Professor William M. Armstead has left UPenn amid allegations of research misconduct
A research professor has left the University of Pennsylvania under a cloud after five of his studies, in which he inflicted traumatic brain injuries on young pigs, were withdrawn due to “substantive questions” about the validity of their findings.
William M. Armstead “is no longer a faculty member at Penn, has closed its laboratory, and has terminated its animal research activities,” the university told the Philadelphia Inquirer in a statement Tuesday.
It follows increasing controversy and a reported federal investigation into Armstead’s research, which involved drilling the skulls of young pigs and pounding their brains with fluid-filled plungers to examine their injuries and test various treatments.
The scandal boiled over last month when the medical journal Pediatric Research published a retraction for one of Armstead’s 2017 articles, the fifth such retraction related to his brain injury research.
The cancellation policy for the article states: “The author has withdrawn this article. After publication, it was determined that the data in the article could not be corroborated by the source data.’
A file photo shows a research building on the UPenn campus. Armstead left the university when five of his articles were withdrawn from medical journals
Last month, the medical journal Pediatric Research published a retraction for one of Armstead’s 2017 articles, the fifth such retraction related to his research into brain injuries
One article in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and three in the Journal of Neurotrauma have also been retracted in recent months.
All five retracted articles were originally published between 2016 and 2019, and some have been repeatedly cited by other researchers.
The revocation notices indicate that the articles were withdrawn at Armstead’s request, but note the lack of detail provided by the author about the potential problems with the research.
Typical is a note from the Journal of Neurotrauma stating that Armstead asked for a full retraction because “substantive questions have arisen regarding the results, the presentation, and the conclusions reported in the paper, which could not be answered with the available source data”.
The journal’s editors added that they had contacted Armstead three times for more information about the issues with his study, but had received no response.
Armstead and a UPenn spokesman did not respond to requests for comment from DailyMail.com Tuesday night.
UPenn told the Inquirer in a statement: “When we were contacted by a magazine for discrepancies in Dr. Armstead, we have assessed the concerns according to our process and reported our findings to all relevant authorities.”
Armstead’s research involved drilling the skulls of young pigs and pounding their brains with fluid-filled plungers to test various treatments for traumatic brain injuries (file photo).
‘DR. Armstead is no longer a faculty member at Penn, has closed his lab and ended his animal research activities,” the statement added.
It’s unclear when Armstead left UPenn. As of June, the school’s website said he may no longer be affiliated with the university’s Perelman School of Medicine.
He is currently listed as “retired” on the university’s website.
Following the retraction of Armstead’s latest study, which was funded in part by federal funds, the Federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) launched an investigation into potential research misconduct, according to The Guardian.
Such reviews can cover a range of wrongdoings, including instances of plagiarism, forgery, or flagrant forgery in the conduct of research.
The scientific watchdog publication Retraction Watch helped draw attention to the wave of retractions of Armstead’s research.
“Exposing baby pigs to brain damage (before they are killed) may have some justification in research if subject to proper supervision,” the outlet noted in its latest article.
The Journal of Neurotrauma published retraction notices for three of Armstead’s articles, including the one shown above
“Having to abandon the project because someone decided that producing the data was a good idea seems far less justifiable,” it added.
Animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) has also repeatedly and publicly called for a nationwide investigation into the matter.
According to the group, the National Institutes of Health funded at least some of Armstead’s experiments on piglets with nearly $2 million in grants.
SAEN described Armstead’s research as “cruel, multimillion-dollar tax-funded experiments.”
It said the research had “inflicted traumatic head injuries on dozens of newborn piglets.”