Fallout from the Dorta – Drinkel paper

When publishing a paper based on her thesis, Professor Reto Dorta apparently “instructed” Emma Drinkel to “make up an elemental analysis” which – to her credit – she did not. But the “instruction” was inadvertently left in the supplemental information to the paper (which itself was rather sloppy editing and by her but his responsibility as the corresponding author).

Apparently since the news came out in ChemBark and RetractionWatch and other sites, Emma Drinkel’s reputation and career are severely threatened and the attention and “hounding” she has received has caused much distress. Quite probably much of the criticism is the usual anonymous abuse in the blogosphere and quite unjustified.

But what is missing as far as I am aware is any “explanation” from Prof. Reto Dorta who wrote the “instruction” and was the senior author and – presumably – her supervisor. Though it was a very long time ago since I was subject -academically – to the whims and the power of a supervisor, I know how difficult it is to resist a supervisor’s instructions. Was he in the habit of giving such “instructions” to his students?

Synthetic Remarks carries an admirable post entitled “In Defense of Emma with an email from Emma’s mother which does not need any commentary.

From: Mary-Anne Drinkel [mailto:xxxxa@xxxx.co.uk]
Sent: 15 August 2013 21:04
To: Fredrik von Kieseritzky ‘xxx@xxx.com’
Subject: Emma Drinkel – the Dorta Affair

Dear Dr Kieseritzky

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you, but I would just like to thank you for your comment on ChemBark. My name is Mary-Anne Drinkel, and I am mother of Emma. We are very proud of our daughter she has worked hard and conscientiously to earn her first class degree at Durham, her PhD at Zurich, and presently her Post doctorate work in Brazil- we know that fabricating data would be alien to her. I cannot believe that her good reputation, built up over these years can be destroyed in a week. I know nothing of the academic community, but the hostile and aggressive comments left on the blog sites are unbelievable. I don’t know if Reto Dorta was careless or has done a very bad thing, but I do know that Emma is the innocent party in this affair. How many PhD thesis could withstand the hostile scrutiny that Emma’s has been subjected to, with these bloggers determined to find evidence of wrongdoing – boasting about who broke the news first.

Emma’s husband has a new industry position in Switzerland, and they will be moving back to Europe very soon; this means Emma will be applying for jobs – she fears this affair will affect her chances, as she would be honest with prospective employers about her situation. They had decided to leave the academic world long before this episode because the competitiveness and political environment of university life was not for them. Emma is devastated that her good name at Durham and Zurich University will be forever tarnished by this affair.

My husband and I have felt so sad and so helpless as these events have developed – when I saw your comment that was sympathetic to Emma’s plight, it was the first bit of humanity I had witnessed in the whole affair, and I am grateful to you for that. Emma will get through this, she is resilient and has the support of her husband, family and friends – but we feel so angry that Emma has been subjected to this through no fault of her own.

Once again thank- you,

Best wishes,

Mary-Anne Drinkel

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One Response to “Fallout from the Dorta – Drinkel paper”

  1. Update on the Dorta-Drinkel paper | The k2p blog Says:

    […] “close” the story on my previous posts (here and here), this post at the Chemistry blog brings a kind of “closure” though some more details […]

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