CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A prominent health policy expert at Dartmouth College resigned after being accused of plagiarizing the work of other professors for a paper published in a prestigious journal.
H. Gilbert Welch sent an email to colleagues Thursday saying he was saddened to resign. He maintained that the dispute was over authorship, not the validity of the work.
He also said he stepped down over the school's demands that he could remain at the school only if he stopped teaching and that one of the complainants be made a co-author on the disputed paper.
In 2016, Welch and three colleagues published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine that measured the benefits of breast cancer screenings. Dartmouth Associate Professor Samir Soneji alleged that Welch failed to credit him and Hiram Beltran-Sanchez, a researcher at UCLA, for research and methodologies used in the paper.
"I cannot in good conscience accept the demand that I make the complainant an author — much less the demand that I make him the first author," Welch wrote.
"Doing so requires that I falsely attest that he meets the requirements of authorship: namely, that he materially participated in the work and is able to defend it," he continued. "Much as I have enjoyed working at Dartmouth, I am not willing to falsely attest to anything simply to stay here."
Soneji confirmed that his complaint launched the investigation in 2016 but said he did not want to comment on Welch's resignation.
The college in August concluded Welch plagiarized work of Soneji and Beltran-Sanchez. According to its Research Misconduct Policy and Procedures, the college defines plagiarism as "the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving them appropriate credit."
Using that definition, the college said a faculty committee found Welch committed plagiarism. The college also said it is investigating allegations of retaliation. It did not provide details.
"Dartmouth remains committed to the highest standards of research integrity and academic scholarship, and maintains processes in connection with these matters which are designed to be both rigorous and fair to all parties involved," spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an emailed statement. "We have kept the Office of Research Integrity of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services informed throughout this process in accordance with regulatory requirements."
In his resignation email, Welch said that Dartmouth's findings conflicted with the Office of Research Integrity and the New England Journal of Medicine, which he said concluded that "this an authorship/credit dispute — not research misconduct or plagiarism."
The journal confirmed Welch's view, writing in an email to The Associated Press late Friday that "We concluded that this was an authorship dispute, not 'idea plagiarism,' as Dartmouth had found."
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