We knew that Wayne State University had investigated allegations of misconduct against Fazlul Sarkar, the scientist who is suing PubPeer commenters over criticisms of his work. We knew The Scientist had obtained a copy of the report, which concluded he had engaged in widespread misconduct, and he should retract more than 40 papers.
And now, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing PubPeer in court and has filed a motion to include the report as evidence in the case, we have a copy.
It’s a long read, but here are some highlights:
Several poor and/or irresponsible research practices appear entrenched in Dr. Sarkar’s laboratory … these include tailoring results toward specific conclusions, image manipulation, viewing figures and images as merely representative or irrelevant to experimental outcomes, and a reckless disregard of a meaningful use of control groups or control conditions … The Investigation Committee concludes that copying and re-using and manipulating images were accepted and practiced by many if not all lab members.
Even if there were no intent to deceive on Dr. Sarkar’s part — which, based on the evidence, the Investigation Committee finds difficult to believe — the level of carelessness needed to account for all the copying, manipulation, and re-labeling of images is so great as to define reckless on its own.
Apparently, Sarkar didn’t make it easy for the committee to investigate, as the report notes:
The Investigation Committee was able to find some original data — albeit by brute-force searching — that Dr. Sarkar and his team claimed they could not find. There was even one occasion where Dr. Sarkar submitted as replicated data, data that were actually original. This suggests that he and his team apparently do not know at this point what data are real and what are fabricated, and have no means to find out given that their lab notebooks are often functionally useless.
The process was protracted, as the report notes; the Investigation Committee met for between three and five hours nearly every week for two years, totaling approximately 90 sessions.
For more information on this case, check out our timeline.
Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.