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Purdue's Rusi Taleyarkhan loses appeal in 'bubble fusion' inquiry
By Brian Wallheimer
Indianapolis Star

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Panel rejects appeal by scientist found guilty of research misconduct

Purdue University scientist Rusi Taleyarkhan vowed to continue fighting research misconduct findings against him after an appeals committee on Wednesday upheld a previous finding of guilt.

"This was a witch hunt. This was a foregone conclusion," Taleyarkhan said after opening a package containing documents reflecting the appeals committee's decision. He received the papers in the office of Vincent Bralts, interim head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering, who delivered them for Purdue Provost Randy Woodson.

The letter said Taleyarkhan would lose his named professorship and be limited in his mentoring duties with graduate students. He still will be tenured.

"In my judgment as Purdue's chief academic officer, it is inappropriate for a faculty member who has been found guilty of research misconduct to hold the title of a named university professor," Woodson wrote. "Therefore, I am removing the designation of Arden L. Bement Jr. Professor of Nuclear Engineering from your title as of this date. All rights and privileges associated with this distinction, including the allocation of discretionary resources, are hereby withdrawn."

The sanctions followed a series of events that began when Taleyarkhan claimed he achieved "bubble fusion," a process using sound waves to create rapidly collapsing bubbles in a liquid solution. If the process proves viable, it could be a cheap, clean source of limitless energy.

But critics cried foul, and several accused him of research misconduct. An inquiry convened by Purdue didn't find enough evidence to warrant further investigation in 2006. It found that Taleyarkhan had abused his power as a professor but was not guilty of misconduct.

But a second inquiry on new charges brought on an investigation this year that found him guilty. It was spurred by new allegations and a congressional committee that chastised Purdue for its handling of the initial inquiry.

Congress got involved because federal funds had been used.

The investigation said Taleyarkhan included a student's name on a paper submitted to a journal even though the student wasn't involved in the research. Taleyarkhan also was found to have told another journal that other scientists independently verified his research conclusions even though he was involved in their experiments.

In the appeal, Taleyarkhan claimed that crucial evidence had been withheld, findings were based on presumptions rather than fact, and that an attorney working for Purdue threatened Taleyarkhan. The appeals committee found no basis to overturn the guilty findings.

Taleyarkhan said the loss of his named professorship will cost him about $10,000 per year in salary. He said the loss of discretionary funds, used to start new research and other projects, will be about $25,000.

Taleyarkhan also will be limited in his work with graduate students for at least three years.

 

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