April 10th, 2013

Scientific Misconduct: From Darwin and Mendel to Poldermans and Matsubara

Responding to recent episodes of scientific misconduct in cardiovascular research involving once prominent cardiovascular researchers, the editor of the European Heart Journal, Thomas Lüscherhas written an editorial discussing the significance of the new cases and placing them in a historical context that includes allegations of scientific misconduct by Mendel and Darwin, among many others.

Lüscher writes that scientific misdoncuct “is morally inappropriate, damages the reputation of research and journals in which its products are published, may endanger patients, and misuses grant money of federal and private institutions.” Nevertheless, he concludes, “we must avoid an atmosphere of distrust, as trust is the essence of scientific exchange and progress.”

In his editorial, Lüscher announces a further response by the EHJ to the Don Poldermans case and links it to the more recent Hiroaki Matsubara case. (Poldermans was a prolific Dutch cardiovascular researcher who was fired by the Erasmus Medical Center;  Matsubara is the Japanese researcher who was the principal investigator of the Kyoto Heart Study of valsartan in heart failure.)

Poldermans was the first or senior author in seven papers published in EHJ. Lüscher writes that the chairman of the Poldermans investigative committee “made it clear that the vast amount of publications led by Poldermans over the last decades made it impossible to assess their scientific validity in all cases.” As a result, Lüscher announces that “the editors of the European Heart Journal therefore would like to make an expression of concern related to the papers where Poldermans was the responsible author.”

The EHJ had already announced — without any substantial details — the retraction of the main paper of Matsubara’s Kyoto Heart Study. Although Lüscher provides no new substantial information about the case, he links the EHJ retraction to five other retracted papers from the Kyoto Heart study group published in Circulation Journal, the American Journal of Cardiology, and the International Journal of Cardiology.

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