Report from the Investigation Commission appointed by Rikshospitalet – Radiumhospitalet mc and the University of Oslo January 18, 2006



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7.2 Criticism of individual persons

7.2.1 Jon Sudbø


Based on the facts it has found to exist and accounted for in Chapter 4 and the assessments accounted for in Chapters 5 and 6, the Commission finds that Jon Sudbø has broken a series of rules. Most of these breaches have been committed with intent or gross negligence, and without doubt form the basis for criticism and the term scientific dishonesty. The breaches of rules must be seen in context. They occurred systematically from the end of the 1990’s and up to the dishonesty was discovered in January 2006.

As accounted for in section 2.4.5, Sudbø has been allowed to read two draft reports with documentation annexed, among other things. He submitted a series of suggestions to the first draft, but refrained from commenting the revised draft he was subsequently sent. The Commission has considered Sudbø’s suggestions and taken them into account to the extent it found grounds to do so. Apart from one admitted case of fabrication of data in connection with the Lancet article, and some minor admissions regarding two other articles, Sudbø is in all essentials uncomprehending to the fact that the Commission has found that the extent of scientific dishonesty is far more widespread.



In summary, this concerns the following circumstances:


  • Manipulation and fabrication of data which form the basis for the PhD dissertation and which form the basis for 13 scientific publications which now must be retracted, see section 4.2-4.4.

  • Manipulation and fabrication of data which form the basis for an article in Journal of Clinical Oncology 2005, see section 4.4.

  • Manipulation and fabrication of data which form the basis for an article in The Lancet in 2005, see section 4.4.

  • Failing to comply with the duty to submit to the Regional Ethical Committee and for a licence from the Data Inspectorate. Unlawful dealing with and access to sensitive patient data, i.e. lack of participants’ consent and/or dispensation from the duty of secrecy from the Norwegian Board of Health (now: the Directorate for Health and Social Affairs), see section 4.2.4.

  • Obvious erroneous information and misleading information in publications. For example, it is alleged that the histologic classification was made by four independent pathologists, that the ploidy analysis was performed by four observers, that patients had been included in an annual systemized follow-up project, that patients were included in smoking cessation projects and the like, see in particular section 4.2.

  • Intentional misrepresentation in connection with an application for financial support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), see in particular section 5.3.

  • Breach of good scientific practice for including and excluding authors in publications. Co-authors have been abused and misled, see in particular sections 5.2 and 5.3.

  • Misleading of sponsors and his employer and others who have provided financial support to Jon Sudbø and his research, including in particular the Cancer Society, Health and Rehabilitation and the Radiumhospitalet, see Chapter 4 to 6.

  • Misleading of his own PhD candidate who was given data material which partly was based on fabricated data from Jon Sudbø as the main supervisor. The consequence of this is that the candidate has spent several years on a project which recently was completed, but which now must be retracted. The candidate is probably put back at least two years in time in relation to a possible presentation of a doctoral thesis, see in particular section 4.2.

  • Harming the reputation of research. The Commission here refers to the risk of harm to the trust in research in general caused by the dishonest activities, see section 6.1.

  • Jeopardizing patients’ safety. Dishonesty in connection with this type of medical research is particularly serious because it entails an obvious danger that the invalid research results will mislead patients, health staff and researchers. This risk must have been obvious to Jon Sudbø. Although the Commission has not seen it as its task to pursue this, it is reasonable to assume that the dishonest

research has had unfortunate and harmful consequences for the diagnosis and treatment of individual patients, see in more detail section 6.2.
      1. Albrecht Reith


The Commission has found grounds for criticism against Professor Albrecht Reith MD at the Rikshospitalet/Radiumhospitalet MC in relation to certain circumstances. This is primarily related to Reith’s role as Jon Sudbø’s PhD supervisor and subsequent primary collaboration partner. In the Commission’s opinion, generally a supervisor is responsible for guiding and monitoring his/her research fellow. The Commission has found that Reith to a certain extent has failed as a supervisor by inadequatefollowing up. This has been a contributing factor to Jon Sudbø having been able to act in contravention of good scientific practice.

The Commission has not found grounds to state that these errors were committed with intent or gross negligence or that Reith is guilty of so-called scientific dishonesty. The Commission has found it to be proven that Reith in some cases should have acted differently, and that he is to blame for not doing so. Thus, it is a question of ordinary negligence. It seems as if Reith had boundless trust in Sudbø. The Commission finds reason to comment that Reith has been highly cooperative in connection with the investigation.

Reith has been allowed to read two drafts of the report and he has submitted comments to certain factual matters. The Commission has considered and taken into account these comments as far as the Commission has found grounds for doing so. Reith has not raised objections to the criticism stated.

In summary, the Commission would in particular emphasize the following circumstances as criticizable:



  • Insufficient supervision and due care in relation to obtaining necessary advance evaluations and permissions from the Regional Committee for Medical Research Ethics, the Data Inspectorate and the Board of Health (now: the Directorate for Health and Social Affairs).

  • Insufficient supervision and due care in relation to the handling of patient information subject to secrecy.

  • Insufficient supervision and due care in relation to the practicing of general principles for authorship. Reference is here made to the fact that several authors brought up Jon Sudbø’s unusual and unlawful practicing of authorship directly with Reith, who apparently did not see reason to follow up and correct this practice. On the contrary, it is the Commission’s impression that Reith protected Sudbø and prevented a further investigation of accusations of unacceptable practice.

  • Insufficient due care relating to several publications, in which a series of errors appear. As main supervisor and last author, Reith should have reacted to at least some of these errors. This concerns i.a. the

statement that four independent pathologists had reclassified the entire raw material for the oral cancer project, and that four independent observers had evaluated the ploidy analyses.
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