In my blog entry about Dr. Johnson’s testimony in the Omnibus Autism hearing I mused that:
I may have to devote a separate post to the issue of Deth taking data from (but not citing) a 1958 paper (pdf) that reported the level of cystathionine in duck brains (besides duck, also, human, cat, rat, guinea pig, horseshoe crab, chicken, cow and monkey).
I thought it might be worth blogging the issue of this irregularity in Dr. Deth’s expert testimony. I found where Dr. Deth’s powerpoint slides were made available on a website favorable to his hypothesis. It was very kind of them to do that. Here is that slide of Dr. Deth’s that Dr. Johnson had commented on. It gives comparative levels of cystathionine as found in various animal brains and human brain.
The above lovely graph was apparently created by Dr. Deth for the expert report to the Special Masters of the vaccine court. Dr. Johnson noted that there is no reference on the slide indicating which paper it came from. One would expect to see a citation like, “Stott, 2001,” or “Wakers et al., 1999,” the absence of which made Dr. Johnson wonder if the graph represented some research done by Deth himself. But Dr. Johnson was surprised by the seemingly odd “duck” in the list of animals. So after Deth had given his testimony, Dr. Johnson did a Google search for the words “duck” and “cystathionine” and in no time he had downloaded a pdf of the very paper the duck data had come from. I did the same Google search and likewise in no time had downloaded the same paper. If you click here you can (automatically) download that very paper for free. The title is L-CYSTATHIONINE IN HUMAN BRAIN. The authors are Harris H. Tallan, Stanford Moore and, William H. Stein. It was published in 1958.
And if you do access that paper and read it you will find the following table on page 7 of the pdf.
It looks as if Deth warmed-over this half-a-century-old data and averaged the amount of cystathionine in the 5 human-brain samples and came up with about 45 mg/per 100 g wet weight for his graph and it looks like he decided not to include the data from horseshoe crab brains. The original table reports the cystathionine in “mg. per cent”. Deth faithfully included the cat, cow, rat, guinea pig, chicken, monkey and duck levels, as well as the human liver, kidney and muscle levels.
As I remember, Dr. Johnson pointed out that that data on cystathionine in brain tissue of humans and rats, cats, cows and ducks didn’t make the point that Dr. Deth want to make with it anyway, but one has to wonder why he took the data that was in a 50 year old paper in table form and turned it into a histogram looking all modern and freshly churned-out by Excel and all. And if Deth thought it was necessary to make the point he needed to make, shouldn’t he at least have cited the paper properly?
When I was writing science papers for assignments at the college level a couple of years ago, it was drummed into all the students in strong terms that we should not ever plagiarize anything, or even to take the chance that something might look plagiarized. Professors warned their classes that the Internet was a powerful tool for digging up the true sources of plagiarized quotes (or entire plagiarized papers) and for finding the proper attributions for un-attributed graphics or statements, or creations of any kind. Plagiarism was, and still is, grounds for being tossed out of most colleges and universities, as I understand it, and students don’t get to claim that they didn’t know any better. One would think that professors would be held to an even higher standard.