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Dealing with Suspicions of Misconduct - Case F2

Dr. Carlos Gonzalez is a well-known investigator at the peak of his career. He has a reputation for being brilliant, demanding, and intensely competitive. The university values him greatly and he receives offers to move to highly attractive positions elsewhere on a regular basis. His laboratory publishes on average 30 papers a year and he is always included as author.

One of Dr. Gonzalez's first year postdocs, Dr. Grace Hung, comes to him and says that a very important result recently published by his laboratory in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science was fraudulent. This paper has already received considerable attention.

Dr. Hung says the principal author, Dr. Edward Lansing, made up most of the data because a key assay was not working. This was discovered, she noted, when she tried to utilize the assay. Dr. Lansing has worked with Dr. Gonzalez for five years. The two have published several papers together and have become personal friends. Dr. Gonzalez hardly knows Dr. Hung.

Questions:

  1. How should Dr. Gonzalez respond to this complaint? How should he deal with:
    1. Dr. Hung?
    2. Dr. Lansing?
    3. the data that have now been called into question?
    4. the institution in which all three individuals work?
    5. the journal in which the possibly fraudulent data were reported?
  2. Assume Dr. Gonzalez is unresponsive to Dr. Hung's complaint. How might Dr. Hung follow up on her concerns?
  3. Assume that Dr. Gonzalez proceeds by asking Dr. Lansing obliquely about the assay used for the project, mentioning that Dr. Hung seems to have some kind of problem with it. In spite of Dr. Gonzalez's subtlety, Dr. Lansing suspects that this inexperienced postdoc has planted some serious suspicions in Dr. Gonzalez's mind. Since Dr. Lansing is confident of the accuracy of his work, how should he respond to Dr. Gonzalez? Should Dr. Lansing approach Dr. Hung, and if so, what should he say to her?
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