No student deserves the kind of ordeal Mary Dwyer went through; when certain problems were raised about a paper she and her adviser wrote, the latter accused her of having fabricated and falsified her research. The Chronicle blog provides a quick summary of this sordid affair:
In February, Homme W. Hellinga retracted articles that he had published in Science and the Journal of Molecular Biology claiming to use a computer program to design a highly active enzyme, one of biochemistry’s tough problems. Mary A. Dwyer, then a graduate student in Mr. Hellinga’s laboratory, had performed much of the work described in the two articles, but she told Nature that at the time of publication, “I felt like we weren’t quite there yet.”
Another scientist, John P. Richard, a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, tried to repeat the work but could not, turning up what looked like problems with Mr. Hellinga’s experiments. After Mr. Richard contacted Mr. Hellinga, the Duke professor contacted Ms. Dwyer last fall, after she had moved to another department at Duke to do postdoctoral research.
She told Nature that Mr. Hellinga said, “I find it really hard to believe that you didn’t make this up.” She defended herself, showing him data from her laboratory notebooks. But Mr. Hellinga referred her to the dean’s office, which conducted an inquiry into potential research misconduct.
The full story is recounted in Nature by Erika Check Hayden; it's behind a subscription wall [Update: a free copy is available (pdf) at Hayden's website], but do read it if you can. Here's an excerpt:
All this time, Dwyer had heard nothing about Richard’s communication with Hellinga. After earning her doctorate in 2004, she had left Hellinga’s lab in 2005 to pursue postdoctoral research in a different department. So she was not seriously concerned when Hellinga e-mailed her on the Labor Day holiday on 3 September last year, asking her to meet with him later in the week to discuss issues about NovoTIM. But Dwyer’s new adviser, Donald McDonnell, a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology, advised her not to meet Hellinga alone; he felt she should go with someone who could advocate on her behalf. McDonnell arranged a meeting later that week at which he, Dwyer and Hellinga were joined by two other faculty members from the biochemistry department. And that’s when Hellinga dropped the bombshell. “He said, ‘I find it really hard to believe that you didn’t make this up’, and he kept saying that kind of statement over and over again,” Dwyer says. “It was horrible.”
Dwyer’s adviser defended her, and she proclaimed her innocence. “I said, ‘That’s ridiculous, no, I didn’t do that’,” she says. “What he was saying wasn’t true.”
A few weeks later, McDonnell, Hellinga, Dwyer and the head of the biochemistry department met again. Dwyer’s husband, who is also a scientist, was there. Dwyer showed Hellinga the data from her lab notebooks that, she thought, exonerated her. But, she recalls, “he didn’t want to look at any of that. It was just flat out my fault, and that was it.” Hellinga remembers it differently. “That’s not true,” he says. “Of course I looked at the data. I also had people in my lab repeat the experiments,” he says. [...]
A committee on research misconduct convened a formal inquiry hearing in December, at which Dwyer was asked to address the claims against her. On 4 February, she received a letter from Wesley Byerly, an associate dean in the medical school, clearing her of the allegation of falsifying and fabricating results.
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Thanks to Anand for the e-mail pointer to the Nature story.