Professor Newmaster concluded that the majority of these herbal supplements available on the market, such as echinacea and ginkgo biloba, contained off-label ingredients, fillers and contaminants dangerous for your health.
No less than 44 products from 12 companies had been tested using a DNA analysis technique called barcoding (barcoding) molecular, which uses a piece of genetic sequence to identify which species the DNA in question belongs to. Only two of these companies had provided the listed products, without substitutes, contaminants or fillers.
Nearly 60% of the samples analyzed contained plant species that did not appear on the label. Additionally, researchers had identified substitutes in 32% of the samples, while more than 20% contained undisclosed fillers, such as rice, soybeans and wheat.
At the time, this article published in BMC Medicine attracted the attention of many media, including the New York Times and TurnedNews.com, and sent shockwaves through the supplement industry.
Following this publication, Prof. Newmaster quickly became an authority on food ingredient verification. He even created certifying companies that were quickly sought after by supplement manufacturers to authenticate their products. In 2017, Prof. Newmaster established a Natural Health Products Research Alliance (NHPRA) with the University of Guelph, which aims to improve supplement certification technologies.
In his survey published in Science, journalist Charles Piller reports that eight experts sent a letter to the University of Guelph in June 2021 outlining the issues identified in the study and two other pieces of research by Prof. Newmaster and his team.
The signatories of this letter, including two co-authors of suspicious articles who claim to have been duped by the researcher, explain that the data on which this work was based is based on incomplete, fraudulent or even plagiarized information. They also accuse Steven Newmaster of not having disclosed all of his financial interests in his articles.
The professor did not respond to interview requests from Science, but he denied all charges in a statement sent to the university.
The magazine’s investigative work shows that the labor issues of the
charismatic scientist go well beyond the three studies and include plagiarized presentations and speeches, manipulated data, and achievements of other researchers presented as his own.
Science indicates that the University of Guelph has been investigating these allegations since August 2021.
In a written response sent to TurnedNews.com, the university says it takes the allegations of misconduct very seriously and that an investigation is currently underway. She does not intend to comment, but assures that she will take the appropriate measures in the light of the results.
Furthermore, the review BMC Medicine launched an investigation into the article she published in 2013.
Fraud cases on the rise
Professor Bryn Williams-Jones, an expert in bioethics at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal, says cases of scientific fraud have increased in recent decades because all kinds of interests are now linked to productivity. scientist.
a context where scientists lack resources and time and must publish to obtain funding for their team.
All these things can be explained, but not justified. If the scientist cannot be objective in interpreting his data, it goes against his duty and calls into question scientific credibility., adds Mr. Williams-Jones.
” In the rare extreme cases, they are often hyper-problematic individuals who were not sanctioned at the start and who take a slippery slope of unethical behavior, where one goes from bad to worse. They become true untouchable scientific rockstars! »
The disciplinary committee
The work carried out by the committee leading the investigation into the actions of Professor Newmaster must be carried out with great transparency, explains the bioethicist, since the university is in conflict of interest because of its business partnership with the researcher. .
There needs to be a lot of emphasis on the independence of the committee, insists Bryn Williams-Jones.
” We must ensure that the committee is more shielded than usual because the conflicts of interest are greater. »
Add members and avoid including people from the same department. They have to find totally impartial experts from other universities who are not involved. The committee should also include people from other fields who have management expertise, for example, adds the expert.
The investigative work will most likely take several months. Following the evaluation of the file, the committee will render its decision and make recommendations to the university, which will decide on the action to be taken.
” If we find that the allegations are founded, there will have to be real sanctions, not just a slap on the wrist. In the worst case, the researcher will be fired because the damage to the reputation of the scientific community will have been very significant. »
The university therefore has an interest in imposing the appropriate sanction since it could itself be sanctioned by funders dissatisfied with the measures taken to settle its conflicts of interest.
In Canada, universities must report all information regarding disciplinary committees to federal and provincial agencies.
The Secretariat for Responsible Conduct of Research then performs an analysis of the documents, without however redoing the work of the committee. He verifies that the facts are correctly reported and that measures have been taken to correct the situation.