The case of Anil Potti

I looked into the case of Anil Potti because this one is unlucky enough to be the only case in 2015 in ORI’s archive. It turns out to be a really interesting case.

The investigation of the case happened in 2015, during which a cancer researcher at Duke University was found responsible for research misconduct by ORI. However, two outside biostatisticians questioned his studies as early as in 2006 – 9 years before Potti was found guilty.

In 2008, a medical student named Bradford Perez removed himself from a few papers he co-authored with Potti, and reported his concerns on Potti’s potential misconduct to Duke officials. According to The Cancer Letter, not only the report was paid little attention (or, ignored), the whistle blower was also silenced by Joseph Nevins, Potti’s mentor. Duke’s deans also allowed Nevins to investigate Potti’s case himself.

In 2010, Potti was finally put on administrative leave and a few months later he resigned from Duke. As of today, eleven of his publications were retracted and seven were corrected, according to The Retraction Watch.

I was interested in where Anil Potti is today so I looked him up. Most of the things that showed up in Google are about his very (in)famous research misconduct. His LinkedIn profile discontinued at the year of 2010, when he resigned from his position as a staff physician at Duke University. On a US News report, he is now an oncologist in North Dakoda and is affiliated with several hospitals. he has more than 21 years of practice and the patient experience with him is very positive.

Bradford Perez, the whistleblower in this case, is now a resident radiation oncologist at the Duke University School of Medicine.

 

3 Replies to “The case of Anil Potti”

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this case. I can’t believe Duke allowed Potti’s mentor to investigate the case against them, that is a clear conflict of interest. I went on to read this article in The Scientist (https://www.the-scientist.com/careers/dealing-with-unethical-or-illegal-conduct-in-higher-education-30206) and it appears that sweeping unethical behavior under the rug is a common practice among higher education institutions. Which leads me to question should there be some sort of consequence not only for the individual, but for the institution when cases of misconduct occur under their purview? I do believe (in some cases) the institution holds some level of responsibility, whether they don’t provide the appropriate training or perpetuate a culture of unethical behavior/standards.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply! The Scientist article is an interesting read too. I agree that the institution should hold some responsibility for a researcher’s unethical behavior, especially in terms of inaction prior to (as you said not providing enough training regarding research ethics) and after (ignoring or concealing reports from whistle blowers) the misconduct.

  2. Hi Yezi! It is definitely interesting to see how much research is not accurate, and how so much of it gets a blind eye turned to it by the field. However, it is interesting to see that once one incident gets uncovered (whether it be by a whistleblower or someone else), suddenly all of your publication are under scruitiny, leading to this researcher to retract 11 articles and correct 7. Crazy stuff!

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