Steven Newmaster received media attention in 2013, following the publication of an article in BMC Medicine which showed that the herbal supplements contained ingredients that were not listed on the label.
This article sent shockwaves through the herbal medicine industry. The researcher went on to become an authority on food ingredient verification. He even created certifying companies that were quickly sought after by supplement manufacturers to authenticate their products.
Experts file a complaint
In June 2021, eight experts sent a letter to the UG outlining the issues spotted in the study and two other research studies by Prof Newmaster and his team.
The signatories, including two co-authors of suspicious articles who claim to have been duped by the researcher, explained that the data on which this work was based was based on incomplete, fraudulent or even plagiarized information. They also accused Steven Newmaster of not disclosing all of his financial interests in his articles.
In a letter sent to the complainants on June 1, the committee appointed by the university to study the complaint considers that it is not possible to clearly establish willful misconduct in the work of Steven Newmaster.
There is not enough evidence to support the specific claims against Dr. Steven Newmasternotes in the document John Walsh, the head of the committee and acting associate dean of the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics from the University of Guelph.
The decision disappoints researcher Ken Thompson, the first to question Prof Newmaster’s work in 2020. He says he is surprised to see the misconduct claims thrown out due to
lack of records and data.
” Our complaint alleged that Prof. Newmaster had falsified his results and that he did not have the data to reach his conclusions. The absence of data was the heart of our complaint. »
If the decision disappoints Ken Thompson, currently a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, it does not surprise him.
Early in the process, he was surprised not to be consulted more by the committee, other than a brief meeting at the start of the process to establish the alleged facts.
” This told me that they had no intention of conducting their investigation in good faith, and that they weren’t really interested in knowing the truth. »
Academic integrity at stake
Ken Thompson thinks this case shows the importance of a discipline committee’s impartiality.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this case, it is that the responsibility for evaluating allegations of research misconduct should be taken away from universities and given to an independent and qualified authority. Universities are in conflict of interest and are unable to perform their duties impartiallybelieves Mr. Thompson.
No blame, but…
The complaint evaluation committee does not go so far as to blame Professor Newmaster in its preliminary decision, but it still slaps the botanist on the knuckles.
The defendant displayed a lack of judgment and failed to apply the standards expected in his research disciplinenotes the letter from the committee, which also qualifies the conduct of the researcher as
suspiciousaccording to the procedures on the responsible conduct of research of the UG.