Med School Professor Resigns After Admitting to Plagiarism

The head of Harvard's Department of Psychiatry and director of McLean Hospital resigned last week after admitting that he had committed plagiarism.

Dr. Shervert H. Frazier, 67, submitted his resignation on November 23 after the Medical School's Faculty Conduct Committee concluded that four of his articles, published between 1966 and 1975, contained work plagiarized from "Scientific American" and other science journals.

The committee determined that "plagiarism occurred in four papers written by Dr. Frazier" and found "instances of careless scholarship" in three of the articles, according to a November 23 letter from Dean of the Medical School Daniel C. Tosteson '44 released yesterday.

The committee "was unable to conclude whether or not there may have been additional instances of plagiarism," Tosteson's letter reads.

Frazier, who has been on leave since October 14, was a professor of psychiatry at Harvard from 1972 to 1984, when he left to become director of the National Institute of Mental Health. He returned two years later to head Harvard-affiliated McLean Hosptal, a leading psychiatric center.

Frazier's resignation comes one month after The Boston Globe reported that a former Harvard ophthalmology fellow--Scheffer C.G. Tseng--had misrepresented results when testing an eye ointment. The cases are unrelated.

Harvard began investigating Frazier's work in August after a graduate student at the University of Rochester notified Tosteson that he believed that some of Frazier's work was not original.

The student, Paul C. Scatena, was researching phantom pain--the burning sensation that patients sometimes feel when a limb has been amputated. He noticed inaccuracies in three of Frazier's articles, as well as similarities to previously published work.

While conducting its investigation, the committee discovered a fourth plagiarized article, titled "Principles of Psychiatric Emergency Management." Frazier was notified shortly after the investigation began. Only one of the articles containing plagiarized quotations was written after Frazier came to Harvard.

When contacted by the investigating committee, Frazier did not deny the charges but said the plagiarism was inadvertant, said Med School Dean of Academic Affairs S. James Adelstein.

"Dr. Frazier accepted the evidence when he was brought before the committee," said Adelstein. "He was apologetic and contrite. He ascribed the plagiarism to his method of taking notes and the fact that he was rushed."

Frazier told the committee he used cards to take notes from articles, which he filed for future reference, Adelstein said. Later, when using the notes to write papers, Frazier apparently copied some material that was quoted directly from other people's work without attributing the source.

"The committee found that substantial portions of Frazier's reviews were taken from other papers," said Adelstein. "Parts of the articles were identical or almost identical."

"He must have copied stuff out verbatim," said Adelstein. "He was probably less careful than he should have been."

Neither Frazier nor Tosteson could be reached for comment yesterday.

Steven M. Mirin has been acting director of McLean Hospital and head of the Psychiatry Department since Frazier took his leave of absence and will continue in that position, said spokespeople for Harvard and McLean Hospital yesterday. Mirin could not be reached for comment.

Adelstein suggested that Frazier's work had not been questioned previously because plagiarism is hard to detect. With the vast amount of material published each year, it is difficult to locate unattributed sources, he said.

Harvard officials notified all people involved with the publication of the papers as well as the authors of the plagiarized works, according to Tosteson's letter. They also informed the other universities where Frazier had worked,including Baylor and Columbia.

In the Tseng case, Harvard has been criticizedfor failing to notify promptly other people andinstitutions involved with the research.

In his letter, Tosteson expressed regret aboutthe resignation. "Dr. Frazier has served Harvardand McLean Hospital with distinction...My respectand gratitude for his achievements make thisoutcome especially difficult," Tosteson wrote