Nfld. & Labrador

Significant problems with Ranjit Chandra's research, says now-released MUN report

A report commissioned seven years ago by Memorial University found significant problems with the work of Ranjit Chandra, a disgraced professor in the faculty of medicine, but the university withheld the report because of court action by Chandra.

2009 report finally released after lawsuit dismissed

The university report describing Ranjit Chandra's academic misconduct was done in 2009, but withheld until Tuesday. (CBC)

A report commissioned seven years ago by Memorial University found significant problems with the work of Ranjit Chandra, a disgraced professor in the faculty of medicine, but the university withheld the report because of court action by Chandra.

The university released the 2009 report by retired professor William Pryse-Phillips on Tuesday, saying it accepts the finding of academic misconduct.

The report confirms decade-old CBC News stories that said Chandra's research was fraudulent.

Chandra, who published several papers on the benefits of infant formula and the effect of multivitamin use on the memory of seniors, filed a libel suit against CBC News after a 2006 documentary series on CBC Television's The National

The university was also named in the suit. 

Memorial University held on to the critical report because of a libel suit. (CBC)

An Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed Chandra's complaint in July, and in November ordered him to pay CBC's costs.

In October, BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, retracted one of Chandra's papers and condemned Memorial University for not alerting scientific journals when concerns were first raised. 

The university's vice-president of research, Richard Marceau, told CBC in October that the case would be handled differently if it happened today.

The university has posted the Pryse-Phillips report on its website, and said it has been shared directly with BMJ, Lancet and Nutrition — journals that had published papers by Chandra.

"Memorial takes its responsibilities related to ethics and the integrity of research seriously," said Marceau.

"We are confident that the current policies and procedures for preventing, investigating and, if necessary, punishing research misconduct meet the highest possible national standards." 

'Something very wrong'

Pryse-Phillips looked specifically at a Chandra paper that concluded modest amounts of vitamins improved the cognitive functions of seniors and could delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

He agreed with criticisms raised by Nutrition editors who retracted the paper in 2005.

Chandra claimed to have done research that concluded vitamins could delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. (CBC)

Among other things, the journal said, "Chandra failed to declare that he holds a patent on the tested supplement formula and has a financial stake in it because the supplement was licensed to Javaan Corporation, a company founded by his daughter."

Pryse-Phillips said it is impossible to prove allegations that Chandra falsified his research data.

He was, however, "surprised and alarmed that a short paper should be clouded by many questions to do with methodology, statistical analysis or ethics.... One has to consider that something is very wrong with this paper."

He found several problems:

  • Information Chandra said he gathered from a city census did not exist.
  • Chandra said he studied 86 subjects, when there is limited data for only 46.
  • Chandra did all the work himself, so the study could not be random, or "blind."
  • It would be impossible for one person to gather all the data in such a short time.
  • Chandra did not disclose a conflict of interest.

Pryse-Phillips concluded that the study did not comply "with the scientific, ethical and/or integrity standards of Memorial University at the time."

A university spokesperson said Wednesday that Memorial reached a settlement with Chandra in July and was dropped from the libel suit.

At that point, the university solicited final comments from Chandra to the Pryse-Phillips report, so it could take appropriate action.


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