Software validates science fraud

Utrecht University crystallographer Piet Gros and colleagues, working on structures for the immune protein C3b, authored one of three articles on the protein published in a 2006 issue of Nature, according to The Scientist magazine. Another of the articles was published by researcher H.M. Krishna Murthy, then of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

The Utrecht team found "things which are physically impossible," says Gros, in The Scientist. He contacted Murthy but was unconvinced by his explanations. The Gros team dug deeper and found additional curiosities that Murthy did not explain.

Gros called in independent colleagues to analyze the structures. Using the validation software, they found additional problems: "unexplained gaps in the packing pattern of amino acids in the structures and contacts between atoms that were unrealistic," the article says.

UAB, aided by independent protein scientists, investigated and found that Murthy had falsified the data used to construct 12 protein structures. The university has taken steps to have the fraudulent structures, along with ten of Murthy's research papers, removed from Protein Data Bank. 

- see The Scientist article