Purdue Finds Misconduct in Bubble Fusion Research

Update (more details in comments below): As noted below, Purdue has stripped him of his endowed professorship and limited his role in mentoring graduate students … but forgot to mention this to federal sponsors as well as the Purdue office of sponsored programs, which accepted an NSF award to Taleyarkhan for a project that involves graduate students.

As noted by Inside Higher Ed , The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nature, and Science, third (well, I guess the fourth) time is apparently the charm at Purdue, as demonstrated by this 38-page report investigated and prepared by a panel comprising mainly scientists external to the University.

The Indianapolis Star has a nice summary, including an indication from Rusi Taleyarkhan’s lawyer that the nuclear engineering professor may appeal the findings. Purdue indicates in their news release that they will withold further comment until the appeal period has passed. The Office of Naval Research is pleased with the report and describes the University as being “thorough and unflinching in its examination of these difficult matters” but is waiting to see the outcome of any appeal and disciplinary action before making final comment.

However, Nature’s coverage notes that the investigating committee was not sent “allegations (from an earlier inquiry) of “intentional data fabrication” … [and] Two scientists told Nature last week that evidence they gave Purdue does not seem to have been considered either. Purdue has not released its charge to the committee; this is a key document that would reveal the questions officials asked investigators to examine.”

By way of reminder, in February 2007, Science and Nature raised concerns about the initial Purdue investigations of possible misconduct on the part of Taleyarkhan with regard to his research on bubble fusion, noting that “university officials say the inquiries have cleared Taleyarkhan of misconduct but that details of the findings, the charges, and even the makeup of the committees will be kept confidential, in keeping with the university’s policies.”

In March, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) chaired the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee that sought documentation from this investigation and its findings to ensure that the DoD was paying for “valid sound research and not research that is being manipulated.”

In May, Nature reported that another internal investigation had been launched that in September led to the recommendation for a formal inquiry. Per the Purdue news release, “The investigative committee was charged on Nov. 1, 2007. Professor Mark Hermodson of Purdue chaired the committee. Other members were Mary Ellen Bock, Purdue; Charles Kennel, University of California, San Diego; James Kolata, University of Notre Dame; Don Miller, Ohio State University; and John Schiffer, Argonne National Laboratory.”

Nice to see a university doing the right thing to maintain its research integrity and reputation.


  1. writedit said

    Update: Purdue has has stripped Taleyarkhan of his named professorship and limited his mentor status with graduate students.

    According to a local paper whose reporter watched Taleyarkhan open the University’s response to his appeal,

    Taleyarkhan said the loss of his named professorship will cost him about $10,000 per year in salary. He said the loss of discretionary funds will be about $25,000, which is used to start new research and other projects.

    Taleyarkhan also will be limited in his work with graduate students for at least three years. He will be monitored in his work with them and will not be allowed to serve as major professor or co-major professor to them.

  2. writedit said

    Update: As reported in Nature, the NSF awarded Rusi Taleyarkhan $185,000 “to develop a prototype particle detector based on the effect of radioactive particles on stressed fluids” (award commenced Sept 15). Purdue failed to notify the NSF about the misconduct and Taleyarkhan’s ban from having graduate students for 3 years (as you might expect, the NSF award involves grad students). The NSF program director is looking into the matter.

  3. bikemonkey said

    Cheating pays. Period.

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