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Neuroscientist Guilty of Misconduct

Megan Scudellari

A University of Wisconsin stroke researcher faked data in two and will retract two published papers. So what is his punishment? Find out...

The US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has found Rao M. Adibhatla, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, guilty of falsifying data in two publications funded through public grant money and three unfunded grant applications. The finding was announced Friday, January 25, 2013, in a Federal Register notice.

The US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has found Rao M. Adibhatla guilty of falsifying data in two publications. Source: University of Wisconsin, Brain Research (background)

According to the notice, Adibhatla, who studies stroke and brain injury, rearranged bands on Western blot images in a 2006 paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and a 2007 paper in Brain Research analyzing lipid levels in a rat model of stroke (1,2). He also perpetuated his fraud by representing a single falsified Western blot as data from five replicate Western blots in a bar graph. As a result, the papers’ findings "cannot be substantiated by the actual experiments,” according to the ORI. Adibhatla also used the falsified Western blot images and bar graph data in three unfunded grant applications.

The misconduct was uncovered at the university and investigated for several years before the results were sent to the ORI for review, said Terry Devitt, a spokesperson for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Whenever something like this comes up, you want to be very careful and make sure that you are not only diligent in ensuring the integrity of the research but extending due process to the individuals involved,” said Devitt. “That is what happened here.” No other members of the lab were implicated in the fraud, said Devitt.

Adibhatla has voluntarily agreed to retract both papers and will be excluded for two years from contracting or subcontracting for any government agency and three years from serving on any US Public Health Department advisory or peer review committees.

Adibhatla, currently a non-tenured Assistant Professor at the university, did not respond to email requests to comment. He is currently in the last few months of his contract with the university, and that contract will not be renewed said Devitt. Adibhatla has been at the university since 1995, according to his CV.


1. Adibhatla, R.M., J. Hatcher, E. Larsen, C. Chen, D. Sun, and F. Tsao. CDP-choline significantly restores phosphatidylcholine levels by differentially affecting phospholipase A2 and CTP: Phosphocholine cytidylyltransferase after stroke. J. Biol Chem, 281:6718-25.

2. Adibhatla, R.M., and J.F. Hatcher. 2007. "Secretory phospholipase A2 IIA is up-regulated by TNF-[alpha] and IL-1[alpha]/[beta] after transient focal cerebral ischemia in rat." Brain Res 1134:199- 205.

Keywords:  research misconduct