130 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
A SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE
As Schon’s molecular electronics results were published, colleagues began
questioning his results. According to physicist Leo Kouwenhoven, who
worked at Bell Labs during this period, “People were always gossiping about
Hendrik” (Delta, 2002). Said Princeton physicist Lydia Sohn, “Collectively,
people at Bell [Labs] were nervous” (Service, 2002a).
Although Schon’s initial papers did not provide much experimental
detail, it was expected that more details would be provided with future
results. However, as Dutch physicist Teun Klapwijk later admitted, physicists
became irritated “that Schon’s flurry of papers continued without increased
detail, and with the same sloppiness and inconsistencies” (Cassuto, 2002).
Kouwenhoven’s colleagues formed an e-mail group, exchanging information
on inconsistencies in Schon’s work (Delta, 2002). Several anonymous Bell
Labs researchers were the first to discover the discrepancies in the Science
and Nature papers and relayed this information to Sohn in April (Service,
2002a). Sohn and Cornell physicist Paul McEuen then conducted an initial
analysis of all Schon’s papers, eventually discovering the data similarities in
six papers. Said Sohn, “The data were too clean. They were what you’d
expect theoretically, not experimentally. People were getting frustrated
because no one could reproduce the results, and it was hitting a crescendo”
(Cassuto, 2002).
On May 10, 2002, McEuen and Sohn contacted Schon, Batlogg, managers
at Bell Labs, and manuscript editors at Science and Nature, disclosing the
data similarities in three papers (similarities in the other three papers were
discovered a few days later).An independent committee was then appointed
by Bell Labs to investigate Schon’s work (Service, 2002a).
Lydia Sohn never disclosed the names of the anonymous Bell Labs
researchers who contacted her about discrepancies in Schon’s papers
(Service, 2002a).
REFERENCES
American Academy for Advancement of Science, Science’s Electronic Manuscript Submission
Website.Washingon, DC: AAAS, 2004. http://www.submit2science.org/ws/menu.asp.
AT&T, The History of AT&T. Basking Ridge, NJ: AT&T, 2004. http://www.att.com/history.
Berman, D., New calling: at Bell Labs, hard times take toll on pure science. WSJ,A1, May 23, 2003.
Cassuto, L., Big trouble in the world of “big physics. Salon, Sept. 16, 2002. http://www.salon.com.
Chang, K., Panel says Bell Labs scientist faked discoveries in physics. NY Times, A1, C2,
September 26, 2002.
Crease, R., Bell Labs: shakeout follows breakup. Science, 1991, 252, 1480–1482.
Delta, “Finally, we’ve caught Hendrik. Delta (online newsletter for Technical University of
Delft),August 29, 2002, 34, 4.
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