Disgraced cancer researcher worried about tainting Taiwan’s image

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Chen Ching-shih (陳慶士), a cancer researcher and Academia Sinica principal investigator, said Sunday that he hopes the accusations against him of falsifying research data will not tarnish Taiwan's academic reputation. (Image taken from NCKU website)

Taipei, April 1 (CNA) Chen Ching-shih (陳慶士), a cancer researcher and Academia Sinica principal investigator, said Sunday that he hopes the accusations against him of falsifying research data will not tarnish Taiwan’s academic reputation.

Chen, who served as director of the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biological Chemistry from 2014 to 2017, has been accused of misconduct in the publication of eight academic papers between 2006 and 2014 during his tenure as a professor at Ohio State University (OSU) in the United States.

According to an OSU report, Chen was found guilty of “deviating from the accepted practices of image handling and figure generation and intentionally falsifying data” in 14 instances in eight papers, the American academic journal Science said on its website Friday.

The report recommended that Chen work with co-authors and journals to produce an “immediate retraction” of those eight papers, Science said.

Chen’s work in designing anticancer compounds had led to millions of dollars in funding and multiple patents, as well as two compounds in clinical trials, Science said.

In its 75-page report, OSU said that in some cases, “Dr. Chen indicated that there were no laboratory notebooks kept by members of the lab, rather individuals only had weekly progress reports and no daily records of the experiments they conducted,” according to Science.

In a statement issued late Saturday, Chen admitted that he had not adhered to standard procedure in his management of research projects at OSU.

Chen said he had failed to ensure that data was being recorded on a daily basis as required, and for that he was “deeply sorry.”

Last year Chen resigned from OSU, where he had been employed as a professor of medicinal chemistry since 2001.

Following the OSU report on its findings in the case, Chen said, he has delivered all his research work in Taiwan to Academia Sinica, the country’s top research institute, for an academic ethics investigation.

Noting that Taiwan has been working to become a regional hub for biomedical research and development, Chen said he hopes the incident will not hurt the country’s academic reputation.

Chen, a visiting professor at China Medical University in Taichung and principal investigator at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, on Saturday resigned from the latter post.

According to Science magazine, OSU has disclosed its findings in the Chen investigation to the appropriate federal authorities, including the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) at the Department of Health and Human Services.

If the ORI agrees that misconduct had occurred, it will issue its own findings and potential sanctions against Chen, the journal said.

(By Chao Li-yen and Elizabeth Hsu)