Cardiff dean's laboratory under investigation once again after fresh misconduct allegations

Cardiff University is to investigate multiple fresh allegations of research misconduct relating to papers produced in the laboratory of its dean of medicine.

August 9, 2012

Six papers produced in the laboratory of Paul Morgan (referred to in his publications as B. P. Morgan) will be examined by the institution. Professor Morgan is an author on all the papers and the corresponding author of three of the six.

Allegations that images had been manipulated in four of Professor Morgan's papers, published between 2006 and 2012, first appeared last month on the Science Fraud website.

Carole Evans, director of Cardiff's governance and compliance division, confirmed to Times Higher Education last week that, following an initial consideration of the allegations, the university had decided to establish a screening panel to undertake "a preliminary evaluation of the available evidence" in relation to the allegations.

She also confirmed to a pseudonymous whistleblower known as Clare Francis that the university would examine claims of image manipulation in two other papers.

The announcement comes less than a year after another paper from Professor Morgan's lab was retracted from The Journal of Immunology.

This followed an inquiry by Cardiff that concluded that the paper's corresponding author, Rossen Donev, had been solely responsible for inappropriately manipulating images - although the retraction notice, reproduced on the Retraction Watch website, said that the paper's findings had been "independently verified".

Dr Donev, now a lecturer at Swansea University, is an author on all but one of the papers currently being examined. He admitted that he had made mistakes in relation to the previous findings, but he also told Retraction Watch at the time that Cardiff had concluded that there had been "no intent to deceive or perpetrate fraud". He also said that no more papers would be retracted.

Cardiff has also asked Ms Francis for more details of her allegations regarding a further three papers published by Professor Morgan between 2003 and 2006, none of which feature Dr Donev.

Ms Francis has written to a number of the editors of the journals in which the papers under investigation were published.

One of those, Julio Licinio, editor of The Pharmacogenomics Journal and director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University, said he had raised questions with Professor Morgan about images in one of his papers, although he warned against "premature assessments".

Professor Morgan, who is also a member of the Medical Research Council's governing council, did not respond to THE's request for comment.

However, in an earlier email to Ms Francis, seen by THE, he rejected her allegations.

"I have made major contributions over the years and am, for good reason, held in high esteem in the field...I share your passion for good science and have been devastated to be accused of bringing science into disrepute. I have always done my best to ensure the quality of work done in my lab and am proud to see reagents and methods we have developed used widely in the community. I have nothing to hide and nothing to apologise for," he said.

A spokesman for the Wellcome Trust, which funded some of the papers under suspicion, said: "We expect Cardiff University to investigate the allegations and report its findings to us."

paul.jump@tsleducation.com.

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