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Researcher who had job offer withdrawn sues anonymous commentator for defamation

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g6840 (Published 14 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6840
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. 1Montreal

A cancer researcher who threatened to sue the website PubPeer over anonymous comments questioning his research has filed a “John Doe” suit alleging defamation and has subpoenaed the website’s moderators to reveal all the information they hold that might identify the commentators.

Fazlul Sarkar, of Wayne State University in Michigan, alleges that anonymous emails quoting comments from PubPeer were sent to the University of Mississippi, which had just offered him a lucrative tenured post. The offer was withdrawn after his prospective employers saw the comments, in which PubPeer users drew attention to perceived similarities between images in different research papers he had authored.1 Sarkar contends that these claims are unfounded.

He also alleges that what appear to be PubPeer comments from several users are in fact largely the work of one or two unidentified people from Wayne State University, motivated by malice. These users posted under multiple names to …

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