The board of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Linköping University has levelled serious criticism against a previous LiU researcher, considering that he can be held accountable for misconduct in at least three scientific articles. An investigation has shown that images have been manipulated and/or copied in all three articles. The researcher is criticised also for misuse of titles and affiliations, and for giving misleading information about his role and activities in several contexts.
“This has been an extensive investigation into research misconduct, which is the term used to describe actions that lead to manipulated or falsified research results, or that provide misleading information about who has carried out the research. We have, however, also investigated breaches of good research practice”, says Ulf Nilsson, dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.
In December 2017, several people used social media to raise accusations of fraud and research misconduct against the researcher in question – a previous employee of Linköping University. In the period 2011-2015, this person was initially employed as non-tenured assistant professor, and then as fixed-term senior lecturer. After this, he was affiliated with LiU as guest researcher until July 2017.
The accusations claim that the researcher had built up activities that encompassed, among other things, predatory scientific conferences and journals, and mock-up research institutes and organisations. He had, furthermore, used fake titles and fake degrees. The criticism also contained information about suspected research misconduct.
The criticism was of such a nature that the faculty initiated a preliminary investigation, which was subsequently expanded to a more extensive investigation concerning research misconduct, under the leadership of the dean, Ulf Nilsson. At the same time, a parallel investigation was initiated into alleged impropriety that was not connected to research. The conclusions of this latter investigation were presented earlier in the autumn.
Several of the articles that were the target of criticism were from the period before the researcher arrived at Linköping University. These have not been considered by the investigation, but the final report contains a request from the investigation group that a complete review of these article be carried out by the institutions and journals concerned.
Of the remaining articles, five were considered to have such flaws that a deeper investigation was required. One of these was dismissed from the investigation after comparison with the original data. Four articles were submitted to external reviewers in June 2018. These reviewers describe several examples of highly questionable graphics and other graphical elements, and conclude that this is a result of planned scientific fraud and malpractice.
Two of the articles investigated have already been retracted by the journal concerned, and the faculty board considers that a third should also be retracted. With respect to the fourth article, the faculty board has chosen to await the results from the national expert group for misconduct in research at the Central Ethical Review Board.
In the case the fifth article, this is not assessed to be a case of research misconduct, but the faculty board is of the opinion that it represents deviation from good research practice.
The investigation also criticises the researcher for the misuse of titles and affiliations. He has in several contexts presented himself in a manner that could be interpreted to mean that he is a professor at Linköping University – something he has never been.
The researcher has also played a key role in several organisations, institutes and publishing companies that he has set up. These activities have also been criticised. It has not been possible for the investigation group to carry out a complete examination of these, but the group concludes that the researcher has in several cases wanted to give the impression of having significantly more extensive operations than was actually the case. Through semi-truths and in some cases pure fabrications, the position and activity of the researcher have been exaggerated.
The investigation has also shown that the researcher, in his role as conference organiser, has used as bait in the marketing not only logos from highly renowned organisations, but also claims of collaboration from established researchers, without their consent.
Translated by George Farrants