Scientist committed fraud, expert says UM researcher used data twice

May 28, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Dr. Gerald M. Rosen may be a leader in the study of microscopic particles called free radicals, but he committed scientific fraud by using identical graphs of the molecules' action to illustrate reports of different experiments, an expert in the field testified yesterday.

Dr. Gary R. Buettner of the University of Iowa testified in Baltimore County Circuit Court that "scientists do make mistakes," and that for that reason he made no comment when he noticed in 1985 that the same graph had appeared in Dr. Rosen's articles of 1980 and 1984.

But in 1991, at the request of The Baltimore Sun, he reviewed additional articles Dr. Rosen had written and said he found the recurrent graphs had been used for totally different experiments.

"You can no longer attribute it to a mistake. . . . It has to be a fabrication of data, a deceptive practice," he testified.

Dr. Buettner appeared on behalf of Dr. Carmen M. Arroyo, a former Rosen research associate who has charged that Dr. Rosen engaged in professional misconduct by not performing experiments he reported in articles he used to apply for research grants and by using the results of her work without giving her proper credit.

Dr. Rosen, chairman of the department of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, is suing Dr. Arroyo and her husband, researcher Alasdair Carmichael, for defamation of character.

Dr. Rosen and Dr. Arroyo are among a small group of scientists who work in the esoteric field of free radicals, fleeting compounds whose presence is recorded on a machine and which are thought to be important in the human disease process.

In defining scientific "fraud" for Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., Dr. Buettner said, "I don't know whether he has done the experiments, because he used the same data to report different experiments. He's taking the same data and saying it was produced in many different ways."

Scientists must feel they can trust the published works of other scientists as building blocks for further research and that they can assume what they read is accurate, Dr. Buettner said.

In accusing Dr. Rosen of "fraud," he said he did not mean negligence or a mistake but "the intentional falsification or misrepresentation" of data. It is also fraud against the government when data are misrepresented to obtain the lucrative grants that fuel research, he said.

When defense lawyer Barry Silber asked him how he would view future articles by Dr. Rosen, Dr. Buettner said, "I would scrutinize [them] and be more cautious in [using them] in my experiments."

Dr. Buettner also disagreed with Dr. Rosen's contention that numerical tables and not the graphs, or scans as they are known in the trade, are the most important part of presenting an experiment in an article.

As he reviewed the Rosen articles, Dr. Buettner said, he developed "suspicion that he did not do all the experiments."

Dr. Rosen has testified that the same scans were used inadvertently in subsequent articles and that the numerical data showed that he had conducted the experiments.

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