ORI Finds Bengu Sezen Responsible for Research Misconduct

November 29th, 2010

Breaking….

SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the Office of Research Integrity
(ORI) has taken final action in the following case:

    Bengu Sezen, Ph.D., Columbia University: Based on the findings of an investigation by Columbia University (CU) and additional analysis conducted by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) during its oversight review, ORI found that Bengu Sezen, former graduate student, Department of Chemistry, CU, engaged in misconduct in science in research funded by National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant R01 GM60326.
    Specifically, ORI made twenty-one (21) findings of scientific misconduct against Dr. Sezen based on evidence that she knowingly and intentionally falsified and fabricated, and in one instance plagiarized, data reported in three (3) papers and her doctoral thesis.

Expect a full post within the next couple of days.

H/T to an anonymous e-mail tipster.

Other sites:
Office of Research Integrity
Chronicle of Higher Education
Nature’s The Great Beyond Blog
C&EN
Columbia Spectator (blog)
IPBiz
Retraction Watch
In the Pipeline
Columbia Spectator


20 Responses to “ORI Finds Bengu Sezen Responsible for Research Misconduct”

  1. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    I am assuming that “debarred from contracting and subcontracting” also means “debarred from getting funded”.

  2. Paul Says:

    My initial impressions:

    The punishments listed by ORI are weak. Her last known whereabouts were outside the US.

    The official press release suggests that she still has her Ph.D. (from Columbia, I assume). If true, I think something should be done about that.

  3. wolfie Says:

    i, personally, found it always strange that she was the figurehead of the Columbia Chemistry department, which I pointed out in one of my first blog comments, perhaps

    which was only caused because I, as a stranger, a foreigner, had dared to apply there, because my wife was in New York, and I got simple rejections from this elite institution (which should, please, have taken me, after all my A++++, really)

  4. wolfie Says:

    As far I know, she has 2 PhDs, from Columbia, and from Heidelberg. So, she is a “Dr. Dr.”, which is rare.

    Even Jan Hendrik Schön has kept his Dr. from the University of Freiburg, and you Paul, cannnot do anything about it according to your scientific or legal competence. Don’t speak of morality, please.

    Sorry.

  5. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    Although the university may decide to appeal the court’s ruling. And in the world’s eyes Schon has been so disgraced that it doesn’t really matter if he has a PhD or not. I agree that Sezen’s punishments don’t sound severe enough. Columbia should revoke her degree.

  6. bootsy Says:

    And for Prof. Sames?

  7. RM Says:

    wolfie – Wikipedia says that Schon received his Ph.D. from the University of Konstanz, not Freiburg. It also mentions that Konstanz actually *did* try to revoke his Ph.D., but this was overturned by the German courts.

    I think the key difference between Schon and Sezen, with respect to revoking degrees, is that, to my knowledge, none of Schon’s misconduct involved his thesis work. That is, while he may be guilty of later misconduct, he earned his doctorate honestly. On the other hand, Sezen has been found to have falsified information in her thesis itself. As such, I think Columbia has a reasonable grounds for saying the thesis itself was invalid, and thereby revoking her degree because it was never validly granted in the first place.

  8. Paul Says:

    I’m going to jump in here to say that Wolfie is still on a two-month suspension for flooding comment threads with garbage, so any response he gives is going to be moderated by me. Despite the suspension, Wolfie’s behavior has not changed: the comment queue contains an additional ninety-three worthless comments from him.

    I selectively approved the two comments above because they are actually on topic and (barely) substantive.

  9. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    Does the ORI have the authority to enforce a harsher punishment than what it applied? Perhaps just the same restrictions but for a longer period of time?

  10. Chemjobber Says:

    The below Science article talks about ORI punishments; looks like the other punishments are institutional oversight and retraction, both of which are moot.

    http://astro.berkeley.edu/~kalas/ethics/documents/redan08.pdf

  11. K Says:

    According to Nature:

    Sezen completed another doctorate in the lab of chromosome biologist Elmar Schiebel at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. According to a list of lab alumni posted on Schiebel’s website, she then moved on to become a group leader at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey.

  12. Aspirin Says:

    Sezen has one publication in a minor journal from her second PhD. Clearly she is a much better synthetic chemist than biologist…

  13. Anon Says:

    I’m with Bootsy…

    What about Prof. Sames? Shouldn’t he share some culpability?

  14. Hap Says:

    Does the report explain how the research was validated by Prof. Sames (enough so that other graduate students were supposedly fired for not being able to reproduce it?) or is it just chalked up to “Whoops?” The professor’s ability to distinguish just-so stories from useful research (and his actions when research doesn’t work normally) would seem useful to graduate students and funding agencies alike.

    Also, I think Eugene (I think) had said long ago that according to Columbia’s rules, the audit of the retractions and of the problems in Sames’s group was supposed to take less than six months and be made public afterwards. If this was such a slam-dunk determination of cheating by Sezen, why did the report take so long to percolate through the process?

  15. Paul Says:

    @Hap: I actually found Columbia’s guidelines for investigations in its faculty handbook. They changed the rules during this mess. I am in the process of porting the old posts from archive.org to the (new) blog.

    Also, I added links today to a stories by C&EN and a nature.com blog. On the subject of “and what of Sames”, it is interesting to note the language that is being (and will be) used to cover this story. From the C&EN article:

    The case stretches back to 2005 when Columbia awarded Sezen her Ph.D. in chemistry. Working in the laboratory of Dalibor Sames, she claimed to have developed a method for selectively activating C-H bonds, a technique commonly used to functionalize hydrocarbons. Many of the papers Sezen and Sames co-authored on the work were subsequently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

    The way it is written, she was just working in Sames’ lab and she claimed to develop…

    They were working together and reported the work together. When you look at how C&EN reports discoveries, I’ve never seen them say “Graduate student A developed __________ and co-authored a paper with Advisor B”. It is usually “B and coworkers” and sometimes “A and B and coworkers…”

    More tonight, probably. I’m busy.

  16. Sharron Clemons Says:

    Does the report explain how the research was validated by Prof. Sames (enough so that other graduate students were supposedly fired for not being able to reproduce it?) or is it just chalked up to “Whoops?” The professor’s ability to distinguish just-so stories from useful research (and his actions when research doesn’t work normally) would seem useful to graduate students and funding agencies alike. Also, I think Eugene (I think) had said long ago that according to Columbia’s rules, the audit of the retractions and of the problems in Sames’s group was supposed to take less than six months and be made public afterwards. If this was such a slam-dunk determination of cheating by Sezen, why did the report take so long to percolate through the process?

  17. cascade Says:

    A very wrong precedent for the community. Students gets punished for the research and if the paper is good the credit goes to the PI!! Awesome man…love chemistry. (On a serious note all Columbia Univ. has lost all my respect)

  18. ChemBark » Blog Archive » The Sezen Files – Part I: New Documents Says:

    [...] (ORI) in the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  In November 2010, ORI announced its finding that Sezen was responsible for 21 instances of scientific misconduct, and the [...]

  19. wolfie Says:

    K Says:
    November 30th, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    According to Nature:

    Sezen completed another doctorate in the lab of chromosome biologist Elmar Schiebel at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. According to a list of lab alumni posted on Schiebel’s website, she then moved on to become a group leader at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey.

    and, why, please, was this so wrong ?

    i tink i could expect some answer from a Caltech graduate…

  20. 1 Says:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111109/full/479151a.html Any thoughts?


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