Data Falsification/Reply to Colleague

Ferland Louis H. ferlandl at ERE.UMontreal.CA
Fri Dec 29 03:28:05 EST 1995

On 27 Dec 1995, Alexander Berezin wrote:

> Date: 27 Dec 1995 10:17:00 -0800
> From: Alexander Berezin <berezin at>
> To: bioforum at
> Subject: Data Falsification/Reply to Colleague
> 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.

Gee, Alex, now you sound like Valery Fabrikant. You scare me all the more!

(With apologies to non-Canadians who don't know Dr. Fabrikant's gory 
story. Basically, he was a Engineering professor in a Montreal University 
who thought the world was a rotten place and everybody else out there was 
trying to get him. He ended up murdering four people in his department, 
and is now serving a life sentence. Thanks heavens we recently and 
finally got a reasonable gun control law passed in this country...) 

Next time you or someone you love gets sick (and you don't have a 
faith-healer handy...) and you do get help from qualified medical 
personel, remember your treatment was the fruit of a "largely immoral, 
corrupted (sic), exploitive (sic) and self-propelled (?) system".

> **********************************
> Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
> Department of Engineering Physics
> McMaster University, Hamilton,
> Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
> tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546
> **********************************
> On Wed, 27 Dec 1995 an153878 at 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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Dr. Louis H. Ferland
Centre de Recherche, Hotel-Dieu de Montreal
Dept de Nutrition, Universite de Montreal
Phone: (514) 843-2757     FAX: (514) 843-2719

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