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Court rules scientist had duty to report research concerns

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has upheld a lower court dismissal of a million-dollar defamation law suit against former Cornell plant scientist Daniel Klessig by Meena Chandok, a postdoc in his lab.  The suit stems from controversy over a paper that appeared in the journal Cell in 2003 and was subsequently retracted by all the authors except for Chandok.

The postdoc claimed in the law suit that the retraction and the allegations associated with it had ruined her career. The court's decision has implications for the conduct of research, in that it ruled that since some of the research was funded by the federal government, that Klessig "was required to inform the pertinent agencies of suspicions of scientific misconduct... In making his statements to ... NIH and NSF, [the scientist] was acting in accordance with legal duty." 

But the court went further, stating that "even had there been no federal reporting regulations, [the scientist] would have had a moral obligation to inform NIH of the possible fabrication of the data...." 

Although no misconduct has been found in the case, no researcher has been able to reproduce the results reported by the Cornell scientists in their published paper. 


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