Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kristin-gate at the OHRI


Notice anything strange with these blots? Apparently the data on it was faked and photoshoped along with "19 panels of Western blot data, appearing in 11 figures in 3 publications" by a post-doc fellow who shared working space with some bayblab readers and contributors. The story is all over the news today as we learned that her employment with the OHRI was terminated. You can find coverage of the whole story in the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post. The OHRI is trying to do some damage control, and thankfully the fraud wasn't commited here in the Ottawa lab but during Kristin's PhD at the university of Pennsylvania. The Office of Research Intergrity has taken the following disciplinary actions:

"for a period of five (5) years, beginning on June 7, 2007:

(1) Dr. Roovers is debarred from eligibility for any contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the United States Government and from eligibility or involvement in nonprocurement programs of the United States Government referred to as ``covered transactions'' as defined in HHS' implementation of OMB Guidelines to Agencies on Governmentwide Debarment and Suspension at 2 CFR part 376, et seq.; and

(2) Dr. Roovers is prohibited from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS, including but not limited to service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant."

This is bad news for everybody involved, the university, the institute and the scientific community. How could such blatant fraud make it past peer review? I would hate to be one of the innocent co-authors. Science is stressful and sometimes frustrating, and there can be tremendous pressure to have experiments work, but I am still baffled by the extent of fogery in this case. Any thoughts on the subject?


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

First figure, panel C in the top left there is an obvious white line from the copying and pasting...

Anonymous said...

Jealous AC? Those blots sure look a lot cleaner than your IPs...

rob said...

Does this mean reviewers have to be digital image experts aswell? Although in addition to the above mentioned panel C the Raf-1 activity from the second figure Panel A and FRNK from panel B look like sloppy cut and paste. Even I have more photoshop skills than that.

Anonymous said...

i think jbc has a program to automatically detect these things but i'm not sure how universal it is. i think this case is particularly sad because of how uneccessary it was (ok fudging data is always unecessary and wrong but follow along . . .)-from what I can see, blots were doctored out of laziness or haste rather than because the desired result might have been different. this is supported by the fact that upon the retraction of Dr. Roovers papers (a well publicized event on nature news) experts in the field affirmed that they stood by the basic ideas generated. the only explanation i can imagine is that a scientist continually blurred the line about what was ethical to represent before finally crossing it-what a waste of talent-I guess it is a lesson to all of us to ALWAYS (no exceptions)be extremely rigourous in our representations and interpretations-otherwise we are wasting not only our own time and effort but the time and effort of countless others in our field as well as those depending on it.

Anonymous said...

The white line might be legitimate if the controls were just run in non-adjacent lanes.

There does seem to be another copy 'n' paste in the leftmost cyclin D1 photo in panel C of the first figure.

Something I just thought of: what about cutting out the image of a single band, then repasting it over the same image background, but with the contrast turned way down (or turning contrast way up in the band fragment)? You might be able to lower background a lot that way, without producing a visible line.

Anonymous said...

Real photoshop-saavy artists use layers to blend things. scientists could learn a thing or two from 4chan.

Anonymous Coward said...

The timing is really bad too. A recent poll in nature revealed that 9% of scientist have seen some kind of misconduct in the past three year (plagiarism, falsification), and that most of it doesn't get reported. It's one thing to self-plagiarize your own materials and methods, quite another to fabricate data.

I wonder where on that spectrum lies cherry picking results and ignoring "negative" evidence.

Dominic (aka Dr. B) said...

You would have thought that science publishing would be more cautious following the very public Hwang case (remember? The stem cells scandal...)

Photoshop fraud is nothing new, what surprizes me is how stupid you have to be to use the same picture without altering it.

Here is a link:
http://www.jcb.org/cgi/content/full/176/2/131

The Doc said...

I'm glad someone posted on this. I wasn't sure if this sort of topic would be too close to home, or would get us involved in the witch hunt.

Incidentally, the report which initially got her in trouble here at the OHRI is this one:
http://chronicle.com/free/2008/05/3028n.htm

What I don't understand is why you'd use photoshop to doctor this sort of result. Wouldn't it me much easier to just load up a whole pile of protein into the lanes you want it to be in?

Still, it's pretty shocking. And She doesn't seem to have learned, given that she freely chatted to the Chronicle of Higher Education. She claims that by cutting and pasting, she was making something that was real look better...

Bayman said...

"Ms. Miller wrote an editorial for Nature stressing that scientists should present their images without alterations, rather than thinking polished images will help them get published..."We like dirt—not all gels run perfectly," she says. "Beautification is not necessary. If your data is solid, it shines through."

Words to live by...

Lim Leng Hiong said...

As usual, the question is:

Personal ambition or environmental pressure?

Bayman said...

as usual, the answer is undoubtedly both....