Doctor admits research fraud

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 28 February 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:645
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. legal correspondent, BMJ

    A doctor who admitted producing bogus curricula vitae to secure academic posts, faking approval of ethics committees for three studies, and falsifying statistics in a research paper was erased from the medical register by the General Medical Council (GMC) last week.

    Mark Williams, aged 43, lied about his qualifications to secure posts as a lecturer and senior lecturer in public health medicine at Bristol University in 1991 and 1993. He falsely claimed in both curricula vitae to hold the primary FRCS, and in the one submitted for the position of a senior lecturer in 1993 he produced a list of publications that had allegedly been published or were in press. Those said to be in press had not been accepted for publication, and only one had been published in the journal listed. Dr Williams also backed applications for research grants with forged letters from ethics committees purporting to give approval for studies.

    Concerns were raised in 1994 that figures he produced in an abstract of a paper for a Swedish conference were misleading. The abstract also falsely stated that he held an MD and a PhD from Cambridge University. Stephen Frankel, professor of epidemiology and public health medicine at Bristol, said that Dr Williams had explained the false qualifications as a copytypist's error and had said that the statistics “contained some ambiguity.”

    Dr Williams aroused the suspicions of colleagues again in September 1995, when he produced a table which contained bogus data for a paper to be submitted to the BMJ. Professor Frankel said: “I wasn't confident in it, so we reanalysed it ourselves. That led to a whole set of consequences. We confronted him, and he admitted what he had done. Once I had suspicions about what might have happened, we looked extremely carefully at everything he had done.” The paper appeared in the BMJ with the correct table and Dr Williams's name among the authors. After tendering his resignation, he took a job as a locum registrar in geriatrics in St Albans. Dr John Ball, who chaired the GMC professional conduct committee, told him he had displayed “an appalling lack of integrity, which is totally unacceptable in a registered medical practitioner.”

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