SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The University of Utah is investigating allegations that chemical engineering researchers might have altered microscopic images in a research paper to prove that their theory involving nanotechnology was correct.
The paper was published in June, but the monthly research journal Nano Letters retracted it Aug. 15, citing concerns over data integrity. Nano Letters is one of 40 peer-reviewed research journals published by the American Chemical Society.
The paper explored a new method of manipulating microscopic matter, which its authors said could be used to create synthetic antibodies.
The probe into the research was started after a blog questioned microscopic images in the article, alleging they appeared to have been digitally manipulated.
University Health Care's medical ethics chief Jeffrey Botkin says the school also is investigating claims of altered images in another paper published by the same researchers.
The lead author of both papers is Leonard Pease, an assistant chemical engineering professor. Rajasekhar Anumolu, a graduate research assistant, also is listed on the articles, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/16nuifA ).
Pease did not respond to requests for comment from the Tribune or The Associated Press. Anumolu declined to make a statement to The Associated Press and referred comment to the university.
The university's investigation is expected to take about four months, Botkin said.
"We have concerns enough to prompt a thorough investigation, but we haven't made a determination yet about what happened," he told The Tribune.
Earlier this month, the school announced it found an internal medicine lab had "recklessly" manipulated information in 11 papers over five years, including doctored images and fabricated data.
Ivana De Domenico, an assistant professor and the lead author on most of those papers, was fired in the wake of the university's investigation. In a statement released through an attorney, De Domenico said she didn't purposely falsify research and worked as "conscientiously as possible."
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com