A well-respected cancer institute affiliated with Harvard University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has announced that it will retract six studies and correct 31 others after a blogger exposed dozens of papers for manipulating scientific images. The blogger, molecular biologist Sholto David, alleges that several authors of these papers have engaged in scientific misconduct, leading to false results and conclusions in their research.
This news comes at a time when Harvard University is facing multiple allegations of plagiarism, leading to the resignation of its former president Claudine Gay. Gay is just one of the authors implicated in the investigation, along with three of her colleagues at Dana-Farber.
According to David's blog, For Better Science, some of the images used in these publications were manipulated through Photoshop or copied and pasted to falsify data. These papers were published between 1999 and 2017, raising questions about the integrity of the research conducted at the institute.
One particular paper co-authored by Dr. Irene Ghobrial, who holds a faculty position at Harvard Medical School, came under fire for its questionable images. David argues that this paper, published in Nature Immunology in 2003, helped build Ghobrial's career but may not have contributed significantly to the scientific community.
David also raises concerns about the ethical implications of Ghobrial's research, as she was granted approval to aspirate bone marrow from both cancer patients and healthy volunteers for her study. However, the images used in the paper show evidence of duplications, calling into question the accuracy and validity of her results.
The institute's current president and CEO, Dr. Laurie Glimcher, is also under scrutiny for four of her papers that are currently being investigated. David argues that her career was built on these fraudulent papers, including one published in Nature Immunology in 2012, which includes three obvious duplications.
The investigation at Dana-Farber comes at a time when the public is becoming increasingly aware of fraud, plagiarism, and falsification in elite academia, as highlighted by conservative activist Christopher Rufo. Rufo, who helped break the story of Gay's plagiarism at Harvard, believes that there is more to come and calls for Americans to stop subsidizing such unethical practices.
Dana-Farber maintains that the presence of image discrepancies in a paper does not necessarily mean that the author's intent was to deceive. According to Barrett Rollins, the institute's research integrity officer, errors can often be unintentional and do not necessarily amount to misconduct.
However, the institute is taking these allegations seriously and is conducting a thorough review of more than 50 papers written by three additional researchers - Dr. Kenneth Anderson, Dr. Irene Ghobrial, and Dr. William Hahn.
Harvard University, on the other hand, has remained mum on the issue and did not respond to a request for comment. With the credibility of one of the world's most prestigious universities at stake, it remains to be seen what actions will be taken by both Harvard and Dana-Farber to address these serious allegations of scientific misconduct.