An anonymous letter reportedly sent to the Ivy League university, the University of Michigan (UMich) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) this week alleged that the school's DEI head committed 40 instances of plagiarism over the years, as per the Washington Free Beacon.
The news outlet reported first on the complaint and described the details of how Sherri Ann Charleston allegedly committed these counts of plagiarism, including not properly attributing sources or quotes almost a dozen times in her 2009 dissertation at Michigan. In her sole peer-reviewed journal article, which she wrote with her husband, UW's Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion LaVar Charleston, in 2014, the couple reused much of a 2012 study published by the husband in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. Said paper was co-authored by Michigan State University's College of Education Dean Jerlando Jackson, and the couple's work had the same methods, findings and description of survey subjects as the 2012 study, which involved interviews with black computer science students.
SCOOP: Harvard's chief diversity officer, Sherri Ann Charleston, appears to have plagiarized extensively in her academic work, lifting large chunks of text without quotation marks and even taking credit for a study done by another scholar—her own husband.?https://t.co/Kqwj3srXo0
— Aaron Sibarium (@aaronsibarium) January 30, 2024
According to Beacon, the overlap only suggested that the authors did not conduct new interviews for the later piece but instead relied on LaVar Charleston's interviews from 2012. This constitutes a severe breach of research ethics, experts who reviewed the allegations said. They added that Sherri Ann Charleston committed a "wide range of plagiaristic offenses, from minor plagiarism to possible data fraud and warrant an investigation."
"The 2014 paper appears to be entirely counterfeit," said Peter Wood, the head of the National Association of Scholars and a former associate provost at Boston University, where he ran several academic integrity probes. "This is research fraud pure and simple."
Papers that omit a few citations or quotation marks rarely receive more than a correction but when scholars recycle large chunks of a previous study without attribution, the duplicate paper is often retracted and can even violate copyright law, they added. Said offense, known as duplicate publication, is typically a form of self-plagiarism in which authors republish old work in a bid to pad their resumes. Here, though, the duplicate paper added two new authors, Sherri Ann Charleston and Jerlando Jackson, who had no involvement in the original, letting them claim credit for the research and making them party to the con.
This issue came on the heels of another plagiarism allegation from no less than the university president Claudine Gay, who recently resigned from her role after she was accused of committing multiple counts of plagiarism throughout her own career and being at the center of the school's recent antisemitism scandal. Critics argue that Charleston committed a worse "scholarly sin" than her former boss. (Related: Gay keeps $900K annual salary despite resigning as Harvard president after evidence of serial plagiarism emerges.)
Affiliate of Harvard Medical School Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) is seeking to retract six scientific studies and correct 31 others that were published by its top researchers, including its President and CEO Laurie Glimcher, Executive Vice President and COO William Hahn, Senior Vice President for Experimental Medicine Irene Ghobrial and medical school professor Kenneth Anderson. A data sleuth recently found that they manipulated data images with simple methods such as copy-and-paste and Adobe Photoshop and this "academic fraud" impacted 37 studies.
According to a report by Ars Technica, molecular biologist and analytical scientist Sholto David and his colleagues on PubPeer posted a lengthy list of possible data fraud instances from DFCI researchers to his research integrity blog For Better Science. He pointed out that several data figures appeared to feature pixel-for-pixel duplications, including those of what are known as "Western blots," which are used to see proteins in a complex mixture.
DFCI Research Integrity Officer Barrett Rollins, who is also a co-author on two of the studies, responded to the allegations, arguing that the school is "committed to a culture of accountability and integrity," and that "every inquiry about research integrity is examined fully." He further said that David had contacted DFCI with allegations of data manipulation involving 57 studies, adding that the institute's internal review found that there are 38 papers in which DFCI researchers "have primary responsibility for the potential data errors." DFCI is now retracting six studies and contacting scientific publishers to correct 31 others, bringing the total to 37 affected studies so far. Meanwhile, the 38th remaining study in question is still under review. Of the remaining 19 studies, three were cleared of allegations while 16 were determined to have had the possibly manipulated data collected in labs that were outside the DFCI. Rollins said that those studies are still under investigation.
Rollins insisted that finding false data and manipulated images is not necessarily "evidence of an author's intent to deceive" and that they have yet to determine if any scientific misconduct occurred. "That conclusion can only be drawn after a careful, fact-based examination which is an integral part of our response," he said, adding that their experience is that errors are often unintentional and do not rise to the level of misconduct.