University recommends researcher be fired after misconduct finding

Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson

The University of Gothenburg has requested the dismissal of a researcher who has been found guilty of scientific misconduct in seven articles.

The researcher, Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, is “guilty of research misconduct through intentional fabrication, falsification or suppression of basic material and deliberately abandoning good scientific practice in seven of the reviewed articles,” according to a press release from the University of Gothenburg (GU). Sumitran-Holgersson continues to insist any issues were the result of “unfortunate errors,” not misconduct.

As a consequence, GU vice-chancellor Eva Wiberg has:

initiated a labour law process against the professor, and asked that the National Disciplinary Offences Board (Statens ansvarsnämnd) examine a request for dismissal.

The press release from GU does not name the researcher, but Sumitran-Holgersson confirmed to Retraction Watch that she is the subject of the request:

My reaction to the verdict is that I take the full responsibility for a number of unfortunate errors, but that I unequivocally deny that any of these mistakes were willful or have improved the appearance of the papers in question. It is as yet too early to foresee which consequences the decision from the vice-chancellor may have. I am happy to note that my co-authors were not criticized.

GU’s release includes a statement from Wiberg:

Research misconduct is a very serious matter, and of course nothing we want to occur at our institutions. It is therefore important that misconduct is discovered, and that it has consequences for those responsible.

Some of Sumitran-Holgersson’s work described a procedure that should be familiar to readers for another reason — a trachea transplant seeded with the patient’s own stem cells, associated with another researcher who has also been found guilty of misconduct in Sweden, Paolo Macchiarini. In one now-retracted paper, Sumitran-Holgersson and her team report that a patient died from cardiac arrest following the operation.

Sumitran-Holgersson has been under investigation for years, after PubPeer users raised concerns about several of her articles. Last year, GU concluded that Sumitran-Holgersson and one of her co-authors had failed to follow proper ethical procedures in two papers. The latest verdict responds to additional allegations of research misconduct.

Earlier this year, an external probe determined that eight of Sumitran-Holgersson’s papers contained signs of scientific misconduct. The ethics panel, part of Sweden’s Central Ethical Review Board, also found evidence of problems within her laboratory environment.

The findings from GU concern seven articles, two of which have already been retracted. Sumitran-Holgersson is the only author in common to all:

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3 thoughts on “University recommends researcher be fired after misconduct finding”

  1. Why do you wrote “hat tip: Agnes Wold”? I did not supply this story to you. Please remove that remark

    1. The tweet (apparently by you), to which the “hat tip” acknowledgment links, links in its turn to what certainly appears to be the Swedish original of the English-language “press release from the University of Gothenburg (GU)” linked to in this blog post. Do you wish to distinguish your publishing your tweet to the world (including the editors of Retraction Watch) from “supply[ing] this story to” them? My understanding of the idiom “hat tip” (literally, lifting one’s hat to someone in thankful acknowledgement for some act of theirs) doesn’t support such a distinction.
      Is it possible that you have read into “tip” its other meaning (under the heading “tip, n.⁴” in the Oxford English Dictionary) of “A piece of useful private or special information communicated by an expert; a friendly hint”, with suggested etymology “perhaps < TIP v.¹, with the notion of tipping or lightly touching the arm or elbow of a person by way of a private hint, or < TIP v.⁴ in the phrase to tip (any one) a wink”? The OED confirms my understanding of “hat tip” under the heading “tip, n.&8309;“: “In figurative phr. a tip of the hat (or cap), an acknowledgement or mark of respect, in recognition of achievement, thanks, etc.”

    2. Thanks for your comment. We hat tip people who tweet items we pick up (linking to the tweet), as a way to thank them even if they didn’t send it to us directly, since it’s public. But we’re happy to remove it, at your request.

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