Data Falsification/Reply to Colleague

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Wed Dec 27 13:17:00 EST 1995


Dear Anonymous Colleague:

No, I don't request my anonymity and will sign my
reply - by a simple reason that I already did post
enough, so further postings unlikely change too much
in my personal case. I certanly don't claim any
heroism for signing - and I do appreciate your courage,
as posting your story, even anonymosly you are assuming
some risk of been identified by some over-zealot
(my prays that they won't get you !). 

You probably saw many posters here from people who
use whatever irrelevancies they can find to defent the 
status-quo, anonymous peer review (APR) system 
(institutionalized secrecy in science, 'legal libel')
and the model of 'competition' in science. They do it
because either they personally benefit from such a system
or have ingranted belief system that the prime classification
of this world is on 'winners and loosers'. They don't
understand (and apparently can't) alternative viewpoints,
e.g. seeing science as a venture of human cooperation and 
selfless sharing rather than dogs'fight. Correspondingly, 
they deny (usually with amazingly poor logic) that the issue 
of APR (and granstsmanship secrecy) has much to do with 
coercion to data falsification, dirty political tricks, 
eradicating competitors, etc. Then they attempt to 
'solve' the problem by establshing offices of Research
Ethics, Misconduct allegations (or whatever thay may 
call them), not getting to the point that is about as
efficient as having a 'moral code office' inside
Al Capone gang.
    
Thank you very much for posting your observations.
The fact that you posted them anonymously is a clear 
illustration of the oppressiveness and intimidativeness 
of the system which will not (and can't) be resolved 
until the criminal practice of APR remains in place for
grant awards. (despite that you will likely see further 
posters denying or downplaying this link).   

I can confirm (though unable to demostrate the proofs)
that your poster is far from an isolated opinion - I got 
several (private) messages from people with more-or-less 
similar stories. In fact, bending and trimming research 
data, interpretations, etc to look research more 'fundable' 
is far from exceptional and seems to be on a fast move
forwarward. 

Original idea of APR and 'competition' model was, perhaps,
well intended - to assure quality control, encouragement of
the 'best' and eradication of 'bad'. As it almost invariably
happens with best-intended philosophies, the reality of
human nature and other factors turned the best intentions
into the opposite and as a result we have a largely immoral,
corrupted, exploitive and self-propelled system the only 
tangible benefits of which stem from the fact that no system 
can completely suppress people's honesty and dedication and
some good findings and breaktrhoughs (in biomedical sciences,
as well as in others) are occasinally achieved IN-SPITE of
the APR/grantsmanship system rather than because of it.

**********************************
Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
Department of Engineering Physics
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546
e-mail: BEREZIN at MCMASTER.CA
**********************************

On Wed, 27 Dec 1995 an153878 at anon.penet.fi wrote:

> 
> I have been employed by two separate, very small biotech
> companies in the San Francisco Bay Area in which at various
> times I have been asked to falsify data that was being collected
> in order to submit an IND (Innovative New Drug Application)
> to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). I must post
> anonymously because in no way do I want these experiences
> associated with my career.
> 
> I hold a Bachelor's Degree in Molecular Biology and have
> been employed as a Research Associate on both occasions
> which these incidents occurred. The first time I was shocked.
> It was quite an eye-opening experience to find out that
> my PhD scientist superiors weren't really scientists after
> all, but science fiction novelists, selling their claims to
> the FDA in order to milk the investors that made all of our jobs
> and paychecks possible. They wanted me to fabricate materials,
> methods, results and conclusions in my lab notebook for
> experiments they could not afford to have performed!
> 
> It was difficult for me hang around there much longer, so I
> decided to move on. My next employer was about the same size
> company, say 50 employees average. Going into my sixth
> month there, I was informed that I would be transferred to
> a project where my job would depend upon me reproducing the
> data of another associate whose work had never been shown to
> be reproducible, yet their data supported the efficacy of
> the experimental drug being tested. I was very suspicious.
> Aren't standards borne from reproducibility? I pointed out
> that the person's work was not of a reproducible nature and
> suggested my results would come from the experiments I performed 
> rather from the results of an associate. Within a week, this company
> fired me, without giving me a reason. They actually asked me
> to resign, which I refused; I needed my unemployment benefits.
> 
> I am wondering how common it is in the biotech industry to
> encounter data falsification. Has anyone else out there
> encountered it? Does anyone think the FDA would lift their
> eyebrows if they were to read this post? Would the FDA even
> be interested in knowing the names of my employers?  What are
> the legal implications of being employed by a company that 
> submits falsified data to the FDA? What are the legal implications
> of being named a co-author on a publication which contains
> fabricated data? How difficult is it to prove allegations like
> this?
> 
> Thanks for any helpful discussion or suggestion.
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
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