else except the author, which is the defintion of self plagiarism.

    I think selfplagiarism is quite dangerous and might indicate fabrication of results, as one crime leads to another when it comes to inccreasing easy profits.

  8. Dear Virgil and Pablo,

    Since when has copying been O.K.?

    Did I miss the meeting where this was agreed on?

    Copying was not O.K. at school, or as an undergraduate.

    Perhaps when one had nothing new to say the pen should be put down.

    A review, symposium, or supplement are not excuses for copying.

    Here is a recent example of where a “review” was withdrawn. This journal, I believe, is the oldest scientific journal in the world.

    Expand+Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciencesrstb.royalsocietypublishing.orgdoi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0257 Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 12 November 2011 vol. 366 no. 1581 3162
    See original article: Collas 358 (1436): 1389.

    Notice of redundant publication
    Nuclear reprogramming in cell–free extracts
    Philippe Collas
    Next SectionPhil. Trans. R. Soc. B 358, 1389–1395 (29 August 2003) (doi:10.1098/rstb.2003.1334)
    After the publication of this article, it was brought to the attention of the editors of Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B that this article contains substantial content which was included in two previously published articles [1,2], without referencing the prior publication.

    This journal is © 2011 The Royal Society
    Previous Section References
    1.↵Håkelien A.-M., Collas P.2002 Novel approaches to transdifferentiation. Cloning Stem Cells 4, 379–387. doi:10.1089/153623002321025050 (doi:10.1089/153623002321025050)CrossRefMedline2.↵Collas P., Håkelien A.-M.2003 Reprogramming somatic cells for therapeutic applications. e-biomed J. Regen. Med. 4, 7–13. doi:10.1089/15248900360517955 (doi:10.1089/15248900360517955)CrossRef

    1. I have to note that my argument was only valid for research papers describing experimental results, not for reviews or commentaries. What I was trying to note is that most of the methodology and even the description of the results is, to a certain extent, a standardized way to explain experimental findings. The crucial difference should be put in the novelty of the results, which should be novel, i.e. never presented before, not even partially, unless explicitly mentioned, and original, in the sense that they add something to the present knowledge of the field.

  9. People maylike to read this article on self-plagiarism.

    doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2011-0312
    The Oncologist October 2011 vol. 16 no. 10 1347-1348

    Self-Plagiarism
    Bruce A. Chabner+ Author Affiliations

    Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    In this issue of The Oncologist, we publish a retraction by Brian Rini, M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic regarding his article published in The Oncologist in March 2005, entitled “VEGF-Targeted Therapy in Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma” [1]. We believe the readers deserve an explanation for this action.

    The circumstances leading to this retraction are as follows. On August 4, 2011, a reader called to our attention the very close similarity of the article in question to an earlier publication by Rini and Eric Small, his mentor at the University of California, San Francisco, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) in February 2005 [2]. A careful reading of the two papers revealed that at least 75% of the content of The Oncologist paper was taken, verbatim, from the JCO publication, without reference or attestation. A search of other publications at that time revealed other reviews by Dr. Rini and colleagues on the same general subject of anti-angiogenesis drugs in renal cancer [3–5]. One of these papers, in the British Journal of Urology International (BJU) [3], contained numerous verbatim passages from The Oncologist paper. One other publication, in Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy [4], reproduced several verbatim sentences and a paragraph from The Oncologist article. The co-authors and editors of the BJU and JCO papers have been notified of our findings, as have institutional officials at the Cleveland Clinic.

    Our journal and all other peer-reviewed medical publications expressly prohibit submission of material that has been submitted to or published by another journal. There are both ethical and legal reasons for this prohibition. It is clearly unethical to misrepresent a manuscript as original work when it is being published, or has been published, elsewhere, even if that work is one’s own or from a book one has edited. One of the most public cases of plagiarism, involving Kenneth Melmon, a Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, made headlines thirty years ago. Melmon, under intense pressure to complete his own chapter in another textbook, lifted extensive material, verbatim, from the textbook, Goodman and Gilman [6], that he was editing, and did so without attribution to the source or authors. The Melmon episode crystallized academic thinking about the subject of plagiarism, and led to his resignation as Chair of Stanford’s Department of Medicine [7–9].

    It requires effort and thought to write about the same subject in an original way in multiple publications. It is much easier to simply cut and paste from an earlier work. While most authors are well aware of the proscriptions against use of material published by others, it may be less obvious that self-plagiarism is an equally serious transgression, with consequences for the responsible author’s career and academic standing. There are legal reasons as well for prohibiting plagiarism of material written either by others or by oneself. In allowing publication of a manuscript, the author must assign copyright to the journal’s publisher, and obviously it is illegal to assign copyright of the same material to multiple journals and publishers. While the immediate reaction to self-plagiarism might be less punitive (one is after all stealing from one’s own work), the copyright issue is still a serious legal problem. Second, it is unethical to represent the work as original in a second publication, and from an academic standpoint, to expand one’s bibliography with multiple versions of the same material. The proliferation of journals that publish reviews, often ghostwritten, without peer review, and often under sponsorship by commercial interests, has markedly increased the potential for self-plagiarism, and as this incident illustrates, abuses are likely widespread.

    Computer programs are used in detecting homology between published articles, and the potential for detecting plagiarized material is rapidly expanding. The incident described above is regrettable for all parties concerned (author, co-authors, journals, and readers), and stands as a reminder of the need to respect the sanctity of publication guidelines, and to use the privilege of authorship and co-authorship with prudence and respect.

    Our Senior Editors have reviewed the circumstances surrounding the author’s retraction and support our decision to publish this notice. As always, we welcome your thoughts and we also acknowledge with gratitude the reader who brought this serious incident to our attention.

    View larger version:
    In this pageIn a new window
    Download as PowerPoint SlideBruce A. Chabner, M.D.
    Editor-in-Chief, The Oncologist
    Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center Harvard Medical School

    ©AlphaMed Press

    1. @Clare Francis: Thanks for the article on self-plagiarism. As to your earlier posting based on Deja vu: The abstracts of the two articles in the second set (#68304) are CLOSER to each other than indicated by the highlighted matches identified by the software. Whether reviews or not, there is no excuse for the author to use essentially the same abstracts on two papers or reviews. Moreover, they were published about 3 years apart from each other. Was there no significant new material to add in an abstract of a topic as hot as the subject of the papers?! If that is the case, why publish a new review article? This appears to be certainly a case of self-plagiarism. One should now examine the full articles. Doing so is all the more important in view of the context of the ethics issues and ethics investigation issues that are behind the current exchange of postings. Thanks.

  10. Some further observations on two of the Halliwell papers (http://spore.vbi.vt.edu/dejavu/duplicate/68304/) discovered by Clare Francis:

    They are both review papers, as noted by Virgil, with the 1992 review being a marginal update of the earlier 1989 review. While it is not surprising that they share quite a bit of similarities, I would not characterize expressing concern about the similarities as “clutching at straws” as Virgil states, for four important reasons:

    1. First, the 1992 paper is about 50% verbatim reproduction of the 1989 paper, with practically identical abstracts. In terms of the content, the two papers are even closer. It would have been prudent to summarize the earlier review briefly and to move on to the real updates (which is not substantial in the second review).

    2. Second, more important and more damaging, is that fact that the 1992 paper does NOT even seem to cite or refer to the 1989 paper. The author’s intention appears pretty clear.

    3. The NUS community says that the author is an apparent proponent of policies against self-plagiarism.(Self-plagiarism is defined by most as using a substantial amount of one’s own writing without even citing the earlier work).

    4. The author is directly or indirectly in charge of or involved in, as the case may be, the ethics-related investigations under discussion in this forum. Doesn’t inspire confidence!

    Incidentally, The NUS ethics policies appear to be mostly taken from policy documents from US universities (e.g. UC San Diego) – fortunately, with credits duly given. One good lesson to remember is: Universities and research institutions cannot be run simply by using a “User’s Manual”. Infrastructure (i.e., hardware) can be bought with money — the “software” takes time and seasoning!

  11. To Lost in Science, Panel members “From the list of authors in the blood paper, the two senior most authors – Profs So Ha Chan and David Michael Kemeny are the potential members to be in the investigation committee.”

    I heard from another source of similar story, both are from Microbiology, and NUS Immunology Programme, with DM Kemeny as leader of the programme http://immunology.nus.edu.sg/aboutus.htm, and until recently Alirio Melendez was still a member.

    Conflict of interest, co-authors, co-members with one being the leader… conspiracy theory or pure coincidence?

  12. I apologize for commenting often on this case, but I think I am learning something.

    Singapore has its own excellent academic on the issue of corruption, professor JST Quah.

    http://www.jonstquah.com/index.htm

    “Professor Jon S.T. Quah began doing research on corruption in 1977 when it was not fashionable or politically correct to do so. Today, more than 30 years later, he is still writing and giving presentations on Corruption and Governance in Asian Countries, Public Personnel Management in Asian Countries, Administrative Reforms in Singapore, and Public Policy in Singapore.”

    I note on his publications page:

    http://www.jonstquah.com/publications.htm

    There is praise for his work from many academics.

    His most recent publication.

    “Curbing Corruption in a One-Party Dominant System: Learning from Singapore’s Experience.” In Ting Gong and Stephen K. Ma (eds.), Preventing Corruption in Asia: Institutional Design and Policy Capacity. London: Routledge, forthcoming, 2009. Chapter 9.

    Also:

    Combating Corruption Singapore-Style: Lessons for Other Asian Countries. Baltimore: School of Law, University of Maryland, Maryland Series in Contemporary Asian Studies, No. 2, 189, 2007, pp. 56. For details, see http://www.law.umaryland.edu/programs/international/eastasia/MSCASfirst2007_2.html .

    From what I can gather there has been some progress in combating corruption. Whether the problem has disappeared is a question.

    He does call it “a One-Party Dominant System”. He is a native, not somebody commenting from abroad.

  13. @A de Novo: In some institutes/universities in Asia, including directors/HODs names in the authors list may be prevalent. But it may not be a universal phenomenon though. However, many of such personalities in NUS/SINGAPORE are from the West (Europe and North America). If they want to remain as ethically correct, they should have avoided co-authroship in papers in which they did not contribute much. However, this is not the case with these individuals about whom we are discussing. Incidentally, they are also publication-hungry – to get themselves nominated and awarded for OUTSTANDING RESEARCHER AWARD, I guess. This is an assumption – may not be rule by itself…

    1. @Lost in Science: Yes, the practice of Heads, Deans, and Deputy Presidents (among others) milking the system is not universal. Even in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan (for example) I know people who avoid (in fact, detest) such practice. Sadly, some who come from other countries change their ways. I guess that is the equivalent of “when in Rome do as Romans do”! Anyway, as for awards, etc., I know many outstanding researchers who do not long after awards, but some do – and that certainly is universal. The key issue in this instance, as you and I (and others contributing to the dialogue in these pages) would agree, is ethics and integrity. One can see that ethics and integrity take back seats in situations like the one we are discussing.

    1. @David Hardman: One or two of the above sets of papers appear to be the same material presented first in conferences and then published later. Many conferences publish books of abstracts but do not demand copyrights and do not consider brief or extended abstracts as publications. In such cases, publishing the same material as a paper in a regular journal would not be considered unethical. But some of the others you have posted appear to be either duplicate publications or “salami slices”, which most reputed journals rightly do not like. Careful scrutiny is necessary to identify which of the ones you have posted are either duplications or plagiarism. For example, two of the Barry Halliwell review papers identified by Clare Francis share at least about 40% with each other, if not more. The second of the two, published 3 years after the first, does not even cite the first, and most reasonable scientists would consider such a practice unethical and deceptive. As I had noted in an earlier posting, unfortunately in some countries (which want to compete with establsihed powers in science and research) salami-slicing, duplicate publications, and additional papers that add a bit more to the previous ones have become common (and there are enough journals to accept such publications). The whole game is to come out ahead by sheer number and volume of publications rather than going after quality, which is a lot more difficult! It is not surprising to find such an attitude toward science from countries that moved up economically using manufacturing as a vehicle! Now they have the money and they tend to “manufacture” science!

    1. @David Hardman: Medline is an abstracting service, I think. There are services that post abstracts of papers or request authors of published papers to supply abstracts for cataloging and dissemination. So instances such as the above are routine.

  14. I did some research here on some of the papers posted on Abnormal Science:

    1) http://abnormalscienceblog.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/melendez-et-al-eleven-at-one-swoop/
    In the above blog, Dr. Alirio Melendez case is being discussed. Some important papers they have missed out for example:
    Check his FASEB Paper (2009, 23: 2412-2424) Figures 5B and 3C with JBC 2004, 279: 22505 – 22513 and JBC 2002, 277:17255 – 17262.

    2)http://abnormalscienceblog.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/singapore-sms-alert-4-at-nus/
    In the above blog, another NUS case is being referred.There are numerous duplications in both original contributions and reviews (a number of reviews). Only few examples in addition to the above abnormal science blog are given below.
    Antioxid Redox Signal 2010 13: 807 – 819
    Cell death Differ 2010 17: 408 – 420
    Front Biosci 2009, 1: 263 – 268
    Biochim Biophys Acta 1787: 462 – 467
    Cell Death Differ 14: 1617 – 1627
    Antioxid Redox Signal 2011 July 12
    Interestingly, there is an article on Professor Barry Halliwell by this person:
    Redox Pioneer: Professor Barry Halliwell in Antioxid Redox Signal 14: 1761 – 1766

    3) http://abnormalscienceblog.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/sms-alert-2-at-national-university-of-singapore/

    I just followed up some cases from an abnormal science thread – on department of pharmacology, I found another person from Pharmacology. There are irregularities in their publications as well. For example, check these articles
    Mol Cancer. 2011 Sep 1;10:107.
    Apoptosis. 2011 Oct;16(10):1028-41.
    Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Nov;164(5):1506-21
    This group has close association with Professor Bharat Aggarwal from USA.

    1. Some more recent retractions from NUS, from an Abnormal Science posting:

      Year of Retraction 2011:
      Chan, J Clinical Nursing (2011) 20:979-987 (DOI 10.1111/j.1365.2702.2010.03368.x
      Author from NUS

      Year of Retraction: 2010
      Le et al., Appl Phys Lett (2010) 97:239903 (DOI 10.1063/1.3512959),
      retracting Le et al., Appl Phys Lett (2005) 87:101908.
      Authors from NUS

      Year of Retraction: 2009
      Yang et al., American Institute of Chemical Engineers Journal (AIChE J) (2009) 55:2756 (DOI 10.1002/aic),
      retracting Yang et al., AIChE J (2006) 52:3266-3277 (DOI 10.1002/aic.10947).
      Authors from NUS

      Year of Retraction: 2007
      Ngo et al., Opt Quant Electron (2007) 39:707 (DOI 10.1007/s11082-007-9120-6),
      retracting Ngo et al., Opt Quant Electron (2007) 38:981-991 (DOI 10.1007/s11082.006-9027-7).
      Authors from NUS, ASTAR & NTU

    2. Dear LOST IN SCIENCE,

      Here are my commetns about 1) FASEB Paper (2009, 23: 2412-2424)

      ——— Forwarded message ———-
      From: clare francis
      Date: Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 9:05 PM
      Subject: FASEB 23,2412-2424 looks too idealized.
      To: Gerald.weissmann@nyumc.org

      RE: FASEB 23, 2412-2424

      Dear Gerald,

      Figure 1A. The error bars look drawn in. If you go to low
      magnification you can see this.
      They are small and similar.

      1B. The traces look too perfect, yet when we see primary data as in
      7B, the quality of the work is poor.

      2A and B. I don’t understand the error bars. They look drawn in.
      Sometimes half aboveand half below the the top of the bar, sometimes
      more above than below,sometimes the other way around.

      3D. The DMS + C5a line is a straight line from about 75 seconds until
      180 seconds.
      I don’t believe this.

      4. I don’t understand why the first 5 error bars (left to right) are
      the same and extremely small. The 7th and 8th error bars are also
      extremely small, yet the 6th and 9th error bars are quite large.

      6A. All 3error bars are essentially the same.
      6B. The lines look too smooth and idealized.

      7B. The blot is of poor quality, yet the graphs they draw,which are
      not primary data but drawings are very smooth. Funny that.
      7C. The error bars are essentially the same.
      7D. Possibly real, yet the error bars are counterinuitive, as you
      would expect the larger values to have larger error bars.

      I did receive a reply from Gerald Weissman yet.

      Perhaps my concerns are unfounded.

  15. Some more retractions from Singapore

    Cell Death Differ. 2009 Feb;16(2):264-77. Epub 2008 Oct 31. Retraction in: Cell Death Differ. 2010 Dec;17(12):1944.

  16. Here it is for the record.

    Retraction

    Cell Death and Differentiation (2010) 17, 1944; doi:10.1038/cdd.2010.121; published online 24 September 2010
    Retraction: A novel function of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 in modulation of autophagy and necrosis under oxidative stress

    Q Huang, Y-T Wu, H-L Tan, C-N Ong and H-M Shen

    Retraction to: Cell Death and Differentiation (2009) 16, 264–277; doi: 10.1038/cdd.2008.151; published online 31 October 2008

    The authors would like to retract the above article.

    Recently, the authors were alerted by the journal’s editors to some discrepancies in their data. After a careful review, sufficient errors and mistakes were found that, although the authors still believe the conclusions of the paper to be valid, all the authors agreed to retract this article so as not to leave potentially misleading data in the literature.

    The authors would like to offer their sincere apologies to the readers for these errors and mistakes.

    My comment : “sufficient errors and mistakes were found that, although the authors still believe the conclusions of the paper to be valid, all the authors agreed to retract this article so as not to leave
    potentially misleading data in the literature” is at odds with the fact that science is supposed to be about the data.

  17. I was never a fan, but professor Barry Halliwell would have been familiar with this unless he did not have television in London.

    This clip is from the 1970s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkOSDp_W1ns

    I believe the original was from the 1960s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Never_Mind_the_Quality_Feel_the_Width

    The title is “Never mind the quality,feel the width”, a phrase that springs to mind.

    I think that taking up a microphone and becoming a stand-up comedian is on the cards.

    A suitable person to emulate is Frank Carson, a Papal knight no less, so we have it from the Highest Authority.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvnL8bQmygE

    http://www.papalknights.org.uk/assoc-members.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Carson

    I think that no stage name would be required.

    1. Barry “Borrow” Halliwell was selected for the highest research award at NUS this year. The “damage control” / “image-rebuilding effort” has been underway for a while! (Approvals of university-wide research award are handled by committees managed by Halliwell’s office. “Of course, they are completely independent.”)

  18. this is amazingly funny. Gigamole blog mentions about Resort World Sentosa – i heard there are casinos there as well. @Clare Francis: you hit the jackpot without going there…Ho Ho Ho…Christmas is approaching…

  19. Lets request Dr. Zwirner to investigate into all high profile publications from A*STAR as also suggested by Anonymous and I am sure those will make much more bigger headlines than Melandez and other NUS ones!

  20. Scientific fraud is a very serious allegation and can destroy careers of several people, not only PI but also of students/staff working with him and hence it should not be loosely based only on assumptions from 1 or 2 publications out of 100 from a scientific group.

    Also these assumptions should not be used as a platform to gain quick popularity for some personal blogs based on personal grievances of few anonymous whistle blowers, but should aim to address relevant problem in a proper way.

    1. I will be far better if Dr Zwirner does not unnecessarily try to become messaih of anonymous whistleblowers from Singapore and focus on his work in Germany otherwise he can get entrapped in law suits worth millions!

      He will than have to take voluntary retirement from personal blogging just as he took from his academic career few years back who knows for what real reasons!

    2. Dear Lost In science,

      Has Dr. Zwirner even asked any of the whistle blowers that why they are writing to him directly and not approach University officials for appropriate action if they have so much confidence on their accusations. If University officials do not respond to their concerns than only Dr. Zwirner has any moral right to raise the issues on their behalf and that also after knowing their real identity and relationship with the researcher they are accusing so that researchers can also explain why these people are against them or jealous of their research!

  21. I agree with albert. How often does a handyman make a small mistake or for that manner a bus driver arrives late or a bank staff delays his/her assignment—so on and so forth??? what I mean is that there are several normal functions in life which people make mistakes with but these go unnoticed. For a scientist, to write a paper is a culmination of a number of years of work. He she has seen these pictures or gel repeatedly over many lab meetings and over many months and years. The scientists brian is desensitized to these images—to note if a panel has a picture that was previously used. Infact if cheating was a motive, the scientist would be very careful to scrutinize these images as all else is buried inside. You cant just judge a scientist based on what small mistakes were published and are in public space for good. Unlike for the bankers or handy mans or bus drivers —you get my drift.

    come on chaps —relax. If you have evidence, report to the correct office of the university. DO not malign each and every one you can on the web—Singapore science is reeling for many other valid and more pressing reasons.
    Would you do this to your neighbour without a proof. In this case if you do have the proof of wrongdoing—you would—-go to the police–right—not share incomplete stories on the web. please by all means bring the bad ones out—-but please dont make a judgement based on a few mistakes for which the scientist may have a perfectly valid reason—just sloppiness—or desensitization as I said. Infact the reason why straits times asks you to give your name when you make a note in the news papers is really valid…..precisely to keep the unnecessary complaints out.

    you know the best way a scientist is recognized is by reproduction of his/her work by members of the community. the process has been working well. why is that some scientists are more famous than other —not because of number of papers. a famous nobel laureate has less than 30 papers in life. why did he get the nobel prize still—-because his work was reproduced and used elsewhere.
    there are thousands of hawker stalls in singapore—why are some so popular than others??

    I guess the process is self correcting and will weed out the non-deserving—-that is life–let it play itself.

    I hope we will calm down and target our energy where it matters most. Doing good science

    1. @John: I understand your frustration if you are personally affected by this disclosure. I don’t understand how one can get desensitized – in one of the blogs on abnormal science the papers were from 1999, 2000 and 2001.
      http://abnormalscienceblog.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/singapore-sms-alert-4-at-nus/
      No personal attacks..i was just browsing the pubmed after reading Albert comments on 100 papers…
      That particular scientist has just started his career – I assume – he might not have seen that many images to get desensitized. A genuine scientist will try to remember his data from even his/her Ph.D. days as this is his/her life and career…

      1. Do not speculate when that scientist started or finished his career but patiently wait for the results of ongoing investigations in Prof Melendez case to be made public.

        Otherwise, i can also say what if tomorrow someone writes on his blog that your publications are also based on allegedly wrong data

      2. @albert: you seem to be very active here and very angry. It appears that you have a great knowledge about John as well. Have the legal actions started already for these cases as well as for the websites? earlier you mentioned that law suit worth millions. Do you have more details on this?

  22. Dear John,

    I completely agree with you and personally feel that it is a deep rooted conspiracy against flourishing research of our country by few jealous and foolish people!

    1. this is going so everywhere. I understand from both retraction watch and abnormal science that the person who is supposed to conduct the investigation has conflict of interest. Where will be the question of police here – chief of police is not available for investigation. It seems that John and Albert are concerned about not going through proper channel – please read all the blogs – there appears to be massive conflict of interest which might prevent any meaningful and ethical investigations…this is my outsider opinion…

    1. We did but it seems that Abnormal science and Dr. Zwirner do not like to listen to truth and believe only on false emails being sent by whistle-blowers

      So they are deleting our comments all the time!

  23. I will also support and believe Dr. Zwirner if he can present substantial evidences (from even 10 out of 100 papers published) by any of the groups he has covered so far in Singapore in his blogs. They all have close to or more than 100 papers and are considered experts in their field.

    It is not fair to pick up some errors from 1 or 2 papers out of 100 published, and assume that eminent scientists in Singapore are engaged in fraudulent research and all 100 papers are wrong based on discrepancies in 1 or 2 of their publications!

    So I will request him to write blogs when only he has substantial evidence against any group in Singapore and not draw assumptions/feel/know la from false/mischievous emails that are being sent to him by whistle blowers who have personal grievances against these researchers.

    1. I just checked the publications @albert, you are mentioning two or three papers in 100 – if this individual is also involved with Prof Melendez and the numbers may increase…
      Look at retraction watch – how readers comments have resulted in the disclosure of many papers from this particular scientist from USA just a few days ago…http://www.retractionwatch.com/2011/10/27/cancer-journal-retracts-herbal-medicine-paper-citing-misconduct-probe/
      I am sure substantial evidence can be collected based on the tips from the readers…There may not be any personal attacks here…Dr Zwirner from Abnormal Science has indicated somewhere in his blog that he will not publish anything which is implicative and harsh in nature..your comment on law suit seems to be very tough to digest ….

      1. Dear I know you!

        Do not bring in if or what and patiently wait for the results of ongoing investigations in Prof Melendez to be made public.

        Otherwise, i can also say what if tomorrow someone writes on his blog that your publications are also based on allegedly wrong data

        Finally you need to have more harder stomach to digest truth because it is always very bitter!

  24. Dear I know you!

    This statement: „Prof. Halliwell, you might want to take a leave of absence from your position as vice president until these issues (including the allegation of self-plagiarism) have been resolved.“ sounds quite personal to me. Why not to you I am not sure!

    Also some of the discrepancies in figures, etc. brought up on Abnormal science are an overkill. I do think that the people raising them should raise them with the journals first, if they have not done so.

    1. Dear Albert,

      I said, among other things, in a comment posted on Abnormal Watch on 9 Nov at 5:19 pm, that ” … some of the discrepancies in figures, etc. brought up here are an overkill. I do think that the people raising them should raise them with the journals first, if they have not done so.”

      The second paragraph of your comment above, posted on 9 Nov at 10:19 pm, seems to be an almost verbatim reproduction of my statement! I guess that, as it is often said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”! However, it is rather funny that this reproduction occurred here, as one of the items under discussion in Abnormal Sciebce currently is on plagiarism!

      Nevertheless, my comments in Abnormal Science should be seen in proper context. I support Retraction Watch, Abnormal Science, and similar voices of calls for ethics. These blogs are needed to assure, or at least promote and push for, transparency in dealing with ethical issues, of international impact and proportions, and to give voice to the voiceless or the unheard. I do agree, however, that the forum should be used with care and wisdom. This particular thread of comments would have been unnecessary if officials with potential conflicts of interests and potential ethics violations had not inserted themselves in ethics investigations.

  25. Dear PDF Researcher,

    I also support them as long as they only raise ethical issues of international impact but do not attack individual researchers based on grievances of anonymous whistle blowers. They can in fact forward their emails to appropriate journals for necessary actions if required at their end!

  26. Dear Einstein,

    I know several people hiddden behind masked names on this blog. For your other point, my answer is to keep patience and wait for the enquiry that has been initiated to be completed!

    Also, I am not angry but do not appove of the provocative way by which Abnormal science is targeting Singapore scientists. A more decent way would have been to forward the mails of whistleblowers received by them to respective journals and let them decide if it was an oversight or intentional fraud done by these PIs.

  27. Also editorial boards of most prestigious journals conatin some top names in the respective fields and hence collective conclusion/decision they will reach would definitely be more logical than assumptions drawn only by one individual Dr. Zwirner in these cases who can be driven by various motives like quick popularity for his personal blog!

  28. Also in most cases of retraction that have occurred since years including that of Prof Melendez, it is generally the editors of the journal who inform the lead authors of discrepancies and further actions and not personal blogs!

  29. Dear Albert,

    The reason that most of the recent postings on professor’s Zwirner’s blog are about Singapore is because that is what people are telling him. Earlier the blog was about other places. I don’t see eveidence that he has a grudge against Singapore.

    I can speak from my own experience, and from what others have shown me in writing, for example Dr. Karin Wiebauer’s coreespondence with the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Immunology, that editors often are bulwarks against investigating discrepancies in publications. Just read the rest of Retraction Watch!

    1. Dear Calre,

      It is not good on part of Dr. Zwirner to believe on anonymous whistle blowers from Singapore blindly who have personal grievances against particular PI before thorough background check and understanding their real motive behind these emails.

      Has Dr. Zwirner even asked any of the whistle blowers that why they are writing to him directly and not approach University officials for appropriate action if they have so much confidence on their accusations about these PIs and their publications.

      If University officials do not respond to their concerns than only Dr. Zwirner has any moral right to raise the issues on their behalf and that also after knowing their real identity and relationship with the researcher they are accusing so that researchers can also explain why these people are against them or jealous of their research!

  30. Dear Calre,

    Also at least Dr. Zwirner can correspond with the concerned journals first and if the editors are still often bulwarks against investigating discrepancies in publications as you said above, he should put that as justification on his blog to take matter in his hands and target individual researchers rather than reaching conclusions based on assumptions without going through proper channel!

  31. Dear Calre,

    Here are some of Dr. Zwirner’s statements that clearly show his grudge towards Singapore and researchers here!

    This statement: „Prof. Halliwell, you might want to take a leave of absence from your position as vice president until these issues (including the allegation of self-plagiarism) have been resolved.“ is quite provocative and direct interference in the affairs of other institute and nation.

    Singapore and scientific misconduct: No end in sight– What he means here! Are all researchers in Singapore are engaged in misconduct!

    Even if he had found something, he should be more honest in his assessment and not write such provocative and generalized statements against Singapore science and researchers otherwise it will definitely indicate some grudge against Singapore!

  32. @Albert: You are clearly very angry, and you seem to be assuming a lot of things not in evidence about the blog. Have you looked at the two papers in question on the self-plagiarism issue and have you compared the two papers with each other? Should an individual who warns others about self-plagiarism be allowed to get away with self-plagiarism? Don’t you think that someone associated with a fraud case through joint publications should stay clear of being involved as a spokesman and in other capacities? These are the things that are tarnishing Singapore and NUS in the present case. Your anger should be directed against the above so that Singapore will come out ahead.

    You are saying that the author of the blog is interfering “in the affairs of other nations” in this case, but at the same time you want the author of the blog to focus on the US, as you mentioned in an earlier comment. Why would that not be “interfering in the affairs” of another nation? As @Clare Francis points out, and is evident from postings in Retraction Watch, journals are notorious for looking the other way. I know of cases personally. And that is why public exposure through blogs is important.

    The papers in question are not just Singapore papers, published in Singapore journals, and accessible only to Singapore residents. These are papers published by internationally visible individuals in international journals for an international readership. We should take a broader perspective. Science is not local. Science is global. We are all international citizens.

  33. agree with PDF researcher. Albert is agitated due to the fact this issue has personally affected him/her…however, it would be better for him/her to go through the cases highlighted here on Retraction Watch carefully and judge..I feel that no one is targeting individuals here. The question is whether this issue will be ever over? Albert can check with his/her university ethics committee on the status of this investigation, if he/she is ready to find out more things…

  34. who ever albert is—i am not sure—-but law suits are comming very soon.

    beware all of you. i know from the horses mouth,.

    shut up now or be prepared to fight it out in the courts!!! sincere warning . This is singapore style.

    i am on your side and that is why I am warning you

  35. Dear PDF Researcher and Einstein,

    I will suggest you to wait patiently for the ongoing inquiry against Prof Melendez to be made public and not try to dictate your terms to university officials and researchers.

    Otherwise, you both may also end up with Dr. Zwirner’s on wrong side of law for serious defamation charges
    and end up repenting your comments and charges against Singapore science and researchers!

  36. I learned about some of the science-related blogs recently and started reviewing them. Many of the discussions under other postings in this blog seem to discuss the issues in depth in a meaningful way. Sadly this particular thread seems to have descended to resorting to threats, perhaps shedding more light on the situation than intended.

    There is an interesting article that people might find interesting in Inside Higher Education, although this article was prompted by football. The points outlined by the author and the closing lines are indeed illuminating.

    http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/11/10/essay-why-smart-people-make-foolish-ethical-choices 

    1. The above link may not directly go to the article. In the Inside Higher Education page (November 10, 2011), go to “What Were They Thinking?” by Robert J. Sternberg.

      1. Dear J.P. Houghton,

        I agree when you write:

        “Sadly this particular thread seems to have descended to resorting to threats, perhaps shedding more light on the situation than intended.” November 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

        Maybe how is really is? Managerialism, a polite word for bullying.

        I read the article you mentioned at 5:09 pm by Robert J Sternberg, who is an administrator himself.
        Too many steps, and subdivisions, and which does equate smart people with administratrors.

  37. Dear David,

    I agree. The article is a bit convoluted, with a bit too many steps. Maybe it has something to do with Sternberg being an administrator! I didn’t think about that! But look at the brighter side. It would be much more convoluted if the author were a lawyer!

    The article does make a number of excellent points, though. Explains a lot we are seeing.

    JP

  38. By the way, why NUS policy is not available to the public, regarding Prof M case, isn’t it time for a simple first report???

    Research Integrity
    Faculty, staff and student of the University community engaging in research should adhere to the highest standard of ethics and Research Integrity. This is to ensure that the reputation of the University for scholarly integrity is preserved.

    Research Integrity includes the rigour, care and accountability that are the hallmarks of good scholarship and is not merely the avoidance of wrongdoing. Research Misconduct by the University community, defined as fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or other wrongdoing in proposing, designing, performing, recording, supervising or reviewing research, or in reporting research results is unacceptable and is grounds for disciplinary action.

    Research Integrity Officers appointed by the University are responsible for assessing allegations of Research Misconduct and determining when such allegations warrant inquiries, and for overseeing formal inquiries. Allegations of Research Misconduct can be made by an individual in person, or in writing in a sealed envelope, signed and marked “strictly confidential” to the Office of the Deputy President (Research & Technology) who will assign a Research Integrity Officer to look into the case.

    Please click here for details on the NUS Research Integrity policy

    https://share.nus.edu.sg/corporate/policies/research/NUS%20Code%20of%20Research%20Integrity%20%28RI-6%20Revised%20Sep%202011%29.pdf

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