Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Schön Scandal

The Schön scandal concerns German physicist Jan Hendrik Schön (born 1970 in Verden) who briefly rose to prominence after a series of apparent breakthroughs with semiconductors that were later discovered to be fraudulent. Before he was exposed, Schön had received the Otto-Klung-Weberbank Prize for Physics in 2001, the Braunschweig Prize in 2001 and the Outstanding Young Investigator Award of the Materials Research Society in 2002, which was later rescinded.

The scandal provoked discussion in the scientific community about the degree of responsibility of coauthors and reviewers of scientific papers. The debate centered on whether peer review, traditionally designed to find errors and determine relevance and originality of papers, should also be required to detect deliberate fraud.

Allegations and investigation

As recounted by Dan Agin in his book Junk Science, soon after Schön published his work on single-molecule semiconductors, others in the physics community alleged that his data contained anomalies. Professor Lydia Sohn, then of Princeton University, noticed that two experiments carried out at very different temperatures had identical noise. When the editors of Nature pointed this out to Schön, he claimed to have accidentally submitted the same graph twice. Professor Paul McEuen of Cornell University then found the same noise in a paper describing a third experiment. More research by McEuen, Sohn and other physicists, uncovered a number of examples of duplicate data in Schön's work. This triggered a series of reactions that quickly led Lucent Technologies (which ran Bell Labs) to start a formal investigation.

In May 2002, Bell Labs set up a committee to investigate with Professor Malcolm Beasley of Stanford University as chair. The committee obtained information from all of Schön's coauthors, and interviewed the three principal ones (Zhenan Bao, Bertram Batlogg and Christian Kloc). It examined electronic drafts of the disputed papers which included processed numeric data. The committee requested copies of the raw data but found that Schön had kept no laboratory notebooks. His raw-data files had been erased from his computer. According to Schön the files were erased because his computer had limited hard drive space. In addition, all of his experimental samples had been discarded, or damaged beyond repair.

On September 25, 2002, the committee publicly released its report. The report contained details of 24 allegations of misconduct. They found evidence of Schön's scientific misconduct in at least 16 of them. They found that whole data sets had been reused in a number of different experiments. They also found that some of his graphs, which purportedly had been plotted from experimental data, had instead been produced using mathematical functions.

The report found that all of the misdeeds had been performed by Schön alone. All of the coauthors (including Bertram Batlogg who was the head of the team) were exonerated of scientific misconduct. This sparked widespread debate in the scientific community on how the blame for misconduct should be shared among co-authors, particularly when they share significant part of the credit.

Aftermath and sanctions

Schön acknowledged that the data were incorrect in many of these papers. He claimed that the substitutions could have occurred by honest mistake. He admitted to having falsified some data and stated he did so to show more convincing evidence for behaviour that he observed.

Experimenters at Delft University of Technology and the Thomas J. Watson Research Center have since performed experiments similar to Schön's. They did not obtain similar results. Even before the allegations had become public, several research groups had tried to reproduce most of his spectacular results in the field of the physics of organic molecular materials without success.
Here we see examples of:

  • "I accidentally switched the slides! Honest mistake!"
  • "I lost the data, sorry!"
  • "I lost my secret sauce, sorry!"
  • "I just fudged the data for cosmetic reasons"

1 comment:

  1. this could have been avoided had his co authors been more attentive to the doctors work. but it would seem they enjoyed bathing in the spotlight of the breakthroughs


Comments are most welcome! But please:

- No SPAM whatsoever, no supplements, no pharmaceuticals, no herbs or any other advertisements

- Absolutely no quack-doctors pushing their quack-BS websites (and if you are a quack, I will call you out)

- Be critical if you want to, but try to be coherent

Comments are moderated, because I am tired of Gerwyn-V99-The-Idiot and his moronic sockpuppets, and tired of the story of the two dogs, but I will try to publish everything else.

If you are not Gerwyn (and want to tell me something other than the story of the two dogs), then relax and write something! :-)


5-AZA A. Melvin Ramsay Acne Advocacy Alan Light Alternative medicine is an untested danger Ampligen Andrew Wakefield Anecdote Anthony Komaroff Antibiotics Antibodies Anxiety Aphthous Ulcers Apnea Asthma Autism Autoimmune Disease Behçet’s Ben Katz Bertrand Russell Biology Blood sugar Bruce Carruthers Caffeine Calcium Cancer Capitalism Cardiology Carmen Scheibenbogen CBT/GET CDC Celiac Disease Cereal Grains CFIDS Chagas Charité Charles Lapp Christopher Snell Chronix Clinician Coconut Milk Cognition Common Sense and Confirmation Bias Conversion Disorder Coxiella Burnetii Coxsackie Criteria Crohn's Cushing's Syndrome Cytokine Daniel Peterson Darwinism David Bell Depression Diabetes Diagnostic Differential Disease Diseases of Affluence DNA DNA Sequencing Dog DSM5 EBV EEG Eggs Elaine DeFreitas Elimination Diet Enterovirus Epstein-Barr ERV Etiology Evolution Exercise Challenge Faecal Transplant Fame and Fraud and Medical Science Fatigue Fatty Acids Fibromyalgia Francis Ruscetti Fructose Gene Expression Genetics Giardia Gordon Broderick Gulf War Illness Gut Microbiome Harvey Alter Health Care System Hemispherx Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Herpesviridae High Blood Pressure Historic Outbreaks HIV HPV Hyperlipid Ian Hickie Ian Lipkin Immune System Infection Intermittent Fasting It's the environment stupid Jacob Teitelbaum Jamie Deckoff-Jones Jo Nijs John Chia John Coffin John Maddox José Montoya Judy Mikovits Karl Popper Kathleen Light Kenny De Meirleir Lactose Lamb Laszlo Mechtler LCMV Lecture Leonard Jason Leukemia Life Liver Loren Cordain Low Carb Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN) Luc Montagnier Lucinda Bateman Ludicrous Notions Lumpers and Splitters Lyme Mady Hornig Mark Hasslett Martin Lerner Mary Schweitzer MCS ME/CFS Medical Industry Medicine is not based on anecdotes Michael Maes Migraine Milk and Dairy Mitochondria MMR Money and Fame and Fraud MRI Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Multiple Sclerosis Mutton My Symptoms n-1 Nancy Klimas Narcolepsy Neurodermitis Neuroscience NK-Cell Nocebo NSAID Nutrition Obesity On Nutrition Pain Paleo Parathyroid Pathogen Paul Cheney PCR Pharmaceutical Industry Picornavirus Placebo Polio Post Exertional Malaise POTS/OI/NMH PTSD PUFA Q Fever Quote Rare Disease Research Retrovirus Rheumatoid Arthritis Rituximab RNA Robert Gallo Robert Lustig Robert Silverman Robert Suhadolnik Rosario Trifiletti Sarah Myhill Sarcasm Science Sequencing Seth Roberts Shrinks vs. Medicine Shyh-Ching Lo Simon Wessely Sinusitis Sjögren's Somnolence Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik Speculation Stanislaw Burzynski Statins Stefan Duschek Study Sucrose Sugar Supplements Symptoms T1DM T2DM There is no such thing as Chronic Lyme There is no such thing as HGRV Thyroid Tinitus To Do Toni Bernhard Tourette's Treatment Tuberculosis Vaccine Video Vincent Lombardi Vincent Racaniello Virus Vitamin B Vitamin D VP62 When Evidence Based Medicine Isn't Whooping Cough Wolfgang Lutz WPI XMRV You fail science forever