Saturday, July 03, 2004

Time Magazine Highlights False Scientific Publication

A Jaroff piece in the July 1, 2004 issue of Time highlights the 2001 publication of an apparently fraudulent study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine (JRM) by three researchers at Columbia University. With its connection to the prestige of Columbia University and the JRM, the study was lauded in the press, printed in the New York Times, featured on ABC's Good Morning America and widely syndicated. In this, there is a similarity to the fraudulent work of Jan-Hendrik Schon, which was boosted by its connection to the prestige of Bell Labs and publication in the prestigious journals Science and Nature.

Dr. Bruce Flamm of the University of California/Irvine was skeptical. The principal author Daniel Wirth was not an M.D. (he has a law degree and a masters degree in parapsychology) had earlier published research articles claiming miraculous, supernatural healing. Flamm sent emails and critical letters to Dr. George Wied, the editor of the JRM, tried repeatedly to reach him by phone, and now, nearly three years later, has still not received a response.

Dr. Flamm also tried to contact the co-authors of the JRM article. He determined that one co-author, Dr. Kwang Cha, had left the university, and would not respond to inquiries about the publication. The other co-author, Dr. Rogerio Lobo, until recently chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, originally identified by the university as the teams leader, also refused calls for comment.

In the article in Time, Jaroff asks some pointed questions: How could Dr. Lobo, a respected scientist, have permitted the release of a flawed study co-authored by a medically-illiterate con man like Wirth? And why did the JRM's peer-review system fail, before publication, to detect the inconsistencies and unsound methodology in the in-vitro study? Who were the peers who vetted it? And why did both Dr. Lobo and Dr. George Wied consistently stonewall for nearly three years when challenged about the study?

There is a haunting feeling of deja vu to the earlier research frauds of Jan-Hendrik Schon of Bell Labs and Robert Slutsky of University of California of San Diego, wherein the prestige of famous institutions and high-profile journals improperly substituted for reasonable analysis of work that ultimately proved to be fabricated out of thin air.

Can it still happen? Sadly, yes. Additional issues are developed in Lawrence B. Ebert, "There you go again," Intellectual Property Today, pp. 34-36 (July 2004).


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