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  Latest News  
  June 17, 2004  

RESEARCH FRAUD

  DISGRACED PHYSICIST STRIPPED OF PH.D. DEGREE
University revokes degree of former Bell Labs researcher who was fired for scientific misconduct
 

MITCH JACOBY
   
   
 
 
Schön
Bell Labs Photo
Jan Hendrik Schön, the former rising-star physicist who was fired from Lucent Technology’s Bell Laboratories in 2002 for falsifying research data, has been stripped of his doctorate. The University of Konstanz, in Germany, announced that although there is no indication of research fraud in connection with Schön’s graduate-school work, it has revoked the Ph.D. degree that the university awarded Schön in 1988.

In a statement posted on the university’s website, physics department Chairman Wolfgang Dieterich notes that this type of punitive action is in accord with local law in Baden-Württemberg, the southwestern German state in which the university is located. The law provides for the possibility of withdrawing a university degree for improper behavior carried out after the degree has been awarded, he explained.

In 2001 and 2002, much of the solid-state physics and molecular electronics research communities embraced Schön as an amazingly gifted scientist based on a series of discoveries he reported in high-profile research journals, including Science, Nature, and Applied Physics Letters. In his work, for example, he fashioned organic semiconductors into field-effect transistors (FETs) and measured superconducting behavior in fullerenes. Researchers said that, judging from his work, Schön seemed to be on track for a Nobel Prize.

But some scientists grew suspicious of his string of unprecedented research successes and notified Bell Labs management when they noticed identical-looking signal shapes and noise levels in data curves that reportedly described distinct experiments. For example, current-voltage plots from a pair of devices that were supposedly made from negative- and positive-charge-carrying FETs were nearly indistinguishable.

In May 2002, Bell Labs appointed an independent committee to investigate the allegations of data falsification. The committee, which was headed by Stanford University physics professor Malcolm R. Beasley, concluded that Schön had fabricated his amazing findings. Schön was fired immediately (C&EN, Sept. 30, 2002, page 9).

University representatives note that Schön will be permitted to appeal the decision to revoke his Ph.D. degree, but they emphasize that he “has strongly damaged the credibility of science to the general public.”
 
     
  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004
 


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Bell Labs Fires Physicist For Fakind Data
[C&EN, Sept. 30, 2002]

Bell Labs Papers Questioned
[C&EN, May 27, 2002]

 
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