Finally: The Dalibor Sames Retractions

March 5th, 2006

This post originally appeared on

The Dalibor Sames retractions (three, for now) are in the March 1st issue of JACS. Why is NO ONE talking about this? Casually looking for coverage of this story, one soon finds that zero media outlets have picked up on it:

Not the ed board of JACS
Not Chemical & Engineering News
Not The NY Times
Not The Columbia Spectator
Not any other blog on the Internet (by Google BlogSearch and Technorati)

Why has everyone dropped the ball? Oh, and incidentally, if you guessed I made this post to gauge how many people were searching for “Dalibor Sames,” you win. And I know there are quite a few of you.

Anyway, I’ve got a post in the works for tomorrow. Stay tuned, chem nerds.

Previous Comments

  1. eugene Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 11:50 am KudosI wasn’t searching for ‘Dalibor Sames’ but rather ‘JACS retractions’. I also searched under ‘Bengu Sezen’ and found another blog. To answer your question, everyone ‘dropped the ball’ because the retractions came out a few days ago and the next issue of every chemistry media outlet you mentioned comes out sometime this week in most cases. I read all of those articles a few months ago and more. The research was relevant to my field and I do feel a little cheated here.Still, I cannot help but notice a lot of ’schadenfreude’ on the part of the few people who have commented on this story. You cannot separate research from people and I have to say that Sames was taken in. The only good thing about this is the ‘watching a car wreck’ syndrome that will occupy me for the next few days. I feel bad for all the parties involved (yes, even for Bengu Sezen). Me, I just wasted about ten hours carefully and slowly reading all of her articles and others from the Sames group. That’s nothing compared to what others will loose.

    I still remember sitting in a restaurant and drawing out some intermediates from the third paper that wasn’t completely retracted on a napkin…

    The third paper should have been retracted as well. Without complex 6 being catalytic, it is not of JACS quality. Besides that was the whole point behind the paper, not the cluster catalyzed reaction. Also, what about the other three JACS papers on which Bengu is an author? Questions, questions…

  2. Paul Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 1:25 pm My biggest issue is that these guys didn’t get the word out sooner. This causes: 1) wasted money 2) wasted time and 3) incorrect information to be placed in papers and review articles. I have heard all sorts of disturbing issues about what happened at Columbia. If even 1/3 of them are true, then the authors should be in big trouble. That’s why I think they should come forward and say exactly what happened. Columbia should have released a statement on the day the retractions were issued, and C&EN should have released a Web update. Instead, they released a Web update that Peter Debye may have been a Nazi.
  3. eugene Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:41 pm Well, I don’t know of ‘all sorts of disturbing issues’. But since this research is directly relevant to what I’m doing, I ended up on this blog. The only person I know who has a friend in the Sames group hasn’t told me anything so far (and he works at night, so I might see him later). In the absence of statements, I’m willing to give Sames the benefit of the doubt.But hey, this is a blog… So, feel free to post any juicy details that are not press-friendly. Or send it to the email address. Although, in a way, I do wish that our guesses as to what might and might not have happened did not get out to the wider community until all of the official statements were made. For the sake of Sames and his students. I mean, it’s entirely plausible that a couple of guys on the internet could be wrong…I’m not doing a very good job of helping Sames out by posting here, but there you go.

    Oh, and I’m not too sure that Debye was a Nazi. They’ve got him on record as saying: “Please don’t take my job, I’ll fire all the Jews like you want me to.” Maybe cowardly, but hardly ardent Nazi supporter stuff. He did move to the States a year after he signed that order in 1939.

  4. The Super Terrific Happy Fun Blog » Blog Archive » Correction + More on JACS Says:
    March 8th, 2006 at 5:41 pm […] I messed up a little bit in this post when I said the Dalibor Sames retractions were published in the March 1st edition of JACS. Actually, they appear in the March 8th edition of JACS, which was published as the “current edition” on the Web from March 1st-7th. For instance, if you go the the JACS front page, you are shown the March 15th edition although today is March 8th. […]
  5. eugene Says:
    March 12th, 2006 at 1:08 am This isn’t on topic, but did you know that there are 10 Jewish winners of the Peter Debye prize in physical chemistry? Including a Shoah survivor…
  6. The Super Terrific Happy Fun Blog » Blog Archive » Sames-Sezen Round-up Says:
    March 14th, 2006 at 7:12 pm […] Dalibor Sames retracted or partially retracted three papers from JACS […]
  7. insider Says:
    March 14th, 2006 at 11:17 pm Sames Tenure has been put on hold. This is not a joke.It is a disaster. He needs to leave. The extent of this scandal is beyond what any of us previously thought……..
  8. Emile Zola Says:
    March 20th, 2006 at 1:32 am I think the assertion that the data was fabricated might be terribly wrong.The papers were retracted by Sames without Sezen’s knowledge, which was an extraordinarily shocking and disgusting thing to do.
    Moreover, Sezen has told New York Times (March 18) that she has proof in her lab notes that back her claims and that she is ready to do again the experiments under the supervision of Sames to prove her results.Now that’s a major thing to say – that’s not how a fraudster behaves! I have never heard of a science fraudster saying she’s ready to redo the experiments under the supervision of the accuser.

    Do you understand what that means? it means there’s a good chance that she’s innocent and that Sames retracted the papers for no good reason. If Sames refuses her offer, it means there’s something very wrong with himself. It also means the retraction is false.

    Retracting a true paper is exactly as much of a lie as publishing a false one.

    So here’s a guess to why Sames retracted the paper: the results could not be reproduced because:
    (i) the data was false
    (ii) the data was true but the experimental protocol was finicky, they didn’t try hard enough or because the students trying afterwards were technically incompetent – or a combination of all three.

    But think hardest of the last one – if you are the student who follows and you’re incompetent, wouldn’t it be easy to say the previous student (especially if it’s a woman and she’s gone) falsified data? What an easy way out – like in Shakespeare, Iago-style.
    Moreover, no one outside the Sames lab has said the data is false. On top of it, former Sames lab member Benjamin Lane was quoted as saying that at least some of Sezen’s results have been reproduced by others.
    That doesn’t look like a scandal in the chemistry community, but like a a current foul-up and incompetence in Sames’ lab.

    Careers may be destroyed, but there is a fair chance that this girl Bengu Sezen is actually innocent: she has clearly not been given due process and she has been condemned without being able to defend herself. Something’s very very wrong here. If she’s a fraudster, the fall is her her own doing – but if she’s not, as it may be (at the very least, Sames has not proven his case and has infringed the rules of the most basic honesty), this will be the Dreyfus case of chemistry.

    So far, what we’ve seen in this case is a pack of lies that looks much less like self-correcting science and a lot more like scientific lynching.

  9. The Super Terrific Happy Fun Blog » Blog Archive » An Interesting Comment Says:
    March 20th, 2006 at 2:26 am […] I know you all don’t pay attention to comment threads that are not on the top page, so allow me to call your attention to this one. The most recent comment has no fewer than three historical or literary references, including the anonym of the commenter. Well done. Explore posts in the same categories: Chemistry, This Site […]
  10. Jim Says:
    March 20th, 2006 at 9:41 am Sames would not do anything without evidence.
    Bengu is not super honest as you think. When other repeated her reaction
    without starting material and they got the product. (it is a trap)
    A real scientist should tell other how to make a reaction work without any
    magician play.
    There are still dozens of people believe cold fusion and are ready to demonstrate.
  11. Germinal Says:
    March 20th, 2006 at 1:11 pm “Emile Zola Says:
    March 20th, 2006 at 1:32 am”
    “The papers were retracted by Sames without Sezen’s knowledge, which was an extraordinarily shocking and disgusting thing to do.
    Moreover, Sezen has told New York Times (March 18) that she has proof in her lab notes that back her claims and that she is ready to do again the experiments under the supervision of Sames to prove her results.”It is funny all your arguments are based on what Sezen said, how do you know it is true. For a frauster that is gonna have 6 papers retracted, fabricating a story to press is just too easy. She is fooling you the same way she has fooled Sames and many JACS reviewers … simply lying. Like Jim said, “Sames would not do anything without evidence.” and he has had indisputable evidence, that’s as far as I will go here. Despite his ridiculous negligence in the past, I still give credit to Sames for having the gut to do the right thing this time, even when it means to put his career on the line.
  12. Benguu Says:
    March 20th, 2006 at 7:07 pm Lysten – I am hapy my letteres to love to Emile Zola have paid of and his coming to my defences like a good man should do. I am not fraudster…!
    Thanks you Emile. Maybe you know nothing of the situation of my crazy of and strange relationship wtih boss and maybe you not notice my initials are actually… B.S… I am happy so that you ignore the rants and of the rest of the angry… I care for you Emile. Call me! I am now ran off to Turkey but may be back in America to fake (oops.. I means do) do more chemistry soon.
  13. Paul Says:
    March 20th, 2006 at 8:56 pm OK, just in case people can’t recognize sarcasm, the above post was NOT made by Sezen–unless she’s around…the IP address traces back to Harvard’s network.
  14. Riddle me this batman Says:
    April 1st, 2006 at 1:00 am Hey emile, let me break it down for you how science works. You do experiments and then you publish your results. Now in JACS we have what is called supporting information. There you describe exactly how you did your experiments. Now, if no one else can ever repeat your experiments then why the hell did we waste space publishing it. Secondly, why the hell did we fund you when this will never be a commercialized process because only Bengu can get it to work. I will never let someone tell me that the chemistry only works when I do it. There is something seriously flawed. The purpose of journal article is to educate the scientific community. If the scientific community can’t reproduce it then it’s shit.
  15. DOUG Says:
    April 9th, 2006 at 10:12 pm The data either were or were not falsified….not “was”. The word “data” is plural… “Datum” is singular.
  16. k-mellow Says:
    April 18th, 2006 at 11:09 am Hey, what’s the latest on the Bengu Sezen saga? I’m a physics PhD student (and incidentally was a Columbia undergrad– go Lions!); I dont understand all the chemistry jargon, but I am fascinated by this story!
    Are any of the other details clearer at this time? Such as, does she or doesn’t she have a PhD from CU? (I couldn’t find her dissertation in the list of recent dissertations at CU’s website). If so, then why does she seem to be working on a second PhD in Heidelberg? Was she really sleeping with her boss? When does the official report from the CU investigation come out????
  17. Paul Says:
    April 19th, 2006 at 4:09 am You know as much as I do. Columbia wouldn’t even say when they started their investigation, and these things routinely drag on for over a year. Stay tuned, and send any tips this way.
  18. Nordulf Says:
    June 2nd, 2006 at 6:28 pm Peter Debye certainly was not a Nazi. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics was not a government institute but run by a privated reserach foundations. It and the German Physical Society resisted the intrusion of the Nazis the longest of any of the institutes and German scientific organizations. Debye was despised by the activist Nazi physicists who openly tried to remove him. He named the physics institute the Max Planck Institute of Physics despite the objcetions of the Nazis. Cornell’s Department of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry just finsihed its investigation of Peter Debye and concluded, based on all the evidence it had accumulated, that Debye clearly was not a Nazi sympathizer, was not a Nazi collaborator and was not an anti-Semite. They also found that Debye quickly became a valuable contributor to the US war effort shortly after his arrival in the US. The results of an exhaustive Dutch investigation are expected in mid-June and it is expected that they, too, will refute the allegations made by Rispens in his media blitz campaign to market his new book.
  19. likefatherlikeson Says:
    June 25th, 2006 at 8:58 pm 4 more retractions? Like father, like son? Tip of the iceberg? blind ambition? ruining careers? profit before patients? Do not be surprised: You ain’t seen nothing yet.
  20. eugene Says:
    July 2nd, 2006 at 12:12 am Well, they conviniently left those new facts about Debye out of the mainstream medea. I guess it’s not fun to be outed as having printed something that turned out to be a stupid reaction over false history.Unless of course, Nordulf is hiding something!!! Still, I tend to believe this blog stranger.
  21. Anonymous at Columbia Says:
    July 13th, 2006 at 4:57 pm I just googled sames for the first time…not realizing how big a spash it made outside of columbia. Let me give some insider info to blow your minds.First, its well known here in the chem department that she spiked her reactions with product. Additionally, when others tried to replicate the results, she spiked them. To see if she was really doing this a particular Sames groupmember onetime told everyone he was performing the experiment but in reality simply had stirring solvent. Low and behold the next day, product appeared in the flask. This did not happen when she was out of town.In all honesty Dali probibly did not know it was fabricated, at least at first because he fired five (yes five) graduate students who could not reproduce these results.

    As far as bengu’s motivation, well…I probibly shouldn’t mention but it was widely rummored that dali and her were screwing. Personally I did see them on a date one time but i will not speculate further.

    I hope that sheads some light or maybe dirt on the whole thing

  22. eugene Says:
    July 14th, 2006 at 1:54 pm People in Colubia haven’t realize that this made a big splash outside of the department? 3 JACS communications retractions is pretty big news. Never mind the subsequent retractions. I do have to admit though, not a lot of people over here knew about the issue until the Science and Nature news stories came out, along with the latest NY Times story.
  23. Nordulf Says:
    July 14th, 2006 at 7:58 pm Here is a cute story. Peter Debye insisted that the new Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics be named in honor of the anti-Nazi, Max Planck and inscribed the name at the building entrance. When the Nazi activists discovered this, they mounted a large protest with the Ministry of Education. In turn, Peter Debye had a large wooden plank placed over the name (get it?). The laboratory denizens were hilarious with laughter for the two weeks it took for the Nazi activists to realize the joke.
  24. Jackson Says:
    July 19th, 2006 at 11:41 am I am not clear as to how this discussion of Dalibor Sames’s work came to include so much about Peter J W Debye, but I would like to echo Nordulf’s comments that Peter Debye was no Nazi. He was not an active anti-Nazi; of those who remained in Germany only von Laue was, but remember that he was not even a German. I am sure that he felt it inappropriate to get too involved in German politics and this would have been mutual. Note that Lise Meitner as an Austrian citizen was left alone by the Nazis until the Anschluss made her a German and subject to their racial laws.I have been in contact with one of the Dutch scientists who is working to clear Debye’s name and he convincingly demolishes the allegations against Debye.When I have to fill in “affirmative action” reports on faculty searches and classify applicants by bizarrely defined categories (e.g., Hispanic, which would include a Basque from San Sebastian (ES), but not one from Biarritz (FR), or an Argentine of Ukrainian origin, but not a Brazilian Ukrainian), I wonder how I would have responded to the Nazis “racial” nonsense in the mid-1930’s (i.e., prior to Kristallnacht).

    In any case, Peter Debye was, in my opinion, the greatest physical chemist of the 20th century, as opposed to yet another organic synthetic methods pot boiler.

  25. chemist Says:
    September 26th, 2006 at 9:11 pm Sames is a really smart guy. Getting himself a couple of JACS papers for the expense of his student and blaming her afterwards – cool, A+++. “My dog ate me homework…” Correct me if I am wrong, but I am truly believe that co-authorship implies a contribution to the work. At least at some point. Sitting in the office and reading research reports of your graduate students does not count. What was he doing at that time? Don’t say me, he was fooled by that evil student. He is a professor. At Columbia. Isn’t it his job to make sure that the work was fine? Especially if he puts his name on it, which make him as much responsible for the fraud as his former student is?
    Those are all emotions. Let’s assume for a minute that she was not fabricating and all other people that try to reproduce her work are good and are doing their best. If someone got the effect and the other did not, what does this suggest? It suggests that there might be some tiny conditions (like purity of that RuCl3 for instance) that are essential. Those conditions have not been realized by Sezen when she first done the work. Now Sames could have simply purchased a new bottle of a chemical with a slightly different content that could stop the effect. Why not? In catalyst, small impurities can dramatically change the effect (both stop it or make it work). Those people just could not have been careful about that. Before making such a fuss, they should have done this investigation first. How about e-mail communication with Sezen like “we are trying to make your reaction, we are doing this and this but it won’t work, could you check our procedure and give us suggestions?” and something like that? Did they do that? I have such problems before. I beg you, check your chemicals. You think Aldrich chemicals are all identical up to ppm? you REALLY think so? I could disappoint you, but it’s a long story full of NMR of “pure” Aldrich solvents and stuff and you might be surprised. I no longer believe in Aldrich “quality” and never do work before checking all the new batches I get.
    Anyway, let’s wait where investigation leads us.
    And for godness sake, don’t tell me fairy tales about a poor professor and an evil student. Such a “poor” professor shouldn’t be working at Columbia.

One Response to “Finally: The Dalibor Sames Retractions”

  1. ACS v. Leadscope: Why Chemists Should be Disturbed | ChemBark Says:

    […] by chemical journalists. One of the reasons behind the birth of ChemBark was the media’s dreadful lack of coverage of the Sames-Sezen misconduct scandal. You will recall that I began reporting the story three […]

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