On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science

By David Goodstein | Go to book overview

Three
Bad News in Biology

In the late 1980s, Caltech, one of the nation's premier research institutions, was stunned when two apparently unrelated instances of research misconduct showed up in the laboratory of one of its star performers, biologist Leroy E. Hood. Accused of misconduct were Vipin Kumar, a recent graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, who had come to Caltech from an initial postdoctoral appointment at Harvard University, and James L. Urban, a trained pathologist who had by then gotten his Caltech Ph.D. with Professor Hood and moved on to a regular faculty position at the University of Chicago.1

Kumar and Urban had started work in the Hood group at about the same time—initially working together, but then independently, in a hot area of immunology having to do with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. They were both under intense pressure and worked long hours, drawing praise for their dedication from Hood. Others in the group had in fact accused them of doing “sloppy science,”2 but when Hood looked into these allegations he declared them to be baseless. Hood, who was a careful scientist, tended to believe that everyone else was equally scrupulous, and he therefore was inclined to discount such assertions.

Hood himself was never accused of misconduct, but in the wake of the allegations he swung into action immediately, send-

-51-

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On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • One - Setting the Stage 1
  • Two - In the Matter of Robert Andrews Millikan 29
  • Three - Bad News in Biology 51
  • Four - Codifying Misconduct:Evolving Approaches in the 1990s 59
  • Five - The Cold Fusion Chronicles 69
  • Six - Fraud in Physics 97
  • Seven - The Breakthrough That Wasn't Too Good to Be True 107
  • Eight - What Have We Learned? 127
  • Appendix - Caltech Policy on Research Misconduct 135
  • Acknowledgments 147
  • Notes 149
  • Index 155
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