In a rare move, the University of Colorado has revoked the PhD of a former student in a pharmaceutical research lab, following an investigation that raised concerns about the integrity of his work.
According to The Denver Post, Rajendra Kadam’s degree has been revoked by the University of Colorado Board of Regents.
Last year, an investigation by the University of Colorado Denver into Kadam’s research recommended retracting 10 papers. As we reported at the time, the report flagged eight additional papers co-authored by Kadam whose data could not be validated, raising “concerns as to the scientific validity and integrity” of the material.
Last month, a University of Colorado Denver spokesperson told us Kadam was no longer affiliated with the university; today, Ken McConnellogue, the vice president for communication, confirmed that his degree has now been revoked entirely.
McConnellogue acknowledged that it was a strong move:
It’s as serious as we get here.
He added that no one he’s spoken with recently has heard of other instances when the University of Colorado has taken similar measures.
To me, we always have to take charges of research misconduct extremely seriously. It’s imperative that we maintain integrity in our research operation, and whether research issues are small or large, we’re going to look hard at them.
You can read the revocation resolution here. In it, the board writes:
The Board of Regents finds that Mr. Kadam was given adequate notice of the allegations of research misconduct made against him, that he was provided an adequate opportunity to contest the allegations of research misconduct during the investigative process, and that he has received an adequate opportunity to respond to the recommended revocation of his degree. The Board of Regents determines that Rajendra Kadam has received adequate due process.
The resolution followed a recommendation by the Investigation Committee, which identified 22 instances of falsification in Mr. Kadam’s Ph.D. thesis:
As such, the committee finds that the thesis is significantly impacted and, as such, cannot be considered to meet the requirements of a doctoral thesis – – in part because his thesis does not contain enough valid information to merit the PhD award. In addition, the Investigation Committee contends that it would not be appropriate to condone such unprofessional behavior by the award of a doctoral degree
The resolution also notes:
The Investigation Committee found that “Rajendra Kadam was solely responsible for his conduct and it is his conduct that led to the findings of Scientific Misconduct . The committee found no evidence that either [the supervising authority] or any other students or employees were aware of and/or participated in any activity amounting to Scientific Misconduct.”
According to the The Denver Post, no one else has been disciplined as a result of the misconduct.
McConnellogue told us such incidents help institutions understand ways to strengthen their research programs:
Certainly incidents like this are serious and they’re also opportunities for the universities to improve this process.
A September 2016 pharmaceutical research paper lists Rajendra S. Kadam as first author, and his affiliation at InnoPharma, a Pfizer company; we have confirmed that someone with that name does work there.
This isn’t the first time a scientist whose PhD was revoked ended up at Pfizer — Suvi Orr, who sued the University of Texas to keep her PhD, was also employed by the company.
So far, we’ve tallied seven retractions and three expressions of concern for Kadam.
Kadam was often referred to by colleagues as the “golden boy,” according to the institution’s report. In 2012, he received a symposium award from the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.
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