Parkinson’s researcher to appear in court to face fraud charges

Caroline Barwood
Caroline Barwood

A researcher in Australia who has had several papers retracted following an investigation by her former employer is now facing fraud and other charges.

As The Guardian reports:

A former University of Queensland academic accused of fabricating research that claimed a breakthrough in treating Parkinson’s disease has been charged with fraud.

The Crime and Corruption Commission also alleges Dr Caroline Barwood, who co-authored two papers that were retracted from scientific journals on the advice of UQ, “dishonestly applied for grant funds”.

Barwood, 2939, of Kuraby, was on Friday served with a notice to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on six charges including fraud, attempted fraud and general dishonesty in obtaining gain from or causing a loss to a commonwealth entity.

Barwood and Bruce Murdoch have had three papers retracted. The University of Queensland announced an investigation into their work in September 2013, and has looked into more than 90 of their papers.

She’s due in court on November 6.

Update, 4:15 p.m. Eastern, 10/31/14: Barwood tells us:

As you can understand I cannot comment until the legal proceedings are complete. I am saddened and shocked by these allegations given I had no input in the original paper.

Update, 6:50 p.m. Eastern, 10/31/14: Barwood is 29, not 39, as the Crime and Corruption Commission had said. They sent a correction:

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this media release incorrectly stated that the woman is 39 years old. It was corrected at 1:15pm on 31 October 2014.

19 thoughts on “Parkinson’s researcher to appear in court to face fraud charges”

  1. Kudos to the University of Queensland. It seems that UQ has done the right thing in that case. I wonder though what UQ is doing about this case:
    The current situation seems to be: a recent retraction following a misconduct investigation by the Royal Veterinary College plus two papers with an Expression of Concern published about a year ago. One might think that the ‘potential error’ mentioned in that Expression of Concern has been found by now?

      1. Thanks for the link, Michael. OK, following this major skandal inclunding the resignation of the VC and Senior Deputy VC, there is probably a bit of pressure on UQ to handle misconduct cases in a better way. Let’s see what happens in the Panagiotopoulou case. As Paul Brookes’ comment on the first RW post about that case suggests, problems came to light in 2012 already, but it seems the Royal Veterinary College is the only institution that has taken any actions so far.

  2. Yet another example that the self-regulation of academic publishing does NOT work, at least in regards to safeguarding the public interest.

    In all cases when public money is spent (misused) there should be an INDEPENDENT investigation (not by the institution, or by the editor, or by the publisher).

    Then, the party at fault should be held accountable for “fraud, attempted fraud and general dishonesty in obtaining gain from or causing a loss to a commonwealth entity”. SIMPLE & FAIR !

  3. It is interesting that Barwood claims innocence….”given I had no input in the original paper”.

    If she had no input into the paper she had no right to be listed as an author. But, she accepted authorship way back in 2012 when the paper was published in EJN and used this paper to support her grant applications and subsequent papers (some of which have now been retracted) and no doubt saw her reputation as a researcher soar.

    All she had to do right from the start was to challenge the other two authors as to why she was listed on the paper. It was easy to go along with it while the going was good, but now that the s#$% has hit the fan she wants out……

  4. This is a bit confusing: I don’t believe that Barwood and Murdoch have published 90 papers together. Murdoch has more than 180, but Barwood only has 12 (if she had 90 by age 29, then that alone would be reason to assume fraud – I busted my tail just to hit 30 by that age). So is it really Murdoch who is under investigation? If so, why are you focusing so much on Barwood? I get that it’s probably their papers together that were first identified as fraudulent and that certainly deserves punishment, but this could be explained more clearly. It’s a shame to throw the young person under the bus if it’s actually the mentor who is in question. But then again, I don’t know all of the history here.

    1. Good observations! I sincerely hope this case will not become just another example of the scapegoating of early-career researchers. If 90+ papers came under scrutiny, and 80+ papers were obviously not authored by Barwood then maybe the “talent” of creative data generation lies somewhere else…

    1. Since Murdoch remains an author on all 3 papers, I don’t see how this makes it more or less likely a case of scapegoating. Since Murdoch is the senior academic, he has the power to shunt all the blame on to the junior.

      Did the NHMRC do an independent investigation with non-UQ academics, or did they just pick up the UQ investigation?

  5. Pedro, thanks alot for the link.

    “The Journal acknowledges the work of Dr Caroline Barwood in preparing the manuscript for submission.” and “The Journal wishes to acknowledge the work of Dr Caroline Barwood in preparing the manuscript for submission.”

    Am I right to conclude that these texts seem to indicate that Caroline Barwood has added her own name as one of the authors on these manuscripts when she was preparing these manuscripts for submissing to the journal “Speech, Language and Hearing”?

    Am I right to conclude that these texts seem to indicate that Caroline Barwood has submitted these manuscripts to the journal “Speech, Language and Hearing”?

    paper 1: “Barwood, Murdoch, Goozee & Riek” changed into “Goozee, Lloyd, Riek & Murdoch”.
    paper 2: “Murdoch, Barwood, Goozee, Riek & Lloyd” changed into “Goozee, Lloyd, Riek, Murdoch & Carson”.
    paper 3: “Murdoch, Cheng & Barwood” changed into “Cheng, Murdoch & Goozee”.

    Anyone any idea why other authors were added and why the order of the authors has been changed as well?

  6. “It appears Barwood has been removed as first author (in fact removed totally as an author) on three publications in the journal Speech Language Hearing”

    This is indeed rather unsettling. Three very reasonable rules for authorship in scientific papers seem to be
    1. All listed authors have contributed significantly to the work described in the article.
    2. All authors are aware of the paper being submitted, and agree with it.
    3. All authors assume responsibility for the paper’s content.

    Most journals require the corresponding author to certify that the submitted paper complies with these rules in one form or another (although point 3 may not appear that explicitly).

    It has happened to me a couple of times that I was offered co-authorship on a paper, which I declined, because point 1 was not met in my opinion (and I did not want to bother with point 3).

    1. That is an extremely uncommon, if not odd decision. Publishers usually do not accept corrections dealing with authorship issues, these kind of errors grant a retraction pronto (and maybe an immediate republication of the corrected paper). I assume that the correction notice will not prevent others (at least those who qucikly need stg. to pad their introduction section) to cite it using the incorrect Barwood et al. author list.

      I bet there is a lot more in this story…

      1. The “corrected authorship erratum” is very odd in many ways. Not only does it remove Barwood as first author, it also changes the order of the other authors.

        in the first paper, Bruce Murdoch becomes senior author after the change – it used to be Stephan Riek.

        In the second paper, Murdoch moves from first author to second-last, while Justine Goozee moves up from third to first!

        Even setting aside Barwood’s removal this is extremely unusual.

        1. As for “The Journal wishes to acknowledge the work of Dr Caroline Barwood in preparing the manuscript
          for submission”, my best guess as to what this means is that the authors didn’t want to credit Barwood in any way (otherwise it would be “The Authors and the Journal wish…”)

          Perhaps the Journal felt that she deserved a nod as she was the one who put the manuscript through the submission process and responded to reviewers (?).

  7. Given that neither the CCC nor UQ have released their reports, on the basis that CCC investigations are continuing, I think it is too early to reach a conclusion about any differences in the way Murdoch and Barwood are being treated. You can interpret the decision to deal with the two cases separately in a range of ways.

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