Imperial professor dismissed for research misconduct

Prolific cancer researcher Eric Lam has been fired after investigation found evidence of data falsification and manipulation

June 1, 2021
Imperial College London
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A leading cancer researcher has been sacked by Imperial College London after an independent investigation identified what it called a “clear case of research misconduct”.

The dismissal of Eric Lam, who led a team of about 18 researchers at Imperial, where he was professor of molecular oncology, follows the retraction of a 2018 paper published in the Nature-branded title, Cell Death & Disease.

According to the retraction notice, which was posted on 25 May, the paper was retracted at the request of Imperial after an investigation that found “a number of concerns with this article”, including that some results presented in Western blot panels “have been altered to bring them more in line with other test results” and that “underlying data for [an experiment] has been manipulated”.

There was also evidence that the Western blots and other results presented in various charts as “from contemporaneous experiments” had, in fact, “been performed by different researchers more than a year apart”, the notice says.

According to Retraction Watch, which first published news of Professor Lam’s dismissal, his work has been subject to scrutiny on PubPeer for years after a 2018 post alleged that images from a 2003 paper by him and others published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry were suspicious.

A spokesman for Imperial told Times Higher Education that it had “commissioned a thorough independent investigation following allegations of research misconduct against Dr Eric Lam”.

“We found a clear case of research misconduct, and Dr Lam has been dismissed from Imperial College London. We contacted the journal Cell Death & Disease to retract this paper and informed Dr Lam’s funders of our decision,” he said.

According to the retraction notice, two of Professor Lam’s co-authors from Imperial agreed with the retraction, while the other co-authors on the paper, including several from Imperial and Thailand’s Khon Kaen University, did not.

Asked whether the university had considered allegations related to other papers by Professor Lam, who has published more than 250 times, Imperial said that “the panel considered a number of allegations relating to several papers by Dr Lam, but only found evidence of research misconduct in relation to this paper and only sought this retraction”.

THE was unable to contact Professor Lam, who according to his ORCID profile is now a visiting professor of oncology at Sun Yat-sen University, in China’s Guangdong province.

The dismissal brings to an end a glittering scientific career in the UK, which saw Professor Lam and his research group of about 18 researchers handed Breast Cancer Campaign’s Research Team of the Year award in 2014 in a ceremony at the House of Lords for a study on why women with breast cancer can become resistant to chemotherapy.

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