Good Practices

Scientific fraud and diverted funds

A paper published in 2013 in the British Journal of Psychiatry was retracted after an investigation by the University of Geneva, in Switzerland, confirmed that it contained fabricated data. The paper, whose principle investigator was Alain Malafosse, professor of pediatric psychiatry at the university, had reported a higher-than-expected incidence of epigenetic changes in people with bipolar disorder who had experienced childhood trauma. Epigenetics is the study of alterations in gene expression not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Malafosse is accused of fabricating data on DNA methylation, which takes place when a methyl group (made up of hydrogen and carbon particles) is added to the cytosine base of DNA. Malafosse, former head of the psychiatric division of Geneva’s university hospital, is also accused of embezzling some $1.8 million in research funds. According to the Swiss newspaper The Local, he channeled the money through bank accounts to a not-for-profit foundation based in Montpellier, France. Malafosse was relieved of his duties as director of the Swiss hospital.