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NRI UConn Researcher Conned U

Posted: Wednesday, 18 January 2012 14:07

NRI UConn Researcher Conned U

Jan 18 : Dr. Dipak Das, an NRI professor in the Department of Surgery and director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center, has been accused of 145 cases of fraud and incorrect reports during seven years of his studies on the health benefits of Resveratrol and stands to lose his job despite his denial of any fraud, claiming that the reported action was due to racist hatred.

An investigation lasting three years after receiving an anonymous complaint in 2008 claims potential irregularities in Das’s research on the health benefits of resveratrol in red wine and fabricated data in 145 separate research projects.

UConn Health Center has notified 11 scientific journals that have published his  studies suggesting  that resveratrol can prevent coronary heart disease or kill cancer cells. "While we are deeply disappointed by the flagrant disregard for the university’s code of conduct, we are pleased the oversight systems in place were effective and worked as intended," Philip Austin, interim vice president for health affairs, said in a statement. Thanking the anonymous tipper he said, "We are grateful that an individual chose to do the right thing by alerting the appropriate authorities. Our findings were the result of an exhaustive investigation that, by its very nature, required considerable time to complete."

University Center said there had been so many problems over so many years that the review board members "can only conclude that they were the result of intentional acts of data falsification and fabrication, designed to deceive". It said data was digitally altered, data from one experiment was used to justify findings in another, and controls from one experiment were used to denote another experiment's controls.

Spinning of data in the most favourable way and the questionable practice is quite common in research, say the psychologists- more than previously believed. In a study to be published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers surveyed more than 2,000 psychologists and found that many of them had admitted to resorting to potentially unsavoury practices, including selectively reporting studies that worked (50%) and even outright falsification of data (1.7%).

The report states that six other researchers were suspected at one point of having a role in the data manipulation. On the advice of the Office of Research Integrity and the office of the Connecticut Attorney General, the investigation focused specifically on Das. The six other researchers were referred to the health center’s research misconduct committee. The authorities say that they "are subjects of inquiry but to date there have been no findings against them."

According to the report, Das stated that he had no knowledge of any of the allegedly manipulated figures. Based on testimony of other Cardiovascular Research Center staff, the investigators found that the professor’s statement "lacks credibility." As senior author of the papers, the report states, he bears responsibility for any fabrication that occurred, and evidence "strongly suggests that Dr. Das himself was directly involved in fabricating figures for publication."

Das had been involved in several studies about resveratrol that is being marketed by pharma companies, though his direct involvement has not been proved. One such company, Resveratrol Partners, which markets a resveratrol-based dietary supplement called Longevinex, has said in a press release that "Dr. Das is attending a scientific conference in India and has not been able to respond to the allegations." Their website highlights some of his studies on the cardio benefits of resveratrol. In the press release, the company said that Dr. Das did not have any business relationship with the company and that other researchers have confirmed the value of Longevinex.

Accused claims racial hatred

The report quoted Dr. Das as saying he does not know who prepared the figures that appeared in the journal articles. It stated that he has provided "no substantive information" that could explain the research irregularities. In a document dated July 30, 2010, Dr. Das said the accusations against him are part of a campaign to rid the university health center of the Indian community.

"I became the Devil for the Health Center, and so did all the Indians working for me," he wrote. "The evidence for conspiracy and racial hatred is overwhelming." He also alleged that the stress of battling the university administration led to a brain hemorrhage and stroke.

Dismissal proceedings have also been launched against Das, who has been employed by the Health Center since 1984 and was granted tenure in 1993. Das earns a salary of $184,396. A UConn spokesman said he "remains employed by the UConn Health Center pending dismissal proceedings per university bylaws." Das could not immediately be reached according to a report

The incident may be an unfortunate aberration but is not going to shake the foundations of the research built over the years evidencing the positive effects of resveratrol on the heart and health benefits. Besides, the research carried out by Dr. Das focused on heart disease, but that's just one of the health problems being targeted with resveratrol. There's still a solid foundation for many of the compound's benefits, Joseph A. Baur, an assistant professor of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania, reportedly told CNN. "This will cause a little chaos," he says, but "research is not being brought to a screeching halt. The field will go on, even though this is something you never want to see."

In the meanwhile, one fervently hopes that Das gets fair treatment from the investigative team. He deserves to be ‘hanged’ if he is found guilty of the fraud but only after his side of the case is heard by the deciding authorities. It is not fair to blame the authorities to be racist and anti Indian but 6 members working with him for years being given a clean chit, does leave a whiff of doubt and nepotism in one’s mind. Read more: http://www.sfgate.com

       

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