September 30, 2002
Volume 80, Number 39
CENEAR 80 39 p. 9
ISSN 0009-2347


RESEARCH MISCONDUCT

Bell Labs Fires Physicist For Faking Data

PAMELA ZURER

Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs fired physicist Jan Hendrik Schön last week, after an independent investigatory committee headed by Stanford University physics professor Malcolm R. Beasley concluded that Schön fabricated the spectacular findings he had reported in the field of molecular electronics.

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Schön
BELL LABS PHOTO
In a response to the committee’s report, Schön admitted making “mistakes,” but said he did not intend to mislead anyone. “I have observed experimentally the various physical effects reported in these publications, such as the Quantum Hall effect, superconductivity in various materials, lasing, or gate-modulation in self-assembled monolayers, and I am convinced that they are real, although I could not prove this to the investigation committee.”

Charged in May with investigating Schön’s results after other nanoelectronics researchers raised suspicions (C&EN, May 27, page 17), the committee found Schön had retained virtually none of his primary data. The devices on which he had performed his unparalleled experiments were damaged or discarded. Schön published identical data curves in multiple figures representing different materials or devices, the committee concluded. In one instance, Schön admitted his “experimental data” were actually from a theoretical curve.

While completely clearing all of Schön’s coauthors of scientific misconduct, the committee raised the issue of whether they “exercised appropriate professional responsibility in ensuring the validity of data and physical claims in the papers in question.”

Bell Labs, meanwhile, has been going through “a lot of soul-searching,” says Cherry A. Murray, senior vice president for physical sciences research. The firm has gathered all its research policies and procedures and a new ethics statement on an internal website, she says, and has set up an internal preprint server where papers can be scrutinized by technical staff before being submitted for publication.



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