“His work is well supported. Dr. Bennett has been awarded more than $4.2 million in federal research grants.”

So okay he’s had to give a chunk of that back because he stole it. Fine. We at the University of South Carolina are still proud as punch! Charles Bennett’s a winner and Northwestern had him but NU had to pay “$2.93 million in July 2013 to settle claims that the University ignored a whistleblower’s concerns about Bennett,” and I guess all the hoo-haw didn’t sit too well with NU because Bennett had to scoot.

So he became a free agent and we got him! Score one for USC!!

************

Background on The Pride of USC here and here.

Coming: Pills to counteract the anxiety-provoking effects of your anti-anxiety medication.

ANXIETY MEDICATIONS ATIVAN, XANAX, AND VALIUM MAY INCREASE RISK OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

“Prosecutors say the data were ascertained to have been altered in many cases. We cannot help but wonder why the medical doctors at the universities were unaware of what happened. Laboratories of those universities have so far received more than ¥1.1 billion in research funding from Novartis Pharma. The possibility is high that the back-scratching relations between universities, who are eager to obtain cash from businesses, and Novartis, out to exploit research results to promote its drug sales, may have formed a hotbed of wrongdoing.”

The Japanese have actually arrested someone in the Novartis scandal (background here). Color UD shocked. Color her shocked beyond recovery if the guy actually goes to jail for more than a day or two.

Novartis embedded one of its employees – made him a staff scientist – in five Japanese university laboratories. Five.

As a Novartis Pharma employee [Nobuo] Shirahashi took charge of analyzing data from clinical tests comparing Diovan and other blood pressure-lowing drugs at five Japanese universities … between 2002 and 2004.

How did that happen? How did a Diovan pusher get accepted – hired? – into five university labs in Japan and then take charge of clinical results?

That’s the ¥1.1 billion question, ain’t it?

“His sins trickled from his lips, one by one, trickled in shameful drops from his soul festering and oozing like a sore, a squalid stream of vice.”

A squalid stream of vice does nicely to describe the now-released details of Harvard’s Marc Hauser, one of a number of naughty psychologists whose misdeeds keep hitting the newspapers.

It’s rather heartbreaking to read this email exchange, revealing as it does what happens when a person of integrity blunders into the lab of a powerful, crooked scientist.

In 2007, a member of the laboratory wanted to recode an experiment involving rhesus monkey behavior, due to “inconsistencies” in the coding.

“I am getting a bit pissed here. There were no inconsistencies!” Hauser responded, explaining how an analysis was done.

Later that day, the person resigned from the lab. “It has been increasingly clear for a long time now that my interests have been diverging sharply from what the lab does, and it seems like an increasingly inappropriate and uncomfortable place for me,” the person wrote.

This of course is the way in which dirty labs get dirtier and dirtier. Legitimate people leave, and even schools as burnished as Harvard find themselves harboring high-profile fraud.

Scientific Fraud: A “Stapel” of Dutch Research.

Not that plenty of other social psychologists around the world don’t fudge their research results; but those working in the Netherlands currently dominate the field, with Jens Forster (German, but works in Amsterdam) the latest high-profile example.

SUCCESSOR TO DIEDERIK STAPEL REVEALED one newspaper puts it, recalling the notorious fraudster who earned a lengthy New York Times profile featuring a moody, gray sweater/frayed jeans, self-portrait. If Jens Forster, with his Art Garfunkel vibe, plays his cards right, he could score a Rolling Stone cover.

But he will have to play by the Stapel playbook. “I am in therapy every week. I hate myself,” Stapel tells the NYT guy. Self-hatred is good, very good, and Forster should definitely go with it, though he obviously shouldn’t use Stapel’s exact words. His larger self-description should, once again, cleave pretty closely to Stapel’s while avoiding obvious borrowing. Here’s Stapel.

His lifelong obsession with elegance and order, he said, led him to concoct sexy results that journals found attractive. “It was a quest for aesthetics, for beauty — instead of the truth,” he said. He described his behavior as an addiction that drove him to carry out acts of increasingly daring fraud, like a junkie seeking a bigger and better high.

The addiction and junkie bit, and the noble quest for beauty bit, are both excellent and should be retained, though again with slightly different wording. Example:

I was, from a young age, more sensitive to the beauty of the world than other people; and as I became older, this sensitivity became – I don’t know – call it a hypersensitivity. To the point where I developed almost what you might call a dependency on beautiful results.

An Italian Psychology Professor Has Found the Holy Grail…

… and quit his job at the University of Udine to heal the world.

Davide Vannoni is making quite a killing (in more than one sense of the word) with his stem cell pasta.

Physicians at the hospital in Brescia were in the dark about the details of the treatment administered there; the report says they used to temporarily leave the lab because a Stamina Foundation biologist “had to add a secret ingredient to the stem cells” that supposedly helped the cells develop into neurons.

Ah! Un po’ aceto balstemico! Si, delizioso…

‘The term cosmeceuticals is not recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and thus not subject to its regulatory scope. What this means is that not one of these products are required to prove the validity of the science it preaches for it products. To date, none of these companies have published any significant data in the literature that proves their effectiveness. Furthermore, no stem cells could even survive long-term embedded in a cream, let alone be guaranteed to work on all individuals (your body would be more likely to reject foreign cells).’

One of UD‘s colleagues has joined the board of a company that “offers plant stem cell-based facial creams and beauty products.”

My colleague’s beauty product line “stimulates your own stem cells.”

Amazing.

Faint Heart Never Won Full Funding

If there’s one thing UD‘s learned from following the history of retracted papers – most of them, lately, hothothot stem cell papers – is that you don’t want to go half way. You don’t get to be “the principal investigator on grants totaling $57 million since 2000″ without going for it, attracting BIG attention onaccounta your amazing, but strikingly difficult to replicate, work on regenerating dying hearts.

UD has also learned that with the imprimatur of Harvard behind you (our old friend Joseph Biederman continues, in his curious research, to benefit from the association, as does the scientist at issue here, Piero Anversa, the scrambled letters of whose name, UD feels sure, add up to some great phrases, but she’s not up to the task right now), you can just keep rolling along and pulling it in (all those millions for Biederman and Anversa are of course your taxes). People have been making a fuss (a negative fuss) about Anversa’s work for more than ten years.

One Harvard researcher who has long been familiar with Anversa’s work said that many people at Harvard are not surprised by these developments. “If anything it’s surprising how long it’s taken for these questions to surface.”

It’s kind of a funny way to live, isn’t it? You watch a way-belaureled scientist do his questionable research year after year… Many of you watch…

O stempora! O mores!

You can’t keep these ambitious stem cell researchers down. Remember the Korean guy? They even did a stamp for him showing a person in a wheelchair gradually gaining the ability to walk because of the Korean guy’s amazing stem cell research.

That didn’t turn out well. I mean, once scientists tried reproducing his results.

Now there’s this Japanese stem cell person who also got amazing results due to the simple expediency of making up data and altering pictures.

‘”[A]ny academic that has the time to be a part-time drug salesman needs to have a talk with their department chair right away about how they’re spending their time,” said Eric Campbell, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who studies the topic. “If doctors want to be drug salespersons, they should go to be drug salespersons.”’

One of the several sleazy self-dealings available to med school professors at universities as reputable as Tufts is flacking the drugs you’re researching.

But UD! you say. How – put aside the greed part of it – can the research results of someone not only flacking the product she’s researching, but receiving personal compensation from the company pushing the product – be ethical? How can the results of her experimentation be taken seriously by anyone? Doesn’t Tufts have standards?

No. Plenty of other schools do, but Tufts doesn’t.

When it comes to infamy, Tufts University is a well-established pro.

Taking a STAP Back.

A paper claiming to have found a simple way to turn mature cells back into stem cells (via a process called STAP) has now been disavowed by one of its co-authors. Almost from the moment it was published, questions were raised about the exact nature of the cells used, about duplication of images, about plagiarism, and about reproducibility.

It will almost certainly be retracted.

Emily Dickinson on …

Zohydro and pay to play.


*******************

After great pain, a formal meeting comes –
Sales reps sit ceremonious, all ears –
While Dworkin and Turk
Collect their money and get to work.

The closed conversation goes round –
FDA-crown’d —
Of Oxy, Roxy — Of a drug pandemic
Regardless grown —
And now Zohydro, thrown –

In the mix.
Each and every soul gets a fix —
Pain or no pain — land of addicts, ho! —
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

Yo!Hypno —

— a new super-opiate that also goes under the name of Zohydro — is the hypnomaniac’s little helper, the sort of thing Michael Jackson’s personal physician, who scoffed at anything weaker than Propofol, would have taken a second look at.

Even an FDA panel thought introducing Yo!Hypno to an already-mass-sleepwalking (to the point of falling over and dying) America was a bad idea; but somehow it got overruled, and soon all of America will be Hillbilly Heroin Heaven.

An NPR reporter asks a pain guy about to make, er, a killing on this thing about conflict of interest. “If the drug manufacturers are sitting in a room with FDA officials talking about pain drugs and they’re there because they spent twenty or thirty thousand dollars to be in the room, and [opponents] aren’t allowed in that room at the same time, does that raise any concerns for you that that could be a conflict of interest?”

Answer: Zzzzzz… wha’?….

“The Japanese sales arm of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis contributed around ¥570 million to Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine and Jikei University School of Medicine that conducted the clinical studies from 2002. A Novartis Pharma employee, who has since left the company, participated in the studies.”

Just a reminder – and an update – of one of the biggest pharma scandals of the year. Background on this one here. Basically the company gave humongous money to the university, which duly manipulated data for the company’s benefit. In turn, the company duly advertised its product by touting the results it had paid for.

Whoring for pharma: Happening also at a university near you.

Junk Research and Arrant Knaves…

… is, if you ask UD, pretty much the formula for some of what goes on under what people at universities call Leadership Studies.

Florida International University, famous for an onfield football brawl, squalid sports teams, and an arrogant high-living president who, when he retired, had a whole campus named after him as an expression of gratitude for what he did with public funds, has put together a real winner of a leadership studies program. Said president – Mitch Maidique – is on the faculty, as is Fred Walumbwa, whose pearls of leadership wisdom (“Always be on the path to leadership…”) adorn the page announcing his appointment.

Walumbwa was only hired last year, and already he’s leading FIU in (about to be) retracted research papers. Five – in one journal, Leadership Quarterly. The editor writes:

In recent weeks serious allegations have been raised about the scientific value and contribution of a number of papers published in recent years in our discipline, five of which were articles published in LQ.

It’s not clear exactly what Walumbwa and his co-authors did wrong, though one would have to suspect they fudged data. Mushy fields like psychology (leadership studies’ sister city) are notorious for retractions – here’s looking at you, Diederik Stapel — and Marc Hauser — etc. — …

Hank Campbell headlines his post about Walumbwa this way:

When Something As Vague As A Leadership Journal Retracts You For Lack Of Data, You Are In Trouble

He goes on to say:

A journal that published papers on something called ‘ethical leadership’ wouldn’t seem to need any strong evidence basis, just a lot of surveys and weak observational claims with pretty words attached, so if it gets so many complaints it retracts five of your papers, you must really be out there.

… Walumbwa told RetractionWatch “We have data, we are working on that now.”

Oh. If you have data, why wasn’t it in the papers? And how did it get published in the first place?

—————-
UD thanks David.

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