[See update at the end of the story] Following an extensive investigation, Depak Das, a professor in the Department of Surgery and director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center, has been accused of serious scientific misconduct. UConn has informed 11 scientific journals about the investigation.
Das had numerous publications on resveratrol and other nutrition-related cardiovascular subjects. According to an online biography, he was a founding editor and editor-in chief of the journal Antioxidant and Redox Signaling, and also served as associate editor of the American Journal of Physiology: Heat and Circulatory Physiology and consulting editor of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry.
The University said the investigation had been sparked by an anonymous allegation of research irregularities in 2008, resulting in a 60,000 page report that found Das guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data. UConn said it worked closely with the US Office of Research Integrity during the investigation. UConn is now preparing to dismiss Das.
“While we are deeply disappointed by the flagrant disregard for the University’s Code of Conduct, we are pleased the oversight systems in place were effective and worked as intended,” said Philip Austin, interim vice president for health affairs. “We are grateful that an individual chose to do the right thing by alerting the appropriate authorities. Our findings were the result of an exhaustive investigation that, by its very nature, required considerable time to complete.”
Retraction Watch reported further details about Das, including the following:
Das appears to have had a relationship with a Las Vegas resveratrol maker called, unsurprisingly, Longevinex. The company has promoted his research, and Das also shows up in a lengthy video touting the nutrient as the next aspirin. The infomercial is guided by an “investigative reporter” named Gailon Totheroh, who is affiliated with the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Here is the list of journals notified by UConn:
- American Journal of Physiology – Heart & Circulatory
- Antioxidants & Redox Signaling
- Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry
- Free Radical Biology
- Free Radical Research
- Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry
- Journal of Cellular & Molecular Medicine
- Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
- Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
- Molecular & Cellular Cardiology
- Molecular & Cellular Chemistry
Update: The Chronicle of Higher Education has added several important new details about the case. Chronicle reporter Tom Bartlett links to a 49-page summary of the investigation and provides the following summary of the highlights:
- Das was “intimately involved in the generation of figures that were determined to have been manipulated (either by fabrication or falsification).”
- Others in his laboratory may have also been involved in wrongdoing. DeFrancesco, the spokesman, said an investigation into who else might have been involved is continuing.
- The data manipulation, investigators concluded, was “intentional” and “designed to deceive.”
Bartlett also links to a document that contains two rambling letters in which Das responds to the investigation. In one letter Das tells the Dean that he has suffered a stroke and that it will take him at least a year to respond to the full investigation. In the second letter, which appears to be addressed to Indian scientists, Das claims that he is the victim of a “conspiracy against Indian scientists.”