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ETH Data Manipulation Report Posted On-line

8739news4ethLast fall, chemist Peter Chen voluntarily resigned from his post as the vice president for research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zürich, (ETH) following a report from a scientific board of inquiry–that Chen had himself requested–which found that data from his lab published a decade ago in two peer-reviewed papers and a doctoral thesis had been falsified.

The university announced the board of inquiry’s results in September 2009 but it was prevented from releasing the full report publically by a court order from the graduate student involved. According to a post today on the ETH website: “The Court has now ruled, in an initial decision taken at the end of December 2009, that ETH Zurich may in principle publish the export report but only in such an anonymised form “that no conclusions can be drawn about the dissertation or the identity of the complainant”.”

You have to go to the university’s German site to access the report. The blacked out lines are actually multicolor and here is the legend: Blue = PhD Student, green = molecule 1, yellow = molecule 2, black = miscellaneous, red and grey = additional members of the research group.

The basic conclusion from the board of inquiry: “The only credible explanation is manipulation of the data.” They finger the graduate student and vindicate Chen.

Some parts of the 22-page document are dry, but in general it is well-written and shows a measured and comprehensive analysis by the scientific board of inquiry. It also gives insight into how such investigations proceed…


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  • Feb 16th 201015:02
    by Joel

    I can’t read German. But it seems like cheating on that scale requires a whole lot of effort. Effort that might, perhaps, have been better devoted to actual science?

  • Feb 16th 201016:02
    by Sarah Everts

    I can’t agree more, Joel.
    But do click on the link to the report. It is in English… It was just posted on the university’s German site.

  • Feb 17th 201012:02
    by J-Bone

    Ha ha! Epic fail on anonymizing the author, I just figured it out in about 20 minutes using the information about everyone else in the report. Maybe they did that on purpose so he doesn’t get off scott-free?

  • Feb 22nd 201010:02
    by Hap

    I wish that other recent chemistry scandals had been resolved so openly.

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