UCL finds researcher deliberately engaged in misconduct over paper

December 2, 2010

A former University College London researcher falsified data and sabotaged colleagues' experiments to cover his tracks, an investigation has concluded.

Jatinder Ahluwalia worked in the laboratory of Anthony Segal, Charles Dent professor of medicine at UCL, before leaving in 2007. He is now a senior lecturer in pharmacology at the University of East London.

In 2008, Professor Segal wrote to UCL's director of academic services alleging that Dr Ahluwalia had committed research misconduct while at the university.

The claim came in the wake of two papers reporting a failure to reproduce the results of a 2004 Nature article, of which Dr Ahluwalia was the first author; its authors were all from three UCL laboratories.

A formal UCL investigation concluded that it was beyond reasonable doubt that Dr Ahluwalia had "misrepresented" his experiments by deliberately altering the numbering of computer files containing results.

It also concluded, on the balance of probability, that he had used unreported chemicals to alter his results and had deliberately contaminated chemicals used in other researchers' experiments "so as to falsify the results of those experiments in order to conceal the falsification by him of the results of his own experiments".

The Nature paper was retracted last month, on the basis of both the failure to reproduce its results and the UCL investigation.

In the same issue, an editorial notes that this is the fourth retraction Nature published in 2010: an "unusually large number".

"Any lab with more than 10 researchers may need to take special measures if a principal investigator is to be able to assure the quality of junior members' work," it says.

Dr Ahluwalia did not sign the retraction and did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for UEL said it was reviewing the evidence in this case.



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