Feature Research Misconduct

Ranjit Chandra: how reputation bamboozled the scientific community

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5683 (Published 28 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5683
  1. Caroline White, freelance journalist, London, UK
  1. cwhite{at}bmj.com

The BMJ has just retracted a paper published in 1989. Caroline White reports on the longstanding concerns about Chandra’s work and the difficulties in getting to the truth

Among the photo gallery of awards and gushing written testimonials on Ranjit Kumar Chandra’s personal website is a 60th birthday tribute accredited to one of his former teachers, the late Professor John Soothill of London’s Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street.

The English syntax is not what would be expected of an educated native speaker. But the text describes Chandra as a “wonderful” paediatrician, researcher, and student who barely needed teaching because he was “already excellent.” It includes an anecdote of a trip Soothill took to see Chandra.

When Soothill explains to a Canadian immigration officer that he has come to see his student at the Janeway Child Health Centre in St John’s, Newfoundland, she immediately asks if he knows Chandra, who cured her sick daughter. She consequently waives the duty on the present intended for Chandra as a mark of her gratitude.

By his 60th birthday, in 1998, the self proclaimed “father of nutritional immunology” had become an internationally renowned and sought-after researcher who had received several prestigious awards, including the Order of Canada, which recognises outstanding achievement and service to the nation.

But he had also been investigated for suspected research fraud and had published several studies that have since had their integrity repeatedly questioned. He had also amassed around $2m (£1.3m; €1.8m), stashed away in what was described as a “labyrinth of bank accounts and financial transactions” by Justice Wells in his judgment during Chandra’s protracted divorce trial in 2000.

The judge doubted that these large sums, which included deposits in offshore accounts, could have come from teaching and medical practice income, or canny investments.

Chandra kept …

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