A renowned scientist is accused of faking data about a dino-killing asteroid to claim credit over his female colleague

Anita Durairaj

Robert DePalma with colleagues in April 2022Photo byNASA Goddard Space Flight Center; CC-BY-2.0

Robert DePalma is a renowned paleontologist. He is an emeritus curator of Paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History in Florida. He is also studying for his Ph.D. at Manchester University.

In December 2021, DePalma published an article in the journal Scientific Reports. In his article, he concluded that the asteroid that caused the extinction of dinosaurs struck Earth when it was spring in the Northern Hemisphere. His conclusion was based on a data set that he had collected.

His colleague, Melanie During was shocked when he published the paper as she had been writing up a paper with the same conclusion but with a different dataset.

The exact season that the dino-killing asteroid struck Earth was spring and this was the conclusion that During had already assumed even before DePalma's publication.

When During who was a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University analyzed DePalma's publication in Scientific Reports, she began to have serious doubts.

During claimed that DePalma's data may have been fabricated to fit a conclusion that was already known.

Other scientists have also critiqued the data and the problem that they have noticed is that DePalma's data seems to have many irregularities including missing and duplicated data points.

DePalma's explanation is that his data is raw data and that he had a different scientist run the analyses for him. However, that particular scientist was now dead and there would be no way to recover the original data.

Scientists have stopped short of calling it fraudulent work but DePalma's article is currently under intense scrutiny by others working in the same field and the journal that published his work.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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