The Way Forward is to Accept Your Part

There are two sides to every story. Go sit with each side of a lovers’ quarrel and see. Each participant will profess a plausible justification for their own behavior and for why the other is to blame.  Look at The Patriots with #DeflateGate and the NFL Commissioner.  What a mess. 

It can be no surprise to those steeped in my website that I was once subject #1 in one of the largest academic scandals in recent memory. In 2020, a story broke when copy and paste events and fragments of simulated data were present (and undisclosed) in several of my scientific articles. 

What ensued was an almost Shakespearian decline, where the scientific community concluded that these data oddities were too much for credulity, and must have been deliberate. McMaster University had to decide on the balance of probabilities (49/51%) whether these data duplications were deliberate, and they reached the conclusion that in eight papers they were. I don’t fault this outcome because what I needed for my defense was a detailed explanation of how these ‘copy and paste’ events could have happened procedurally, again and again, and I wasn’t able to provide that. If I could have explained it adequately, then I wouldn’t have been found guilty.

Believe me when I say that there are two sides to this story too.

The thing is… the fact that one has a side to their story doesn’t absolve them of their role. There are always apologies to be made and failures to shoulder. If you want to grow, if you want to escape repeating the same mistakes, again and again, like some brain-lesioned rat, you need to accept your responsibilities. That’s how one grows and moves on.  

Or, in the words of Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls, when entrenched in drama, “…you have to suck out all of the poison…” 

Regardless of whether one concludes that my data anomalies were intentional or not, they occurred in enough instances to shake public confidence in my work, and perhaps in the broader field. That was never my intent, and it’s a cost of my poor decisions that I contend with each day. My practices fell well short of the standards we should expect of someone in my former position. I deeply regret the serious harm that the data irregularities and time-keeping oversights have caused. Scientists should be held to the highest levels of rigor, and I fell well short of those standards, destroying my academic career in the process.

The fact that so much time was spent on the investigation, and so many people were impacted directly or indirectly, materially, or not, has troubled me every day for the past three years. These types of data irregularities, whether intentional or otherwise, shake the public’s trust in science and for that I apologize wholeheartedly to all concerned.

I can accept my blemishes. I’ve made tons of mistakes in my life, but I rarely make the same mistake twice. 

I remain confident that I will find a means of making amends with those impacted by my mistakes, whether they like it or not. With some, albeit in secret, I already have. I’ll continue to suck out the poison until the job is done. That’s really all one can do.

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