Friday, July 8, 2011

The real victims

From C&EN's coverage of the FOIA'd NIH ORI and Columbia report on the travails of Bengu Sezen:
Worse, the reports document the toll on other young scientists who worked with Sezen: “Members of the [redacted] expended considerable time attempting to reproduce Respondent’s results. The Committee found that the wasted time and effort, and the onus of not being able to reproduce the work, had a severe negative impact on the graduate careers of three (3) of those students, two of whom [redacted] were asked to leave the [redacted] and one of whom decided to leave after her second year.” 
In this matter, the reports echo sources from inside the Sames lab who spoke with C&EN under conditions of anonymity when the case first became public in 2006. These sources described Sezen as Sames’ “golden child,” a brilliant student favored by a mentor who believed that her intellect and laboratory acumen provoked the envy of others in his research group. They said it was hard to avoid the conclusion that Sames retaliated when other members of his group questioned the validity of Sezen’s work. 
Attempts to reach Sezen for reaction to the detailed reports have been unsuccessful. Sames also has not responded to requests for comment. 
It's my sincere hope that the graduate students who left Columbia or the Sames group have found a better life elsewhere. The offered explanatory letter from the chair of the Columbia chemistry department (in addendum to any previous letters of recommendation) just does not seem like enough.

How does Columbia make them whole?

P.S. Go over to Paul's and just keep reading.


  1. This story simply blows my mind.

  2. "It's my sincere hope that the graduate students who left Columbia or the Sames group have found a better life elsewhere."

    No doubt continuing with that Sames guy would have been a disaster.

    Is there a criminal investigation ongoing? I assume, but do know know, that Sames received government (NIH/NSF) funding at Columbia? If so, it would seem there are parallels with the criminal investigation of former members of the UPSP cycling team who, allegedly, used PEDs while being paid by Uncle Sam.

    I would also hope that the affected students obtain financial compensation from both Sames personally and Columbia for loss of income/distress.

    Truly appalling.

  3. Are there any consequences in academia to this "failure to supervise"?

    There are such consequences in FINRA regulated firms, were supervisors and/or firms are routinely fined and/or barred from working for a regulated firm based on the actions of their underlings. The idea is that, as supervisors, they have a duty to know what their employees are doing.

  4. Sadly, I don't think there are consequences in store for Sames, other than reputational ones. I assume that he will never rise further in US academia, but I could be wrong.

  5. Unstable IsotopeJuly 8, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    How long ago did the students leave Sames's group and where did they end up?

    If they were smart, Columbia would hire them as research ethics consultants.

    I wonder how much inquiry is going into the action of Sames.

  6. Unstable IsotopeJuly 8, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    I wonder about other students that have graduated from Sames's group. Will this affect them as well?

  7. One hopes that each scientist is viewed only on their particular merits, and the fact that they worked with someone like Sezen wouldn't reflect on them.

    Unfortunately, I don't think that's humanly possible.

  8. CJ: Wouldn't it be hilarious if Nancy Grace covered this scandal? Now there's a Halloween costume idea (heavy Southern accent included, of course)!

  9. @CJ: Speaking of dubious chemistry, I just found out at Pipeline that JJ LaClair is STILL allowed to publish in ACIE. Like, WTF man?


  10. A sign of ACIE's magnanimity? That's the most charitable reading.

    Presumably, his work gets extra scrutiny by the referees.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20