Professor claims his university tried to keep him from exposing fraudulent research
- Colleagues claimed scientists could create renewable energy source, superconductors that transmitted electricity at room temperature
- Stefan Franzen went public with the story after exhausting avenues available at NCSU and in the scientific community
A professor at N.C. State is claiming that the university tried to prevent him from exposing his former colleagues’ false research project.
Back in 2004, two colleagues asked chemistry Professor Stefan Franzen for his help on a research project. They convinced him their research would pioneer ground-breaking inventions through a process that resembled natural biological evolution, according to reports from the News & Observer.
The pair made extraordinary claims: scientists, they said, could engineer tools that could separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, creating a renewable and clean source of fuel, and also claimed they could build superconductors that would transmit electricity at room temperature.
At the time, Franzen was very optimistic about the project’s potential, as well as the chance to work with nanoparticles and RNA – which were the big scientific buzzwords at the time. The research kicked off in 2005 with a $1 million grant from a foundation.
After the research proved fruitless, Franzen left the project in 2006. He tried to get his colleagues to admit that they knew their research was built on false assumptions from the start, formally accusing them of misconduct. Threats of legal action and an investigation by five other university professors followed.
Franzen exhausted avenues at N.C. State and in the scientific community and resolved to go to the general public with the story. When he tried, however, he says N.C. State’s lawyers and administrators were more concerned about maintaining N.C. State’s reputation than holding his colleagues accountable for their actions.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, incidents like these are not at all isolated; since 1975, there has been a tenfold increase in scientific articles being rescinded because of fraud, which had often been caused by competition for grant money and the quest for academic prestige.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter:@SteveLarson