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Cancer Postdoc on Probation for Falsifying Data

06/05/2012
Jesse Jenkins

A former postdoc at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School who confessed to splicing together Western blots has been put on probation by the federal government.

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A former postdoc at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Harvard Medical School who deliberately fabricated data in federally funded lung cancer research has been put on probation by the government.

The postdoc, Jian Ma, fabricated images in a manuscript submitted in 2008 for publication in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, according to a U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) official notice of research misconduct that was published last week in the Federal Registry. The manuscript was originally titled “TSC1 loss synergizes with KRAS activation in lung cancer development and confers rapamycin sensitivity.”

A former postdoc at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School who deliberately fabricated data in federally funded lung cancer research has been put on probation by the government. Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital





Prior to its scheduled publication date of January 2009, one of Ma’s co-authors reportedly became suspicious of the data and withdrew the paper. Following the withdrawal, BWH and Harvard Medical School conducted a joint internal investigation into Ma’s research. In the end, the institutes found that Ma was guilty of research misconduct and reported their findings to the ORI.

As a result, the ORI placed Ma on probation for a period of three years effective May 31, 2012. During this period, Ma must be supervised when involved in any federally funded research project and is prohibited from acting in an advisory capacity to the U.S. Public Health Services-supported research.

“We did find research misconduct and reported our findings to the ORI. We concur with the findings and administrative actions put forward by the ORI,” said BWH director of public affairs Dinah Vaprin in a statement released by the institute.

The manuscript’s lead author Kwok-Kin Wong, a researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, released a statement that explained that Ma’s colleagues noticed irregularities with one of the Western blots in the submitted manuscript. “When we asked the postdoctoral fellow to show us the original film for this piece of data, he confessed to splicing the figure together from several blots,” Wong said in the statement.

John Dahlberg, director of the ORI’s division of investigative oversight, explained that ORI initially attempted to contact Ma to reach a voluntary agreement, but Ma did not respond. A formal charge letter was issued to Ma’s last known address in April 2012. After 30 days without a response from Ma, the ORI’s determination was made final.

“He admitted the misconduct in 2009 to his supervisor and said that he just wanted to get the episode behind him. The problem is that he then disappeared,” Dahlberg said.

Since the discovery of Ma’s fabrication, his colleagues redid and carefully reanalyzed the experiments conducted for the unpublished manuscript, according to Wong. In 2010, the study was published in Oncogene under a revised title and with Ma listed as the second author (1).

References

  1. Liang, M.-C. C., J. Ma, L. Chen, P. Kozlowski, W. Qin, D. Li, J. Goto, T. Shimamura, D. N. Hayes, M. Meyerson, D. J. Kwiatkowski, and K.-K. K. Wong. 2010. TSC1 loss synergizes with KRAS activation in lung cancer development in the mouse and confers rapamycin sensitivity. Oncogene 29(11):1588-1597.

Keywords:  research misconduct