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Vol 38  No 10
February 23, 2006


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Memorial responds to coverage about Chandra

Media reports incomplete

Memorial University has held a series of internal meetings in the wake of a CBC-TV national news story that raised questions about the research of former faculty member Dr. Ranjit Chandra. The meetings were organized by the university’s senior executive and were intended to provide a briefing on the Chandra case, answer questions and receive suggestions for the next steps to be taken in the matter.

A former Faculty of Medicine member and former Janeway Hospital employee, Dr. Chandra was accused of research misconduct twice in the past 13 years ­­ in 1993 and again in 2001.

President Axel Meisen met first with faculty and researchers in the Faculty of Medicine on Feb. 6. He was joined by Dr. Eddy Campbell, vice-president (academic); Dr. Chris Loomis, vice-president (research); and Dr. Jack Strawbridge, director of faculty relations and spokesperson on the Chandra matter.

Other briefings were held with Sir Wilfred Grenfell College’s Academic Council, the Marine Institute’s senior management group, the university’s senior academic and administrative group and the Senate. An open forum on research integrity was held in St. John’s on Feb. 15. Over 60 faculty, staff and students turned out to hear Dr. Meisen detail the university’s handling of the Chandra case and reaction to the media report aired by CBC. He and colleagues also heard comments from the audience on the matter generally and more specifically suggesting how to ensure that a similar incident does not happen again.

One of the more problematic suggestions made in the three-part CBC TV special, titled The Secret Life of Dr. Ranjit Chandra, was that the university took little or no action in regard to allegations of research fraud levelled against Dr. Chandra. University officials promptly issued a public statement which countered this suggestion, noting that “Memorial University has always acted proactively in matters of research integrity. The university investigates or assists others in investigating such allegations and, where there is proof of fraud, the university takes immediate action.

“The case of Dr. Chandra was no different,” the statement continued. “However, in this case, with Dr. Chandra’s lack of co-operation [in providing his research data], developing a body of evidence that would support a finding of fraud and warrant discipline proved to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.”

Dr. Meisen’s overview presentation also stressed that in every instance where Dr. Chandra’s research was called into question, Memorial University took immediate action. He said that this crucial information was made available to the CBC reporter, but was not used in the series, leading to an incomplete account of the matters relating to Dr. Chandra.

In a joint letter circulated to the university community and to alumni, the president and the vice-presidents said that as a result of new information revealed in the CBC broadcasts and their own assessment of the situation, they have “decided to undertake a thorough analysis of the investigations that were conducted, the effectiveness of the actions flowing from the investigations and any other related issues.” They have indicated that the analysis will be directed by an expert in research integrity and practices.

In addition to analyzing the specific situation at Memorial University, the letter indicated that Memorial will “engage national and international research communities in the ongoing quest to ensure research integrity. Because research in all its forms is fundamentally about trust and integrity and because other universities have also struggled with similar cases, we pledge to pursue the further development of a national strategy on research integrity.”

To help counter the erroneous impression left by the CBC the National story, Memorial is communicating with alumni, with research partners, donors and with friends of the university on this matter. Additionally, the university has created a website where visitors can read the university’s statements, see the university’s current and more stringent research policies, and view articles about the issue of research integrity, including interviews with some Memorial University researchers on the issue of research integrity. The website is located at www.mun.ca/marcomm/chandra.php.

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