PhD to be investigated amid further suspicion of research misconduct

Imperial College London has announced it is reviewing the award of a PhD to a former student after it emerged that the paper that formed the basis of his thesis is to be retracted.

August 26, 2011

Jatinder Ahluwalia is first author on the 2003 paper, “Activation of capsaicin-sensitive primary sensory neurons induces anandamide production and release”.

The Retraction Watch website reported this week that the Journal of Neurochemistry has agreed to a request by Dr Ahluwalia’s fellow authors to retract the paper after his former supervisor, Istvan Nagy, was unable to replicate his findings.

The paper had already been corrected in July 2010 on the basis of a supposed typo in the stated concentration of anandamide released by the neurons.

Last year a Nature paper written while Dr Ahluwalia was a postdoctoral researcher at University College London was retracted by his former boss, Anthony Segal, after a UCL committee found that he had manipulated his results and had probably interfered with colleagues’ experiments to cover his tracks. Dr Ahluwalia was first author of the paper.

It subsequently emerged that Dr Ahluwalia had been dismissed from the University of Cambridge’s PhD programme in 1997 after his supervisor suspected him of faking results.

In July he left the University of East London, where he had been a senior lecturer in pharmacology, following an internal investigation.

Imperial will convene a panel to review the award of his PhD in accordance with its policy for investigating allegations of research misconduct.

A spokesman for the university confirmed that the findings of the retracted paper formed the basis of Dr Ahluwalia’s PhD thesis.

“The college has therefore written to Dr Ahluwalia to notify him that it believes it has grounds to investigate the validity of the data in his PhD.

“It will be convening a panel to review the award in accordance with its policy for investigating allegations of research misconduct,” he said.

The spokesman was unable to give any indication about the timescale of the investigation.

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