Prominent Indian-American researcher under probe
A prominent Indian-American researcher at University of Texas is under scanner for alleged falsification and fabrication in various publications regarding cancer fighting properties of plants.
According to the University's M D Anderson Cancer Center, officials, Dr Bharat B Aggarwal's studies are being reviewed following federal notification alleging fraud by academic whistle-blowers in what has grown to 65 published papers, one of which has been retracted by the journal that published it.
Dr Ray DuBois, provost M D Anderson said federal guidelines preclude the centre from providing details about the review, now several weeks old.
He said he hoped it can be finished in a few weeks.
Aggarwal's highly influential research into the supposed anti-cancer mechanisms of plant-derived chemicals — particularly curcumin — has laid the groundwork for ongoing clinical trials.
One concerning curcumin's anti-cancer properties has been cited by academic researchers in 700 subsequent journal articles, according to Retraction Watch, which has blogged about the matter.
The US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Research Integrity (ORI), the government watchdog organisation for federally funded research, would not confirm whether it is overseeing the matter.
DuBois confirmed it was the ORI that notified the Centre about the fraud allegations.
Aggarwal was not available for comment.
However, when contacted by Retraction Watch by phone at his office, Aggarwal said M D Anderson has been looking into it and they will tell everybody what it is all about.
I think that somebody out there is putting this whole thing together and their mind is made up, he was quoted as saying.
However, Aggarwal, chief of the center's cytokine research section, denied that any retractions of his papers were forthcoming.
He refused to comment on whether officials had confiscated his computer, as a commenter to a blog claimed.
Allegations of misconduct by Aggarwal have surfaced recently on at least two blogs.
He has also published on resveratrol, the component in red wine that some researchers claim has anti-aging and other healthy properties.
One of his papers on the subject has been cited 370 times.
He has also edited a book on the topic that included a contribution from Dipak Das, the UConn researcher found to have committed 145 counts of scientific misconduct.
Aggarwal has published more than 600 papers in peer-reviewed international journals and has also received numerous awards.
Meanwhile, the matter is the latest of a recent spate of academic misconduct allegations internationally, one of which featured two M D Anderson professors providing the evidence of errors in a Duke University cancer researcher's work.
Many of the accusations of fraud are surfacing on sometimes anonymous academic whistle-blower websites.
In Aggarwal's case, images of his study slides alleged to have been manipulated are posted on a German blog called Abnormal Science and one of a number of untitled blogs run by an anonymous Japanese researcher.
The whistle-blowers allege Aggarwal manipulated his images - adding or subtracting features, cropping, stretching, rotating, flipping horizontally or vertically - to leave the impression the same ones represented different experimental conditions.