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Scientist Who Studied Wine Accused Of Faking Data, Wine Spectator Reports

January 12, 2012

For years, Dipak Das, a University of Connecticut professor and researcher, published studies touting the health benefits of consuming red wine. Now the university has accused him of falsifying data and is seeking his dismissal, according to a report in Wine Spectator. It’s unclear which studies may be compromised.

The university’s health center is citing extensive research misconduct in Das’ studies after a three-year investigation into research published in 11 scientific journals. “We have a responsibility to correct the scientific record and inform peer researchers across the country,” said Philip Austin, interim vice president for health affairs at the University of Connecticut.

Das, a professor in the department of surgery and director of the cardiovascular research center, conducted those studies over a period of seven years. In one study, he credited resveratrol and anthocyanidins, both compounds found in grape skins, with red wine’s observed cardiovascular benefits. Another found that resveratrol helps stem cells repair damage to hearts. (While it is not yet clear which of Das’ studies are suspect, Wine Spectator has added a note to past articles citing Das’ research.)

On the outside, the studies appear legitimate, with all appropriate protocols followed. Das’ research had to survive the peer-review process in order to be published.

But an anonymous tip in 2008 to the university regarding research irregularities triggered the investigation, according to spokesperson Chris DeFrancesco. “The comprehensive report, which totals approximately 60,000 pages, concludes that Das is guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data,” said DeFrancesco in a statement. “As a result of the investigation the health center has frozen all externally funded research in Das’ laboratory and declined to accept $890,000 in federal grants awarded to him.”

Contacted by Wine Spectator, Das declined to comment on the allegations. Dismissal proceedings against him are currently underway.

“While we are deeply disappointed by the flagrant disregard for the university’s code of conduct, we are pleased the oversight systems in place were effective and worked as intended,” Austin said. “We are grateful that an individual chose to do the right thing by alerting the appropriate authorities.”

Austin said that Das’ missteps are isolated to his lab, though the university did not reveal specifics. The university believed Das to be in full compliance with current research protocols and had no prior suspicions into the veracity of his work.

 

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