Resveratrol fraud case update: Dipak Das loses editor’s chair, lawyer issues statement refuting all charges

http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/resveratrol-fraud-case-update-dipak-das-loses-editors-chair-laywer-issues-statement-refuting-all-charges/

Many Retraction Watch readers will now be familiar with the case of Dipak Das, the resveratrol researcher about whom the University of Connecticut issued a voluminous report yesterday – summary here — detailing 145 counts of data fabrication and falsification. This has been a fast-moving story, so we wanted to highlight a number of updates to our original post, and offer a few more.

First, we have confirmed with publisher Mary Ann Liebert this morning that Das has been relieved of his duties as co-editor in chief of Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. He had shared that post with Chandan Sen, and his name as been removed from the masthead of that journal. Here’s a statement from the publisher:

Antioxidants and Redox Signaling (ARS) is in its 16th consecutive year of publication and has an impact factor of 8.209. Although Dr. Das was listed as Co-Editor, he reviewed only 1 or 2% of the articles and did not have decision-making responsibility on the journal. Yesterday, I advised Dr. Das that he was being dismissed from his position. The integrity of ARS is of the very highest priority to the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Dr. Chandan Sen, who has been the driving force of the journal since its inception. Dr. Sen’s Editorial concerning this matter will be posted on our website today and in the official journal ASAP. A formal retraction of two articles coauthored by Dr. Das will also be published and uploaded to Medline.

And here is the editorial, which notes the two studies that will be retracted:

Commitment to Intellectual Honesty and Personal Responsibility

Chandan K. Sen

January 11, 2012

Scientific integrity represents the core of the research enterprise and the sharing of scientific information. It is this commitment to intellectual honesty and to responsible conduct and reporting of research that propels the successful advancement of knowledge. This afternoon I received a notification from officials of the University of Connecticut indicating that their investigation on research misconduct has found Antioxidants and Redox Signaling (ARS) Co-editor Professor Dipak K. Das guilty of fabrication and falsification of data. To demonstrate its commitment to protecting the integrity of science, ARS has terminated Dr. Das’s position as Co-editor effective today. The report on findings of the investigation has identified that two articles published in ARS by the Das laboratory suffer from fabricated data.1,2 Both articles have been retracted effective today. Formal retraction notices will be issued on the Publisher’s website (www.liebertonline.com/ars) and published in the Journal imminently. These actions reinforce the high standards necessary to advance the science that underpins the value that ARS brings to its community.

References

Malik G, Gorbounov N, Das S, Gurusamy N, Otani H, Maulik N, Goswami S, Das DK. Ischemic preconditioning triggers nuclear translocation of thioredoxin and its interaction with Ref-1 potentiating a survival signal through the PI-3-kinase-Akt pathway. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2006; 8(11-12):2101-2109.
Muinck ED, Nagy N, Tirziu D, Murakami M, Gurusamy N, Goswami SK, Ghatpande S, Engelman RM, Simons M, Das DK. Protection against myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury by the angiogenic Masterswitch protein PR 39 gene therapy: the roles of HIF1alpha stabilization and FGFR1 signaling. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2007; 9(4):437-445.
The 2006 paper has been cited 23 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the 2007 paper has been cited just once.

Late last night, we also received a statement on behalf of Das in which he

claims all of the allegations against him can be “easily refuted” and that the charges against him involve prejudice within the university against Indian researchers

The statement — which is reproduced in total at our original post — also claims that Das was ”prevented from making a timely response to all of these charges,” although as we noted yesterday, his answer to university investigators has been made public by UConn.

And in a narrative that will be familiar to Retraction Watch readers, Das tries to place the blame on biased whistleblowers:

Another student researcher who worked in Dr. Das’ laboratory in 2008 discloses that the informant in this case was a trouble maker who chased away many other researchers by intentionally causing friction in Dr. Das’ lab. The former student says the university informant in this case even attempted to “pour wine down her mouth,” hoping to get her to reveal negative things about Dr. Das. The student says she did not witness any scientific irregularities in Dr. Das’ lab during her tenure there, which included Western Blot tests that were alleged to be doctored.

It may just fit the classical definition of “irony” that he blames wine, given his area of research.

The statement concludes with an attempt to distance Das from Longevinex, a company with which he has worked. It’s a bit convoluted, as the company did in fact fund some of his work, as the statement notes.

While the news media made quick association between Dr. Das and a particular brand of resveratrol pill he has tested, Dr. Das has no commercial relationship and does not serve as a paid consultant to any manufacturer of resveratrol pills. He served as an unpaid expert for an online interview of a particular brand of resveratrol, a pill that his laboratory found to be superior to plain resveratrol in laboratory studies. A spokesman for that company, Bill Sardi, managing partner for Resveratrol Partners LLC, dba Longevinex®, says his company has donated product to researchers including Dr. Das’ lab and has underwritten some of the expenses involved in conducting tests, but no researchers have received pay offs or have personally profited from their studies involving his product. Mr. Sardi says his company has not sought to influence the outcome of any independent or sponsored studies. Resveratrol Partners LLC is a private company based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The company sent us a few statements last night, the highlight of which is

We have now had opportunity to read the entire report by the University of Connecticut and find it particularly disturbing in its details and implications. As a company we do not wish to be associated with scientific research that does not meet the highest level of scientific standards. We stand with the University of Connecticut in its efforts to root out any scientific fraud.

We’ve also found a 2011 issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences that includes 21 articles on resveratrol and co-edited by Das.

You can also read our coverage for Reuters, a story in the New York Times that quotes Adam, and a good blog post by Tom Bartlett at The Chronicle of Higher Education, among other items. We’ll continue to update as we find out more information.

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