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Academic fraud

Imperial College London negotiated with drug company to clear graduate student of academic fraud

Thursday, September 12, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: academic fraud, drug company, Imperial College London

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(NaturalNews) In order to continue perpetuating the illusion that it has credible science on its side, the drug industry has made careful inroads into academia over the years, effectively merging its own interests with the curricula of prominent research universities for the purpose of publishing a steady stream of industry-favorable studies in respected journals. And this disturbing reality has once again been made apparent by the fact that yet another distinguished academic institution has apparently succumbed to pressures from Big Pharma, having recently acquitted an industry-backed Ph.D. student of academic fraud after negotiating with the drug company that sponsored his studies.

You may have heard about Jatinder Ahluwalia from earlier media reports when he was dismissed from Cambridge University and voluntarily left the University of East London after being found guilty of publishing misleading and inaccurate studies in both Nature and the Journal of Neurochemistry. As reported by Retraction Watch, Ahluwalia is once again facing serious scrutiny over the integrity of his work, this time by Imperial College London (ICL), which recently published the findings of its own investigation into his credibility as a researcher and somehow found him innocent of academic fraud.

As a background, Ahluwalia enrolled in a Medical Research Council "CASE" studentship several years ago at ICL after being kicked out of and leaving his prior schools due to confirmed allegations of academic fraud. With new funding from drug giant Novartis, Ahluwalia began fresh research at ICL without telling the school about his previous infractions. But just like his earlier research, Ahluwalia's work at ICL ended up becoming a target for investigation after concerns about its legitimacy were raised by school faculty.

According to Times Higher Education, ICL initially launched its own investigation into Ahluwalia's work after an earlier study coauthored by Ahluwalia was retracted from a renowned scientific journal. Several years later, ICL also learned that Ahluwalia had been dismissed from Cambridge University's Ph.D. program back in 1997 after his supervisor suspected him of publishing fraudulent results, an occurrence that Ahluwalia never shared with ICL prior to his enrollment. And while at ICL, a professor had raised concerns about another one of Ahluwalia's published papers.

The primary issue had to do with what appeared to be some fudged numbers in a research paper published by Ahluwalia back in 2008. A subsequent internal review was initiated by ICL to see whether or not Alhuwalia's Ph.D., which had been awarded by the University of London back in 2003, should be considered valid. Of major concern during this review was the fact that Ahluwalia's work under his Novartis supervisors at ICL was intentionally kept veiled from his supervisors at the school -- supervisors from both Novartis and ICL were supposed to be working in collaboration.

ICL blocked from conducting honest investigation by Novartis, yet still declares Ahluwalia's Ph.D. valid

Based on all this information, and the fact that Novartis intentionally withheld Ahluwalia's research data from the school, it should have been clear that Ahluwalia was indeed involved in academic misconduct. But the six-person panel, after negotiating with Novartis, came to the conclusion that Ahluwalia was not guilty of fraud and that the mis-published numbers were merely "an arithmetical error."

At the same time, ICL basically admitted that the school's current arrangement with Novartis for research collaboration is inadequate for maintaining strong academic integrity, not to mention the ridiculousness of the "protracted negotiation" it engaged in with the drug giant during its investigation. This negotiation, of course, only allowed the school to have "supervised access" to Ahluwalia's research notebooks on Novartis' terms, which is hardly a tenable method of executing an honest investigation.

The full ICL report on Ahluwalia can be found here:

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