This is a story of David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck at University of London, professor of genetics at UCL and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. All this he achieved also by his impressive publishing record, part of which will be discussed below by my regular contributor Smut Clyde. Just part of it, because there are in fact oodles of Latchman co-authored papers discussed on PubPeer for evidence of data manipulation. As Birkbeck and UCL were repeatedly bombarded by whistleblowers, Latchman was (pretend)-investigated on misconduct charges twice. Naturally, neither whitewashing report was released to public. After the first investigation of 2015, we only learned:
“UCL confirms that the conclusion of its investigation is that Professor Latchman has no case to answer in relation to research misconduct”.
Last month, UCL declared that Latchman committed “recklessness” and was “insufficiently attentive” to what his junior researchers used to do in his lab and in his papers, namely the cardiologist Tiziano Scarabelli and the cancer researcher Anastasis Stephanou. The former is presently professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center in USA, while the latter is professor at European University Cyprus. These two were found guilty of having manipulated images in 7 papers. All other Latchman co-authored papers (of the 32 investigated) are perfectly fine, and anyway, as Birkbeck explained:
“The matter does not relate to Professor David Latchman’s leadership of Birkbeck, which has been excellent for the past 15 years. Furthermore, there is no suggestion by UCL that Professor Latchman had any knowledge of, or involvement in, the image manipulation identified”
This is a typical academic attitude. When a paper is needed to get promotion and funding money, boss claims the main credit. When a paper is exposed as fraudulent, boss never had anything to do with it (see for example this Spanish case).
Retrospectively, both UCL investigation look even more of a farce, as Latchman himself seems to have been instructing the university how to properly investigate others and not him:
“In my view, the investigation should focus on those actually involved in preparing the questionable figures and those directly involved in supervising their production”
Despite at least 5 retractions, Latchman remains in his position as Master of Birkbeck, where he is paid GBP 400k a year, one of the highest rector salaries in UK. Without diminishing the responsibilities of Scarabelli and Stephanou (in fact, Smut Clyde presents much more below), there seems to be a pattern at UCL of finding the exclusive blame with those no longer employed, while their English-bred senior professors turn out utterly blameless. Recent revelations in the Macchiarini trachea transplant affair also suggest that. However, some of problematic Latchman papers have neither Scarabelli nor Stephanou as co-author. Very reckless of UCL not to have investigated those.