The bad and the ugly

In this session of “preparing future professoriate” course, we were asked to look into some case reports of the office of research integrity (ORI), to get to know about “the ugly” in academia. Being academic, we expect everyone to hold high moral and ethical standards, particularly because a big portion of what we do is to advance and educate. Unfortunately, it is not always the case, as seen in on ORI website (https://ori.hhs.gov/).

I looked at Dr.Deepti Malhotra case, where she engaged in research misconduct at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of public health. Allegedly, she falsified and fabricated data and published the results as part of her Ph.D. thesis and four journal papers. The falsified data ranged from several figures that were manipulated to yield certain results or to be evidence for a lab experiment that was unrelated. In addition, the statistical analysis and related text were fabricated.

Based on the website information, Dr.Malhorta entered a voluntary exclusion agreement for a period of 4 years at which she will exclude herself from contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the United States, as well as serving in any advisory capacity to public health service (PHS).

While looking at the penalty, I could not help myself but think about what will happen to her reputation? For sure, four years of voluntary exclusion does not look particularly devastating (as she might be able to work in a different sector) but I assume that the misconduct will follow her career to some extent. I was also wondering if other reputable journals will accept her future publications; When you have four papers retracted because falsification, that will surely hurt your career. Did she think about possible outcomes? or was it more of like ” no one will notice these details”? writing a thesis and four papers will give you enough time to weigh all your options and yet, somehow she was convinced that this was the right call.

I ask myself which one is bad and which one is the ugly: wasting government grants on wrong researches that will not help anyone, or not caring to misguide others on their research?

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