Former NUS don under probe for research fraud


A former National University of Singapore (NUS) professor, Dr Alirio Melendez, is being investigated for scientific fraud, The Sunday Times reported.

If allegations are true, it will be the first major case of scientifc fraud here, the report said.

The university was alerted to the possible fraud through an anonymous tip-off, the report added. It usually disregards anonymous tip-offs but here, the evidence was ‘compelling’ enough to start an inquiry.

The professor, who joined NUS a decade ago and left for professorships in Britain in 2009, had published two papers in journals Nature Immunology, and Science, in February and last year respectively.

The piece in Nature Immunology was retracted following some irregularities identified in the paper, The Sunday Times said.

The report added that questions had also been raised about the validity of findings in the Science paper, which will soon be retracted as well.

In both papers, Dr Melendez was the corresponding author, meaning that he led research efforts and acted as guarantor of the work. The majority of the work was done here, the report added.

The papers claimed to have made breakthroughs that would lead to better treatments of generalised blood infections.

The work involved other international universities and organisations. Eight researchers in Singapore, including scientists, academics and students from NUS and DSO National Laboratories were also involved, the report said.

A ‘high-level’ panel, including professors experienced in examining fraud cases, has been assembled for it.

NUS has also started to relook all the work done by the scientist and his team, which amounts to about 70 papers.

The University of Liverpool, Dr Melendez’s current employer, has suspended the man without prejudice pending the outcome of the inquiry.

He had been considered to be a brilliant young researcher in immunology who climbed up the ranks quickly.

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