Balancing due process with the academic community’s right to know is no easy task, but critics say more could be done to weed out bad actors.
SOMETIME AFTER 2010 — he isn’t exactly sure when — Richard Miller, a professor of pathology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, looked up a former faculty member who had worked in his lab on the popular government research database, Medline. When he saw that the researcher, Ricky Malhotra, was publishing new work out of the University of Chicago, Miller said he was “surprised and upset.” That’s because he knew something about Malhotra that he bet Malhotra’s new employers didn’t.
The issues at play here are far from easy, especially during an active investigation where the guilt of a person hasn’t been determined, but the damage (and for some areas of research the very real peril to the community) should prompt a discussion of what to do when a cheat/bad researcher changes institution.
But no one called Miller, and now that he knew Malhotra was conducting research at another institution, he was torn. On the one hand, he thought “it would be good for the scientific community to call the University of Chicago and tell them what was going on,” Miller said. At the same time, the University of Michigan was still conducting an investigation of Malhotra’s misdeeds there, and that investigation was confidential. “I wasn’t sure,” Miller said, “how to reconcile those two separate obligations.”