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To: Multiple recipients of list HUM-MOLGEN <HUM-MOLGEN@NIC.SURFNET.NL>
Subject: ETHI, SPEC: NIH Fraud
From: Hans Goerl <GENETHICS@delphi.com>
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 10:20:16 -0500

We have received multiple inquiries from people who were unaware of the
Collins/NIH situation.

Here are some excerpts from a NY TIMES article on the story.

Fraud Leads Scientist to Withdraw Research Papers on Leukemia


   Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the government's project to map all
human genes, said Tuesday that he was retracting five research papers on
leukemia in leading scientific journals because a junior colleague had
fabricated data.

   Upon learning of the problem in mid-August, Collins said in an interview,
 he "thought it was an isolated instance whereby a trainee in my laboratory

manipulated the data."

   But two weeks later, after examining the colleague's laboratory notebooks
 and testing material in the freezer, he said, "the significance and the

scope of the fabrication in this circumstance, of which I had not the
slightest idea, began to be very apparent."

   Two papers that Collins is retracting were published in 1995 and 1996 in
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the others appeared
 in three more specialized journals: Genomics; Molecular and Cellular

Biology, and Genes, Chromosomes and Cancer.

   But Collins said he was stunned in mid-August when an editor of a journal
 named Oncogene told him that an anonymous scientist who was reviewing an

unpublished manuscript that Collins and the student had submitted for
publication raised questions about data that "suggested intentional

   The reviewer's questions triggered Collins' initial investigation about a
 possibility that he said he had never considered.


   Collins said he "was constrained, and still am, from any kind of public
revelation" by the rules concerning cases of alleged scientific misconduct
that prohibit public disclosure until the formal investigation is completed.
 However, the rules allow scientists to make such disclosures to those with

"a need to know."

   Collins said he identified about 100 scientists in the field who had
written or attended meetings on the genetics of leukemia, and wrote them a
"Dear Colleague" letter on Oct. 1.

   Collins said he wanted to disclose the problem much earlier but that
lawyers and government officials advised him not to do so.

   Collins wrote that "many will wonder whether I as the research mentor was
 paying sufficient attention to this individual, if such deliberate and

systematic assaults on scientific truth were occurring."

   He said he had been "haunted since August about what could have been done
 to catch this sooner, and I do not have a good answer."

   Collins rejected the idea that closer supervision would have prevented
the problem because the trainee "got quite a bit of attention from me" and
with others in the laboratory.

   "My bottom-line answer is very unsatisfying, but there is no fail-safe
way to prevent this kind of occurrence if a capable, bright, motivated
trainee is determined to fabricate data in a deceptive and intentional way,
short of setting up a police state in your laboratory," Collins said.

   "The data he showed me every week looked absolutely wonderful, and some
of the things he did to fabricate experiments were quite creative," Collins

   "It rocks you down to your foundation to realize that an activity that
you value so much and people who you develop this scientific and intense
personal relationship in which you spend 12 hours a day together could be
contaminated in this way," Collins said.

 More on Dr. Francis Collins  from the University of Chicago Cancer Research


Copyright 1996 The New York Times

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