Demonstrating that scientific misconduct can happen anywhere, and not simply in one study, the case of Dr Ranjit Kumar Chandra is a case in point.
St. John’s, Nfld. [Newfoundland], may seem like an unlikely place for scientific scandal to brew, but in hindsight it appears, perhaps, the perfect place.
For almost three decades, Memorial University provided an out-of-the-way corner of the scientific world for the career of Dr. Ranjit Kumar Chandra to flourish.
Over the years, he became a world-renowned expert in the field of nutrition and immunology, was the recipient of the Order of Canada, and said to be a two-time Nobel Prize nominee, a man they called "the Jewel of Memorial."
But in the summer of 2002, Chandra packed up his office and quietly slipped into retirement. He had been accused of committing scientific fraud by one of the world’s most prestigious journals. For those who had followed his work over the years, it was a sad end to an otherwise remarkable career.
What follows is clear demonstration of the need for data and methodological transparency of the kind that Steve and Ross have been advocating for quite some time.
Part 1 on the investigation by CBC
As with Hwang woo Suk, Dr Chandra was a superstar researcher at his own hospital and had been showered with honors up to national level. Like Hwang, the critics were characterized as jealous or even mad. Certainly even the whistleblowers asked themselves searching questions about why they were challenging such a prominent person.
How can you question this guy: He’s world famous, he’s published dozens of studies and there were claims that he had been nominated for a Nobel Prize and he had been selected by the United Nations to set up a nutrition immunology centre in Newfoundland," Masor says. "He was the pride and joy of Canada. I mean this guy had a real reputation. So for anyone to challenge him and go against that reputation, I think, was pretty daunting."
But behind it all, was instutional reluctance of Memorial Hospital (Chandra’s employer) to deal with clear evidence of scientific misconduct, mostly out of fear of being sued, but also because of the fear of scandal:
"Universities have a conflict of interest here. In general, universities don’t want to discover fraud amongst their faculty because otherwise they look bad."
Roberts says: "At this very moment, Memorial University, I think, would have a well-deserved reputation as a place where you can get away with this kind of thing because Chandra got away with it, in spite of, you know, clear evidence that he was guilty."
A couple of interesting facts from this case.
1. The British Medical Journal insists that all data and methodology be made available regardless of its authorship:
"It is a condition of submitting a study to the BMJ that if we ask to see the original data, you have to produce it. And if you can’t, then I’m afraid the assumption is that probably this was invented."
2. By Canadian federal law, all data and methodologies must be available for 25 years after publication
In September 2001, the federal government made it a requirement that all researchers keep their data for at least 25 years and that it has to be available for examination.
Of course, for climate scientists to do that would be tantamount to "intimidation" and would have a "chilling effect" on science.
Hat tip to Gerald Machnee for bringing this to my attention