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‘A Mess’: Harvard Med School Professor Plagiarized in Expert Report, Judge Says

A federal judge determined that Harvard Medical School assistant professor Dipak Panigrahy plagiarized significant portions of an export report he submitted in a class action lawsuit.
A federal judge determined that Harvard Medical School assistant professor Dipak Panigrahy plagiarized significant portions of an export report he submitted in a class action lawsuit. By Joey Huang
By Veronica H. Paulus and Akshaya Ravi, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Medical School assistant professor Dipak Panigrahy plagiarized large portions of an expert report on possibly carcinogenic chemicals, a federal judge wrote last month.

Panigrahy submitted a more than 500-page report on behalf of the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin, alleging the company's manufacturing facility in Orlando released toxic chemicals into the surrounding area causing various injuries, including cancer.

But in a March 18 court order, U.S. District Court Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. granted a motion by Lockheed Martin to exclude Panigrahy’s report as evidence, saying that the report extensively plagiarized from works by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

“Dr. Panigrahy’s report is — put plainly — a mess,” Dalton wrote.

“Indeed, the plagiarism is so ubiquitous throughout the report that it is frankly overwhelming to try to make heads or tails of just what is Dr. Panigrahy’s own work,” Dalton added.

Numerous sections of Panigrahy’s report are word-for-word identical to IARC publications. The passages cite the IARC broadly but are not enclosed by quotation marks.

In an emailed statement to The Crimson, Panigrahy — a cancer researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center — wrote that he fully cited his sources, including the IARC.

“I cited to all of the underlying articles and reports that I was accused of plagiarizing, and made clear that I was relying on these sources as part of my analysis,” Panigrahy wrote.

“I relied on IARC reviews for their comprehensive discussion of the available literature and study results, and then conducted my own analysis based on the body of available evidence,” he wrote, adding that he referenced more than 1100 other works in his report.

But Dalton’s order said that Panigrahy’s insistence on the volume of citations in the report did not refute the accusations of plagiarism.

“His deposition made the plagiarism appear deliberate, as he repeatedly outright refused to acknowledge the long swaths of his report that quote other work verbatim without any quotation marks at all — instead stubbornly insisting that he cited over 1,100 references, as if that resolves the attribution issue (it does not),” Dalton wrote.

“The volume of references actually makes the problems with Dr. Panigrahy’s methodology more glaring, as he admitted that he did not even read the 1,100 papers in their entirety,” he added in a footnote, referring to a deposition of Panigrahy as part of the case.

The report also alleges that at times, Panigrahy misrepresented the IARC’s research.

“Several times, he copied lengthy paragraphs from IARC verbatim but conveniently left out sentences in which IARC urged caution about the limitations of its findings, misleadingly presenting the science as more definitive than it actually is,” Dalton wrote.

“In sum, the rampant plagiarism in Dr. Panigrahy’s report leads the Court to conclude that his general causation methodology as a whole is too unreliable to put before a jury,” Dalton added.

The IARC did not respond to a request for comment.

Panigraphy — who has been at BIDMC since 2013 and runs the Panigraphy Lab — is available for hire as part of the Expert Institute, a website which allows attorneys to find experts for their cases.

The report filing comes weeks after top Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers and a Brigham and Women’s Hospital scientist were accused of research misconduct, with most of these instances pertaining to image manipulation and duplication. The Broad Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital have since begun offering research integrity tools.

Other Harvard affiliates have also faced increasing allegations of plagiarism in recent months.

Right-wing activists have amplified anonymous plagiarism complaints of varying levels of severity against several Black women scholars of race and diversity, including former Harvard President Claudine Gay — accusations which many Harvard academics have called politically and racially-motivated.

Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, who is suing the University and a data investigation blog for $25 million dollars after being accused of data fraud, was also accused of plagiarism this month in an analysis by Science Magazine.

Panigrahy’s testimony has been called into question in previous court cases.

In October, his report in an Ohio case was dismissed after the judge determined that it was based on a “novel” theory regarding chemical markers — a topic on which “no expert has ever been permitted to offer an opinion.”

In his email, Panigrahy objected to Dalton’s ruling and suggested it may not last.

“The Court ignored this, or did not understand this, and heedlessly accepted the defendants’ mischaracterization of my work,” Panigrahy wrote.

“We expect the Judge’s order to be overturned,” he added.

—Staff writer Veronica H. Paulus can be reached at veronica.paulus@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @VeronicaHPaulus.

—Staff writer Akshaya Ravi can be reached at akshaya.ravi@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @akshayaravi22.

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