Adam, David. "Paper Retracted as Co-Author Admits Forgery," Nature 421 (20 February 2003),

 

Adam, David. "Paper Retracted as Co-Author Admits Forgery," Nature 421 (20 February 2003),
p. 775.

In a case more befitting Sherlock Holmes, London's Imperial College is investigating how
several cardiology researchers found themselves authors of a paper that they knew little or
nothing about.

The bizarre incident came to light on 10 February, when the New England Journal of Medicine
published a retraction notice on its website. In it, the editors said that several of the eight authors
on the original paper had not seen the original data or copies of the manuscript.

Suspicions were raised as soon as the paper was published on 24 October last year (W. Shamim
et al. New Engl. J. Med. 347, 1326-1333; 2002). Over a number of days it became apparent to us
that not all of the authors had been fully involved in preparing the paper," says Gregory Curfman,
executive editor of the journal.

But all eight signatures appeared on both the original submission and the three revised versions
of the paper that followed. Several of these signatures, it emerged over the following weeks, were
forgeries. "There were falsified signatures on the letters accompanying the original and revised
versions of the manuscript," Curfman says.

The paper describes a long-term follow-up study of 64 patients with hypertrophic
cardiomyopathy, a heart condition caused by overgrowth of the muscular wall that separates the
left and right ventricles. The patients sere treated by injecting ethanol into an artery leading to the
thickened wall, which reduces the muscle's size.

Curfman puts the blame for the deception squarely on the shoulders of just one of the co-authors,
who confessed in a brief letter to the journal that he had forged the signatures. But some people
close to the case, including one of the co-authors who had his signature forged and did not want
to be identified, point at more than one culprit.

Six of the authors on the papers were listed as having affiliations to the National Heart and Lung
Institute at London's Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospital, now part of Imperial College. A
spokesperson for Imperial says that an inquiry, headed by the college's rector, Richard Sykes, is
already under way. It is expected to report within three months, and the college will then decide
whether disciplinary action is needed.

Nature understands that one focus of the inquiry will be the role of two of the paper's authors:
Waqar Shamim, a hospital consultant described as an affiliated member of Imperial College, and
Mohammed Yousufuddin, a physician who previously worked as a temporary research fellow at
the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and who is listed as a student on Imperial's website.

Shamim is the first named author on the paper and, Curfman says, was the corresponding author
on each of three previous versions. Yousufuddin is listed as the corresponding author on the
published manuscript, which states that both researchers "contributed equally to this article."
Neither Shamim nor Yousufuddin, who has taken legal advice, according to some of those
involved, could be traced for comment.

Hubert Seggewiss, a cardiologist at a hospital in Schweinfurt, Germany, and another of the co-
authors listed on the paper, says that the article is a total surprise. "The first thing I knew of it
was when Yousuffuddin rang me two days before its publication to congratulate me, and to ask
me about the method involved in case journalists questioned him," Seggewiss says.

One of the pioneers of the technique described in the paper, Seggewiss says that he has
performed it on over 600 patients. But he does not recognize the study in the paper and says that
he has never met Shamim or Yousufuddin. "They probably used my name because in the
cardiology field I am famous for this technique," he says.

He says that some of the data "just don't add up," but adds that Imperial's investigation will
establish formally whether or not the conclusions are sound.