Problems in the Osteoporosis Research Group at Sheffield University

Senior academic staff at the University of Sheffield have faced considerable criticism over their handling of longstanding scientific and other problems within the osteoporosis research group headed by Professor Richard Eastell (1, 2).

This statement follows procedures carried out by the University in reaction to recent press reports (3, 4).

In the opinion of many, the University have not dealt with these problems in a realistic way. A tangled web of procedures have been employed in an apparent attempt to avoid necessary action, and to protect Professor Eastell.

The University maintain that their procedures are 'robust' despite much worrying evidence to the contrary (see Statement to Redundancy Appeal Hearing - 18 Mar 2010). Professor Eastell has received considerable funding from industry.

Several academic staff, including myself, have complained about pressure placed upon them to publish scientific reports for commercial companies which do not reflect the underlying data. Staff have complained about suppression of publication, and that publications have been generated in the absence of data. Academics who have complained have seen their research and reputation blackened and undermined. Colleagues have been encouraged to present the work of these academics as if it was their own and to sign misleading statements of attribution.

At the centre of the recent press reports was a very simple event. As an experienced, professional and highly qualified post doctoral fellow and as a radiologist, I decided to submit two meeting abstracts without the explicit consent of Professor Eastell. I submitted these abstracts without the consent of a pharmaceutical company. I did not invite other scientists whose work I was criticizing to co-author the abstracts with me. I received a direct order from the University to withdraw the second abstract within 24 hours. I failed to respond to this order. I have still failed to follow this order.

Yesterday (23 March 2010), the University held a promised 'independent review' of its actions (4). The University have attempted to give the impression that they wish their actions and the context of these actions to be judged through such a review. This review replaced disciplinary procedures which should have taken place. Having initiated this 'review' it would have been expected that the University would have provided an honest and complete summary of the context they wished to be reviewed. The University did not however provide such information (see Statement to Independent Review - 23 Mar 2010). The purpose of the University in calling for such a review is therefore unknown.

I believe that the University have refused to renew my employment contract specifically in order to prevent publication of scientific findings and to prevent publication of an atlas of radiological images. These images would allow debate about the interpretation of drug trials. The University have maintained that access to these data and images will be prevented by the University upon termination of my contract of employment. I have however agreed to remain attached to the University for no salary until fellow scientists are permitted the opportunity to examine the science in whichever forum I choose. During a redundancy appeal hearing, the University suggested that suppression of scientific findings through redundancy is not a valid ground for appeal against redundancy at Sheffield University.

The so called independent review of yesterday has not yet reported, but was not encouraging. Given the desperate manoeuvres to prevent scrutiny and transparency, it seems unlikely that this will help the University to restore its reputation. In contrast to the intended disciplinary procedure (3, 4), this 'review' is not subject to appeal. It is outside the University's procedures. No witnesses were heard. Such was the desire for transparency that the University found it necessary to inform me the day before that the 'review' would be held in secret. They informed me that I would not be permitted to know or to listen to the arguments the University provided, or to listen to the testimony of Professor Eastell. I was refused the right to tape record the reading of my own statement. Furthermore, the University provided a set of documents to the review which made it impossible to believe that the University really wish to have their actions examined as they maintain they do (See Statement to Independent Review - 23 Mar 2010). The University have not responded to explain why reviewers were associated with the University of Sheffieldor why they could not be selected by anyone other than the University itself.

The University of Sheffield called for this review itself because it wished to give the impression that the University wanted its actions to be judged honestly and transparently. As such, the decisions of the University remain inexplicable.


1. Statement to Redundancy Appeal Hearing (18 Mar 2010), Dr Guirong Jiang
2. Statement to Independent Review (23 Mar 2010), Dr Guirong Jiang
3. February 18 2010 Contractual ties trip up radiologist
4. March 4 2010 Volte-face in radiologist case
5. PDF copy of this Press Statement (24 Mar 2010)