Do not ever fake your data

That’s a rather fundamental lesson for scientists: do not take shortcuts with the data. It completely corrupts all your conclusions, makes your entire history suspect, and will get you fired.

A tenured biology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was fired Friday, a rare punishment that essentially means a career death sentence in higher education and that has happened only once before at the state’s flagship public university.

Fei Wang, an associate professor of cell and molecular biology, was terminated following a special meeting of university trustees Friday, concluding a yearslong review of his work. Board members determined that Wang had fabricated and falsified scientific data in grant applications to the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

You will also get zero sympathy from your colleagues.

“Prof. Wang is without question a highly intelligent, likable, and charismatic scientist,” trustees wrote in its report, released Friday. “However, the record supporting his fabrication of data and falsification of laboratory results, his submission of mouse cells rather than human cells in his data, his failure to mentor and supervise his students is overwhelming and beyond unacceptable. Prof. Wang’s misconduct has already required the university to return substantial sums of research funds to the federal government.”

He made them return grant money? He just lost any friends he might have had in the administration.


  1. Nice Ogress says

    If The Amazing Spider-Man has taught me anything about science, he’s going to show up in six months cackling maniacally with a giant robot a/or monster to destroy his critics.

    Seriously though, Amazing Spider-Man had more disgraced-scientist villains in it than any other character type. Couldn’t swing a spider-cat without hitting one.

  2. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 DanDare

    It is grossly unethical but have a look at RetractionWatch. It is not all that unusual. Have a look at RetractionWatch

    Some unethical papers such as the British doctor Andrew Wakefield’s infamous paper in The Lancet was much worse as its publication has killed large numbers of people“. That paper set off the current anti-vax hysteria.

    He was not only fired but was struck off, is no longer a doctor and is living in Texas. He was not only grossly unethical but is a truly vile person.

  3. jrkrideau says

    Oops, upon rereading that, I did not mean to imply that living in Texas was horrible but more to imply that Wakefield, in essence, is living in exile, perhaps to avoid being spat upon or more seriously physically assaulted by health care workers as he was walking down the street in the UK.

  4. says

    @#4, jrkrideau:

    I did not mean to imply that living in Texas was horrible

    A pity; there’s more support for that conclusion than there would have been for Wakefield’s paper even if he hadn’t cooked the data. At the very least, there’s a correlation.

  5. chrislawson says

    Making up data, bettraying the principles of his university, and refusing to do any aspect of his publicly-funded job? Friends, I think we have found our next Secretary of State.

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 18 chrislawson
    Given the length of tenure of US Secretaries of State he had better clean out his university as soon as possible so he can get to Washington immediately.

    The revolving door for Secretaries of State reminds me of a story from Australia where a medic/ambulance person said that, given the speed of replacement of P.M.s, they no longer used the question “Who is the Prime Minister” to check mental faculties.

  7. DanDare says

    Tracie Harris, Matt Dillahunty and Aaron Ra would be reasonable people to talk to about the Texas Bad Guy Correlation.