STATEMENT OF THE VICE-CHANCELLOR RELATINGSphere: Related Content
TO AUSTRALIAN STEM CELL CENTRE (ASCC) RESPIRATORY PROJECT P028
1.On 28 February 2007 the Project Agreement for ASCC Respiratory Project P028 lapsed and was not extended. Monash and the ASCC agreed to allow funding for the Project to lapse.
2.The component of the Project with results which were questioned was the “COPD Extension Research Project” funded by the ASCC from March 1, 2006 to February 28, 2007.
3.The central hypothesis of the Project was that smoking induced lung damage can be reversed or improved by the infusion of mesenchymal stem cells.
4.In February 2007 the ASCC reported to the University some concerns about the respiratory project led by Professor Alan Trounson, specifically the following issues:
The potential lack of good research practice during the project,
The potential misrepresentation of results and failure to inform the ASCC of specific data arising from the project.
5.Following its independent enquiries, the University established a Preliminary Investigation Committee in April 2007 in order to investigate the concerns raised by the ASCC in accordance with University policies for dealing with matters of possible research misconduct. These policies are based on and compliant with The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research issues by the NH&MRC, ARC and Universities Australia.
6.The Preliminary Investigation Committee has recently reported its findings of fact to me in a confidential report. I have accepted those findings and have determined (based on the Committee’s findings) that research misconduct by the senior research fellow responsible for the conduct of the Project in Professor Trounson’s laboratory had occurred and that there were mitigating circumstances.
7.Specifically, the Committee found that the senior research fellow engaged in conduct that was negligent and that seriously deviated from accepted standards within the scientific and scholarly community for conducting and reporting research. This conduct consisted of:
negligent recording of research data and recording of analysis of research data by the senior researcher;
negligently inaccurate preparation of reports and presentations of research results provided to the ASCC;
negligently failing to report results in a timely fashion to the ASCC (including results that might have been regarded as counter-hypothesis).
The Committee made no finding that the negligent conduct was fraudulent or designed to deceive.
The senior research fellow has admitted that his recording of data was negligent but indicated that in many cases the primary data for many of the experiments were recorded in other laboratories since many assays were “outsourced”.
8.The Committee also found that there were mitigating circumstances in that the senior research fellow, who had been delegated responsibility by the Project Leader, was inexperienced in managing a research project of the type and size of the Project and managing the number of researchers and students he had to supervise.
9.Professor Alan Trounson was the Project Leader, supervisor of the senior research fellow and chief investigator, of the Project. No allegations of research misconduct have been made in relation to Professor Trounson
10.The University has or will take the following actions:
(a)counsel the senior research fellow who is no longer employed at Monash University that the standards of record keeping and reporting were inadequate;
(b)appoint a research mentor for the senior research fellow to ensure that deficiencies in performance in these areas are appropriately remedied;
(c)enter into discussions with the ASCC to establish what funds the University ought properly to repay to the ASCC in relation to the Project;
(d)instigate a review of University procedures relating to the conduct and supervision of research and ensure appropriate steps are taken to prevent a recurrence of the events that occurred in relation to the Project.
It should be noted that it was considered that the senior research fellow has accepted that the negligence and carelessness exhibited are unacceptable and has shown remorse for his conduct.
11.No material from the Project has been published, or used to obtain further grant funding, the Research Project has lapsed.
12.On the basis of the above, the matter is now concluded.
Professor Richard Larkins
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Here is the text of the statement from Monash University concerning the stem cell research investigation that was linked to Alan Trounson, incoming president of the California stem cell agency. The statement was provided by Jeff Sheehy, a member of the agency's Oversight Committee.