Bell Labs fires scientist for fraudulent data

September 25, 2002

As reported earlier here and in salon.com, Bell Labs had formed a committe to determine whether data in some senational results published by its scientists had been falsified. Today the commitee delivered its findings and for the for the first time in its lengthy history Bell Labs has fired a scientist. The committee concludes than one of the scientist engaged in faking and falsying data, calling it scientific misconduct. The collaborators were all exonerated from these charges.


This paragraph from the press release says it all:


“The evidence that manipulation and misrepresentation of data occurred is compelling,” the committee wrote, linking all misconduct to one researcher, who committed falsification or fabrication of data on at least 16 occasions, some interrelated. According to the committee’s report, the researcher “did this intentionally or recklessly and without the knowledge of any of his co-authors.”


The full committee’s report may be found here.


Other quotes from the full 127 page report (19 pages plus Appendices) are quite damaging:


“Proper laboratory records were not properly mantained by Dr. Heindrick Schon…”


“virtually all primary electronic data were deleted…..”


“No working devices with which one might confirm claimed results are presently available…”


“it is not possible to confirm or refute….”


“the evidence that manipulation and misrepresentation of data took place is compelling….”


The committee further concludes that the coauthors while not being part of the fraud may have some scientific responsability, but defining this was quite difficult to do. They also found 16 of 24 instances in which data was misplaced, substitude or manipulated and does not correspond to the claimed material.


All in all, a sad chapter for science which I hope will make it better. Several news organizations such as the NYT, the Financial Times and CNET.com have already reported on the issue.

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