Scientific Fraud Thrust into the Spotlight

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‘Scientific fraud has become a major problem,’ said Editor in Chief of Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics and an Associate Editor of the Protein Journal, Professor Lawrence Berliner from the University of Denver.

He was speaking at UKZN’s Westville campus where he delivered a talk titled: Perspectives on Publishing: Peer Review, Impact and Significance to academics and postgraduate students.

‘Scientific fraud is a major problem from certain areas of the globe, but possible and seen everywhere,’ he said.

Berliner said the duplication of data from others is difficult to detect by plagiarism computer programmes. ‘It’s only our expert reviewers who can alert us of this and, obviously, there are cases that were missed or overlooked,’ he explained.

He said in some cultures, copying (plagiarising) another scientist is considered a compliment. He advised those who attended the talk to inform editors in the event that they detected duplication or fraud.

The talk also focused on the purpose of writing a scientific paper.

Berliner is one of the pioneers in protein structural and molecular diagnostic technique. His team was the first to develop thiol specific spin labels which became the basis of Site Directed Spin Labeling (SDSL) for studying membrane protein structure and other proteins that cannot be crystallised. He has been a leader in early detection and prevention of destructive free radical processes. His other research has involved protein-protein interactions in blood coagulation, serine proteases and lactose biosynthesis in the mammary lumen.

He is a Fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Chemical Society. He is also the President of the International EPR Society and has received prestigious awards in his field, including the 2000 Silver Medal for Biology/Medicine of the International EPR Society and the 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award in Biological EPR Spectroscopy.

He has edited over 30 books on the subject of magnetic resonance applications to biology and was the founding editor of the Biological Magnetic Resonance series.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini