PANEL WILL FOCUS ON SCIENTIST'S NOTES

Author: By Peter G. Gosselin, Globe Staff

Date: 05/03/1989 Page: 15
Section: NATIONAL/FOREIGN

In late May of 1986, a Boston scientist presented colleagues with two notebook pages full of data to answer a critic's charge that she did not have enough evidence for a scientific paper she had published.

Now, two years later, Secret Service agents are prepared to testify that the pages from the notebook of that scientist, Thereza Imanishi-Kari, a pathologist at Tufts University School of Medicine, were drawn up long after the dates now claimed for them and only days before the May 23, 1986 meeting at which she confronted criticisms of her work.

Sources said the contested pages are among at least four that turned up in a notebook of pages that Imanishi-Kari's lawyer has certified were prepared in late 1984 and early 1985, rather than in 1986, and among at least several dozen whose authenticity federal investigators question.

The conflict between the Secret Service's and the lawyer's assertions about the pages' dates is likely to figure prominently in a congressional hearing that starts tomorrow.

The key figures in the hearing will be Rep. John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, and Imanishi-Kari and a scientific colleague, David Baltimore, a Nobel prize laureate from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge. Baltimore is also a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The session is seen by many as a test of whether American science, which is largely supported with public dollars, can remain independent of politics and as a measure of whether scientific misconduct, until now viewed as a aberration, is widespread.

Imanishi-Kari could not be reached for comment last night. Her lawyer, Bruce A. Singal, said, "As best we can tell from the information that's been provided to us, the notations in question simply represent data which was retained in its original form and recorded in lab notes some time later."

Over the weekend, Singal labeled the Dingell hearing a "witch hunt."

Singal's comments were echoed this week by virtually all of American science, which has grown increasingly incensed about the Dingell hearings, especially since news surfaced of the Secret Service involvement.

Indeed, a stream of prominent scientists rushed to defend their Boston colleagues in newspaper opinion articles and speeches.

Robert E. Pollack, dean of Columbia College in New York, picked up on the ''witch-hunt" theme in an article in The New York Times yesterday. Baltimore himself, who has served as chief spokesman for the six authors of the contested paper, including Imanishi-Kari, labeled the probe a "charade."

The criticism produced a sharp retort last night from Dingell, who along with his staff has maintained a public silence on the issue.

Dingell said committee staffers presented their findings and those of the Secret Service to Baltimore, Imanishi-Kari, and co-author David Weaver in private meetings last week.

"We have made every effort to be fair," Dingell said in a prepared statement. "In the face of the subcommittee's cooperation, I find it simply puzzling and disappointing that the co-authors refused to answer any of our questions that might have shed light or explained these disturbing findings."

The most troubling of those findings appear to come from the Secret Service, which was called into the congressional inquiry because of its expertise in analyzing documents. Among its other duties, the agency, a division of the US Treasury Department, is also responsible for investigating counterfeiting.

Secret Service agents found evidence that raises questions about the authenticity of several dozen pages of a 130-page lab notebook belonging to Imanishi-Kari, according to sources. Many of their findings involved four pages that they dated to mid-May of 1986.

Sources said that was a crucial period in the emerging controversy over the scientific paper that Imanishi-Kari co-authored with Baltimore, Weaver, now at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and three others.

Last modified: Wed Sep 20 20:34:37 EDT 2000