Singapore

NTU professor fired for data falsification

Data falsification, alterations found in six of his team's research papers

A Singapore-based professor and his wife's academic careers are in tatters after he was found guilty of being wilfully negligent in the direction of his institute research team.

Professor Ravi Kambadur (right) was recently terminated by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) after an internal investigation.

His wife, Dr Mridula Sharma, is no longer employed by the National University of Singapore (NUS).

And one of his PhD students has had his doctorate revoked.

Data falsification and alterations caused six of their research papers, all co-authored by Dr Mridula Sharma, to be retracted, NTU reported on its website.

Two other papers were subjected to correction and another was withdrawn.

The team comprised researchers from NTU, NUS and A*Star.

Prof Kambadur was sacked both as an NTU professor, a position he has held since 2013, and from his post as a senior principal investigator in the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, a research institute within A*Star.

Dr Sharma had been a professor at the NUS' Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, under the biochemistry department.

An NUS spokesman said that she is no longer with the university but declined to reveal the reason.

The couple were leading publishers in the field of biochemistry research specialising in the gene-encoding protein myostatin.

Prof Kambadur was interested in the relationship between myostatin and skeletal muscle.

On Dec 12 last year, NTU released an official notice stating that three papers co-authored by researchers of the team, Prof Kambadur and his wife included, had been retracted because of alterations to data.

Two other published papers had to be corrected because the data were presented without proper explanation. Another paper was withdrawn.

NTU clarified in its notice published on Wednesday that further investigations were conducted following the discovery of research malpractice in 2015.

It was revealed that data had been falsified in some of the in-vitro laboratory studies. As a result, three other papers are being retracted.

ZERO TOLERANCE

Mr Tony Mayer, research integrity officer of NTU, said: "NTU has zero tolerance towards research misconduct and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against anyone found to be lacking in research integrity."

The charges also cost researcher Dr Sudarsanreddy Lokireddy his PhD.

The cell biology researcher on Prof Kambadur's team and co-author of the retracted papers had his doctorate revoked.

Mr Lokireddy holds a research fellowship at Harvard Medical School's department of cell biology.

Curriculum development consultant Marietta Koh believes this incident will not taint NTU's global reputation.

Mrs Koh, who is in her late 40s, said: "Academics do need to have intellectual integrity.

"However, we should not let a rare or isolated incident mar our impression of institutes of higher education like NTU."

She added: "All academics at NTU shouldn't be tarred with the same brush."

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