An internal review conducted by UConn officials found 145 instances over seven years in which Dr. Dipak Das falsified and manipulated data.
Das, a tenured surgery professor and director of UConn Health Center’s Cardiovascular Research Center, has gained national attention in recent years for research into the beneficial properties of resveratrol, which is found in red wine. The cardiovascular benefits of resveratrol have also been established in other researchers’ work.
Eleven scientific research journals that have published Das’ work are being notified of the problems, which came to light after a three-year review sparked by an anonymous complaint in 2008 of potential irregularities in his research.
“We have a responsibility to correct the scientific record and inform peer researchers across the country,” Philip Austin, interim vice president for health affairs, said in a written statement about the notifications to the 11 scientific journals.
The university’s health center recently declined $890,000 in federal grants awarded to Das and has frozen all other external funding for his lab.
The U.S. Office of Research Integrity received an anonymous tip about potential irregularities in a paper authored by Das about resveratrol and notified UConn, who in turn set up a special review committee to investigate six years worth of his work.
Its report found “a pervasive attitude of disregard within the lab for commonly accepted scientific practices.”
It also stated that there were so many problems that the review board members “can only conclude that they were the result of intentional acts of data falsification and fabrication, designed to deceive.”
Some examples included cases of digitally altered data; data from one experiment was used to justify findings in another; and controls from one experiment were used to denote another experiment’s controls, which are the unchanged factors against which experiments are compared.
Austin, the UConn health affairs vice president, said they are “deeply disappointed by the flagrant disregard” for UConn’s conduct codes, but grateful that the anonymous tipster notified authorities.
“The abuses in one lab do not reflect the overall performance of the Health Center’s biomedical research enterprise, which continues to pursue advances in treatments and cures with the utmost of integrity,” Austin said. “We demand full compliance with all research standards and policies by our faculty and staff.”
The disclosure comes less than a week after Connecticut authorities finalized an agreement with a Maine-based lab to build a genomic research facility at the UConn Health Center in Farmington as part of a broader plan to expand the medical and dental schools and boost research.
Das’ research pre-dates those plans by several years, and is not directly part of the genomic research program.