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He said he was sorry

Yes, it can be done:

Hereby I contact you to clarify the situation that occurred with the publication of the article entitled *** which was published in Volume 11, Issue 3 of *** and I made the mistake of declaring as an author. This chapter is a plagiarism of . . .

I wish to express and acknowledge that I am solely responsible for this . . . I recognize the gravity of the offense committed, since there is no justification for so doing. Therefore, and as a sign of shame and regret I feel in this situation, I will publish this letter, in order to set an example for other researchers do not engage in a similar error.

No more, and to please accept my apologies,



P.S. Since we’re on Retraction Watch already, I’ll point you to this unrelated story featuring a hilarious photo of a fraudster, who in this case was a grad student in psychology who faked his data and “has agreed to submit to a three-year supervisory period for any work involving funding from the Public Health Service.” I just love the idea that in 3 years this guy will be applying for NIH funding, competing with real scientists but with the advantage on his part that he can make his proposal look much better by faking data whenever he feels like it.

P.P.S. I have no idea how the above image got on to this post. It has no relevance at all to this topic.


  1. Rahul says:

    Andrew: So what would be your just and proportional punishment? Lifetime ban from getting any government funds? Prohibition from all future University / Research Lab employment?

    Personally I thought it was fair punishment.

    • Andrew says:


      I wouldn’t think of a lifetime ban on NIH funds as a punishment but rather as a wise precaution given scarce resources. There’s enough competition for public health funds that I think it’s reasonable to restrict funding to people who are not known fakers.

      • Rahul says:

        Your precaution is his punishment?

        • Andrew says:


          I don’t think of it as a punishment. I don’t think it’s a good use of funds. Hiring ex-cons as a way to rehabilitate them is fine, but I don’t see it as working in this case. The incentives are all wrong, and in the meantime there’s real science that’s not getting funded. If the government wants to give this guy a break, I’d rather they hire him to dig ditches or something. Or, if he wants to do biology research, he could seek out funding on the open market, he could find some private investor who would like to fund someone with a history of scientific fraud.

          • Fernando says:

            I would worry that the ditches he digs will also be plagiarized, e.g. claiming as his own the ditches dug by others…

          • Rahul says:


            He didn’t plagiarize. He faked data. He’ll probably make a furrow and claim it was a ditch using Photoshop. :)

  2. Janet Mertz says:

    It likely won’t matter if he is legally permitted to apply for grant funding again after 3 years. With only 5-10% of grants being funded nowadays, any study section with a reviewer on it who knows this scientist’s history will likely sufficiently criticize his grant applicants to ensure they don’t score well enough to be funded.

    I know someone who was found guilty of faking data in an NIH grant application. Her lab shut down, and she left her tenured position in academia for a job in industry.

  3. polymath says:

    I’m glad that some people still have shame — that is, that perverse incentives don’t produce perverse effects in every individual.

    Which leads to another topic. When we talk about what the incentives are for someone, it’s always relative to a model (of what incentives are acting upon an agent, and how the agent is evaluating them). But we rarely if ever justify whether our model includes all the relevant incentives. I mean, it’s hard to do that, so that’s why we don’t. But then as economists most of our talk about incentives is really a just-so story. But it sounds so rigorous, because incentives!