Scientist's work disputed at fraud trial

June 02, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

A leading scientist in the study of chemical compounds called "free radicals" testified yesterday that after failing to replicate experiments based on published research by Dr. Gerald E. Rosen, he suspected scientific fraud.

Dr. Ronald J. Mason, a research chemist at the National Institute of Environmental Science in North Carolina, said in Baltimore County Circuit Court that he discovered in 1984 that Dr. Rosen had duplicated a graph from an earlier article while reporting a later experiment.

Dr. Mason said he and two other scientists published a paper in 1985 reporting that using Dr. Rosen's data, they were unable to reproduce the result he reported.

"It's a very strong spectrum, which should have been easy to reproduce," Dr. Mason said of the data, describing the frustration of the postdoctoral fellow who tried to make the experiment work.

Dr. Mason was a witness for Dr. Carmen M. Arroyo, a former research associate of Dr. Rosen. Dr. Rosen is chairman of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Dr. Rosen is suing Dr. Arroyo and her husband, Dr. Alasdair Carmichael, for defamation over her allegations that he engaged in professional misconduct, including falsifying data in applying for research grants and using her work without giving her proper credit.

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. The compounds are thought to be important in the human disease process.

In an effort to determine how Dr. Rosen's experiment might have been conducted, Dr. Mason said, he studied other papers by Dr. Rosen and discovered that the same graph had been used repeatedly to describe completely different experiments.

One duplication could be attributed to error, Dr. Mason said, but the repetition "tended to confirm our suspicion that the experiment [being reported] never was done."

Howard J. Schulman, Dr. Rosen's lawyer, asked Dr. Mason about an article by Dr. Arroyo in which the same graph was repeated with different captions.

"It's possible there's fraud there, but the fact that they're in the same paper could be a mistake. It should have been caught in the review," Dr. Mason said. "It would take multiples of repetition before I concluded there was fraud."

On Friday, Dr. Garry R. Buettner, of the University of Iowa, testified that "scientists do make mistakes," and that is why he made no comment when he noticed in 1985 that the same graph had appeared in Rosen articles of 1980 and 1984.

In 1991, however, after reviewing additional articles by Dr. Rosen at the request of The Sun, he found the same graph recurring. "You can no longer attribute it to a mistake. . . . It has to be a fabrication of data, a deceptive practice," he testified.

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