Research Misconduct, Retraction, and Cleansing the Medical Literature : Lessons from the Poehlman Case

TitleResearch Misconduct, Retraction, and Cleansing the Medical Literature : Lessons from the Poehlman Case
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsSox, HC, Rennie, D
JournalAnnuals of Internal Medicine
Date Published04/18/2012
ISSN Number1539-3704
KeywordsAuthorship , BIOLOGY , MEDICINE , Misconduct , research , SCIENCE
AbstractIn September 2003, the Annals editor, Dr. Sox, received a troubling letter from the provost of the University of Vermont in Burlington. The university had investigated alleged research misconduct by a former faculty member, Eric Poehlman, PhD, and determined that he had published fraudulent research in 3 journals. In its letter, the university referred only to the Annals of Internal Medicine article, a 1995 article on energy expenditure after menopause (1). After consulting the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, which mandates retraction in such circumstances (2), Dr. Sox published a brief notice of retraction in the 21 October 2003 issue of Annals(3). Soon after, Dr. Poehlman's lawyer asked Annals to retract the retraction until the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) had completed its ongoing investigation. After consulting with American College of Physicians legal counsel and top management, Dr. Sox called the ORI. The ORI properly said nothing about the case itself but did say that the letter from the provost at the University of Vermont was sufficient grounds for immediate retraction. In March 2005, the ORI announced its findings: Poehlman had published fabricated research in 10 articles, each in a different journal (4). Furthermore, he had included fraudulent findings in National Institutes of Health grant applications, which is a federal criminal offense. In the end, Poehlman agreed to acknowledge responsibility for fabricating data (5 - 6) and pleaded guilty to a single charge of reporting false data in a funded grant application. He awaits sentencing.
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