A Scientific Misconduct Oddity

May 10, 2010

A recent notice (NOT-OD-10-095) of scientific misconduct from ORI has a curious twist I’ve not seen before.

Scott J. Brodie, DVM, Ph.D., University of Washington: Based on the findings in an investigation report by the University of Washington (UW) and additional analysis conducted by ORI in its oversight review,
ORI found that Scott J. Brodie, DVM, Ph.D., former Research Assistant Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine, and Director of the UW Retrovirology Pathogenesis Laboratory, UW, committed misconduct in science (scientific misconduct) in research supported by or reported in the following U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) grant applications:
1 P01 HD40540-01 (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], National Institutes of Health [NIH])
5 P01 HD40540-02 (NICHD, NIH)
1 P01 AI057005-01 (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID], NIH)
1 R01 DE014149-01 (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research [NIDCR], NIH)
2 U01 AI41535-05 (NIAID, NIH)
1 R01 HL072631-01 (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [NHLBI], NIH)
1 R01 (U01) AI054334-01 (NIAID, NIH)
1 R01 DE014827-01 (NIDCR, NIH)
1 R01 AI051954-01 (NIAID, NIH).
Specifically, ORI made fifteen findings of misconduct in science based on evidence that Dr. Brodie knowingly and intentionally fabricated and falsified data reported in nine PHS grant applications and progress reports and several published papers, manuscripts, and PowerPoint presentations. The fifteen findings are as follows:
1. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure that was presented in manuscripts submitted to the Journal of Experimental Medicine and the Journal of Virology and in several PowerPoint presentations that purported to represent rectal mucosal leukocytes in some instances and lymph nodes in other instances.
2. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified portions of a three-paneled figure included in several manuscript submissions, PowerPoint presentations, and grant applications.
3. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure included as Figure 1N in American Journal of Pathology 54:1453-1464, 1999, three NIH grant applications, and several PowerPoint presentations.

PowerPoint presentations?
What the hell are those doing in there?
Don’t get me wrong, data faking is data faking. I’m not down with that at all. But given the length of the accusation findings in the Notice (there were 15 total listed) throwing in the extra bit about PowerPoint presentations is odd.
What’s next?
“Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure included in several manuscript submissions, grant applications, PowerPoint presentations, and described in email exchanges with collaborators, conversations in the hallway at meetings and private conversations with his graduate students”

13 Responses to “A Scientific Misconduct Oddity”

  1. becca Says:

    I’ve never read the scientific misconduct notices, so I have no basis for comparison. It seems to me a reasonable thing to include though. Afterall, it’s entirely possible a greater *number* of people were exposed to the faked data during public talks than during grant applications.

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  2. JohnV Says:

    I wonder if the recent email jihad being waged by the state of Virginia is causing the NIH to be more thorough about this sort of thing?
    That way the next reactionary AG with a bone to pick (about HIV in this case) can’t be like “OMG the NIH supported this data falsification”.

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  3. neurolover Says:

    My theory is that many of the counts are about falsification in grant applications & *submitted* versions of manuscripts, and that the offender might have argued that these falsifications were inadvertent (for example, that placeholder figures “accidentally” got submitted).
    There are a some examples of falsification in *published* manuscripts, but they may have wanted to bump up the number of falsifications to justify the punishment, and a powerpoint presentation, which is presumably *presented* leaves less room for arguing “accidental” duplication.
    Mind you, what I find weird about it is the reference to Powerpoint — what if the guy had used keynote in some of his presentations, then, would they have said Keynote & Powerpoint? I think the point they’re arguing is that the presentatios constituted some for of “publication”, not referencing powerpoint specifically.

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  4. queenrandom Says:

    I read it like neurolover, although it is odd. I assume A) they’re talking about a particular figure, ergo they can’t reference submitted abstracts and B) they’re only referencing things that they have physical proof of, so they’re not citing talks given at conferences or invited talks. It looks like CYA lawyer-speak to me. Not to say it isn’t weird, but it is what it is.

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  5. Pascale Says:

    I have read a fair number of these misconduct notices (is it anyone I know? will it screw up my science?) and cannot recall one that specified PowerPoint or presentations prior to this time. Were these presentations made available online or on a meeting CD or something? Otherwise, I consider most presentations too “ethereal” to constitute the sort of “paper-trail”* that usually gets you in trouble. You give a talk, collect more data, and change your perspective on something. That’s why the published paper is the coin of the realm in academia – it’s to science what the permanent record is to elementary school.
    *we really need to come up with a new term for “paper-trail” since most of our communications now exits as pixels on a screen or 1’s and 0’s on a server

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  6. Art Says:

    Can they nail you for “knowingly and intentionally” using an annoying and abusive color scheme and font.
    If they can start nailing people for knowingly and intentionally delivering an excessively boring PowerPoint presentation they might be on to something.

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  7. bioephemera Says:

    Just don’t falsify a Tweet. Then your career will be over FOR SURE!

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  8. Namnezia Says:

    In one of the other notices a graduate student is cited for falsifying data in her PhD thesis (and papers, etc.). Is your thesis considered a public document?
    http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-10-085.html

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  9. ginger Says:

    Well, it’s not unheard-of for people to put their slides from big meetings up at their lab websites after the fact. Maybe he did that?

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  10. I’ve been reading these announcements for years, and I’ve never seen them refer to Powerpoint before. And yes, a PhD thesis is for pretty much all purposes considered a publication.
    Wow! That bag of fuck sure was a busy fucking beaver, wasn’t he?
    (Fucking cat just farted nastily while I was typing this comment.)

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  11. neurolover Says:

    “Can they nail you for “knowingly and intentionally” using an annoying and abusive color scheme and font.”
    Yes. Be very careful.

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  12. ginger Says:

    I beg your pardon, CPP, he was a busy fucking Husky.

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  13. Lisa Says:

    Ms. NANCY GUNDERSON,
    Deputy Assistant Secretary
    Office of Grants and Acquisition Policy and Accountability
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 336-E
    200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20201

    April 3, 2014

    Dear Ms. Gunderson:
    Documents recently obtained through the University of Washington Office of Public Records show that the spoliation and withholding of evidence occurred during the investigation of Dr. Scott J. Brodie for alleged scientific misconduct. These recently produced documents show that data was deleted during the investigation from one of the key computers used by Dr. Brodie (hereinafter “SB Residence”). The data deletion occurred during the University of Washington’s investigation, and thus, predated the administrative law judge’s decisions, the decision to debar Dr. Brodie, and those of the federal courts in this matter. The spoliation of Dr. Brodie’s research records denied ORl, and Dr. Brodie key evidence.

    “Spoliation” refers to the destruction or material alteration of evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation which denies respondent access to evidence from which it could develop its defenses adequately” Henderson v. Tyrrell, SO Wash. App. 592, 604-07, 910 P.2d 522, 531-32 (1996); See also, Silvestri v. Gen. Motors Corp., 271 F.3d 583, 593-94 (4th Cir. 2001).

    DISCUSSION.
    In ORI’s investigation of misconduct the “[a]uthentication of a scientific image requires access to the original data.” ORI’s instructions to investigators emphasize that electronic media, such as the images from computer hard drives need to be “reflective of the actual results”, and “shown to have originated with a particular individual.” These
    instructions are part of the institution’s obligation, and that of ORI, to preserve all research records.
    See Office of Research Integrity, ORI “Forensic Images Samples”, 4th bullet point, for the quick examination of scientific images, available athttp://ori.hhs.gov/samples (last visited Jan. 29, 2013).
    http :/ /www. ohsu.edu/xd/research/upload/Integrity-in-the-Name-of-Research-PART-3.ppt
    (see Slide #3), http://www.upenn.edu/researchservices/NIH%20Presentations/Integrity%20in%20the%2
    0Name%20of’/o20Research%202010.ppt, (see Slide #52),
    http:/ /healthj oumalism.org/resources-tips-details.php?id=412, http://ori.hhs.gov/images/ddblock/sep vol17 no4.pdf, p.3, ORI and OHRP Compliance Oversight: Recent Cases and Initiatives, Health Care Compliance Association’s
    “RESEARCH Compliance Conference (Apr. 22,2010, audio mp3)

    Recent documents produced by UWOPR show that documents were apparently destroyed. Mr. Diem admits that a computer was purchased for Dr. Brodie; that the computer was not set up or used in the lab; and, that it was sent directly to Dr. Brodie’s home. Exhibit l, p.4. Mr. Diem also admits that the computer apparently was not returned to the lab “until after the investigation began.” !d. Mr. Diem was able to clearly identify the computer. Mr. Stensland, who worked with Mr. Diem, admits that the computer “did mysteriously appear in the lab after the investigation started.” Exhibit 1, p.

    In the December 3, 2003, email, Diem wrote:
    To all concerned:
    The computer with the Lab Med tags 1193702 and 30021731 was ordered specifically for use by Scott Brodie at home. When it arrived in the T-293X lab it was transported to Scott’s house without being set up or used in that lab. It did not return to that lab or to the Rosen lab until after the investigation began. We have subsequently deleted most of Scott’s files and have using it for general Office software purposes. Significantly, Mr. Diem admits that: “We have subsequently deleted most of Scott’s files …. “Exhibit 1, p.4.

    The acts of Mr. Diem and others caused Dr. Brodie actual prejudice in the defense of his case. The deletion of data from Dr. Brodie’s computer prevented him from having the opportunity to access data that he had prepared, and unlike the SB Home computer, had been in his exclusive control. The deletions also made it impossible to refute claims by Dr. Mullins that many of the questioned images found in Dr. Mullins grants came from Dr. Brodie.
    A review of the inventories by Dr. Brodie’s wife, who has been assisting her husband in this matter, discloses that there is no reference to the SB Residence computer identified by Mr. Diem. The UW 2003 report, and its 2004 errata, moreover, do not appear to reveal that the data on Dr. Brodie’s computer was deleted after the investigation began. See Declaration of Elizabeth H. Glazatcheff, attached.

    Neither you as the debarring official nor the ALJ was aware that the spoliation of evidence had occurred during UW’s investigation or that data from Brodie’s home computer, “SB Residence”, was deleted during the administrative proceedings. The evidence relied upon by the ALJ came from a computer identified as “SB Home”, which is not to be confused with the computer from which Dr. Brodie’s data was deleted.
    It is now clear from the UW public records responses in 2013 that Dr. Brodie’s requests for his data could not be fulfilled because the records were deleted by UW employees.

    CONCLUSION.
    Evidence critical to Dr. Brodie’s defense was deleted during the course of the investigation. The fact of the spoliation was not known to Dr. Brodie, ORI or the ALJ.
    Dr. Brodie, accordingly, was never given his entire computer generated data or research data for his defense. In turn, the ALJ was misled into believing that Dr. Brodie was provided all his information necessary to defend against the claims of misconduct.

    Dr. Brodie, requests that you reopen this matter and rescind the debarment of Dr. Brodie.

    Signed by Jack Young
    Counsel for Dr. Scott J. Brodie

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