By Curtis Wolff, September 18 2014 —
Former University of Calgary medical researcher Cory Toth has had two more papers retracted from scientific journals, bringing his total to nine in the past two years. His research was retracted due to data manipulation and image doctoring.
Questions over Toth’s research surfaced in late 2012 when a journal reviewer uncovered suspicious data in a paper Toth co-authored. A subsequent U of C investigation led to a retraction of the unsubmitted paper, as well as another paper that had previously been published.
A research watchdog Retraction Watch notice published in January 2013 led to further criticism directed at Toth’s papers. This led to the re-opening of the university’s investigation and a continuing stream of retractions.
Toth told Retraction Watch in April that the university investigation determined he had “insufficiently supervised two junior technicians” and “failed to identify red flags with their behaviours.”
However, the U of C said their investigation was unable to determine whether Toth was aware of the faulty research being conducted in his laboratory.
“The internal investigation committee could neither verify nor dispute the fact that lab personnel may have provided Dr. Toth with figures that were already manipulated without his knowledge,” said faculty of medicine vice-dean Glenda MacQueen.
“However, they found that his actions reflect a failure to adequately supervise and examine the work conducted in his lab.”
While academic fraud at the U of C is a concern — given the university’s Eyes High goal of being a top-5 research institution by 2016 — Retraction Watch founder Ivan Oransky said the U of C’s reaction to the fraud is more telling than the fraud itself.
“There are very few prominent institutions that have not had some kind of investigation into fraud, let alone actually finding fraud,” Oransky said. “Universities just need to accept that it’s going to happen and figure out how to best investigate and get the word out about what they found.”
MacQueen confirmed the lab personnel working with Toth are no longer employed by the university. No human subjects were involved in the shoddy research.