Saturday, May 12, 2007

Purdue to further investigate bubble fusion work of Taleyarkhan

On Wednesday, May 9, 2007, Congressman Brad Miller sent to Martin C. Jischke, the President of Purdue University, a letter and an accompanying memorandum by his subcommittee’s staff that strongly criticized Purdue in its handling of the bubble fusion business (the subcommittee being the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology). [Copies of the letter and memo are available; note footnote 19 of the May 7 memo by subcommittee staff refers to a letter dated April 22, 2007 from Ken Suslick to Peter Dunn.]

Curiously, the one matter that had been investigated involved the OMISSION of Taleyarkhan's name from two supposedly independent papers. These independent experiments, performed in February 2004, were done using Dr. Taleyarkhan’s apparatus at Purdue, not at an independent laboratory, and one of the authors, Yiban Xu, joined Dr. Taleyarkhan’s group as a postdoctoral researcher a few months later. A second author, Adam Butt, a graduate student, also joined Dr. Taleyarkhan’s group. Mr. Butt had been added as an author to one of the papers a week before submission and was not aware that he was on the second paper until a week before it was presented at a conference. [IPBiz notes: recall that most authors on Hwang Woo Suk's second paper to the journal Science did NOT know they were co-authors until AFTER submission. recall also details of the Cha submission to Fertility & Sterility, wherein the actual author of the work was omitted and did not know of his omission until after publication.]

The Congressional memorandum cites "numerous failures" in how Purdue addressed concerns about Dr. Taleyarkhan’s research. It says that Purdue did not follow its procedures, that the inquiry was not thorough and that the inquiry committee appeared to ignore the university’s definition of research misconduct. [information from article by KENNETH CHANG in May 11 issue of NY Times, Purdue Will Reinvestigate Its Professor Who Claimed Desktop Fusion.]

An AP report by Rick Callahan begins: Faced with scathing criticism from a congressional panel, Purdue University has agreed to add at least one independent scientist to its latest inquiry of a nuclear scientist who claims he produced nuclear fusion in tabletop experiments.

Callahan quotes Taleyarkhan:

"I don't believe this renewed review is warranted but rather than argue and complain, we'll just go through this one more time with whoever is on the new committee," he wrote.

The memo of the subcommittee staff noted: "it is our opinion that the review was not thorough in that it never addressed the validity of the underlying research." This omission was "a missed opportunity to address a potential scientific integrity scandal." The memo refers to a letter of April 12, 2007 from Jischke to Miller.
The memo states that the inspector general of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) investigations allegations about funding through DARPA.

Footnote 6 refers to a fraud at the University of California at San Diego wherein a professor had put students' names on fraudulent papers. Science, 31 Oct. 1986, pp. 534-535 (involving "Slusky") [IPBiz notes that correct spelling is not one of the subcommittee's strengths. The fraud involved Robert Slutsky, and there were many "improper" co-authors. Look at


See also

A discussion of some of the earlier scientific papers (eg D Flannigan and K Suslick 2005 Nature 434 52) appears on a thread at
advanced physics forums.

For a discussion of the "personality conflicts" angle, see an article by journalandcourier:

The [Congressional] memo also suggests Mason tried to brush the allegations aside by calling them nothing more than personality conflicts in the Department of Nuclear Engineering.

"What you've got are really some individuals here who, for whatever reason, are pretty unhappy with each other and are going at it tooth and nail," Mason was quoted as saying in April of this year. "And they really like to use whoever they can as a scapegoat to make a point."

The memo, and a letter from committee chairman Brad Miller, D-N.C., urges Purdue to change its committee membership. The new committee contains people from the previous committees.

Footnote 25 of the memo, referencing a date Sept. 12, 2007 for a letter to Jamieson, probably is in need of correction.

Footnote 27 is in need of footnotes, and its accuracy has been challenged by Professor Lahey.

Given the errors in footnotes 6, 25, and 27, Congressman Miller has not gotten off to a good start in establishing his own credibility.