Christoph Schnelle.
Christoph Schnelle. Contributed

Investigation finalised into UM-linked academic

AN INVESTIGATION into a researcher who was accused of failing to declare a conflict of interest relating to Universal Medicine has been completed.

The University of Queensland has been investigating, since April last year, allegations involving PhD candidate and Northern Rivers financial adviser Christoph Schnelle.

UQ's pro-vice chancellor Professor Mark Blows said there was no finding of misconduct.

Professor Blows said there were, however, "omissions and inadvertent errors”.

"The journal articles related to research involving participants in and practices promoted by an organisation called Universal Medicine and in part drew on information from the Australian Longitudinal Study in Women's Health,” Prof Blows said.

The founder of Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon, was last year found by a Supreme Court jury to be "the leader of a socially harmful cult” and "a charlatan”.

Prof Blows said the omissions, which were confirmed in the investigation, related to "full declarations of potential conflicts of interest” while errors included "statistical miscalculations”.

"The University is committed to correcting the scientific record if errors or significant omissions are discovered as part of any investigation and has contacted the journals involved so they can decide what corrective action to take,” Prof Blows said.

He said the authors had "already taken steps to correct some of the identified issues” in this case.

"The University expects all researchers to comply with its research conduct and integrity policies and procedures,” he said.

"Any allegation involving research conduct is investigated thoroughly and in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness.”

Prof Blows said UQ investigated the matter in accordance with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Mr Schnelle, who has been approached for comment, last year told The Northern Star the authors had provided conflict of interest statements to the publisher.

Gunther Eysenbach, editorial director of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, said the Canadian-based publication had already acted on the omission.

"We already took action long before the university concluded their investigation,” Mr Eysenbach said.

"We published a correction of the conflict of interest together with an editorial expression of concern about the omission of the COI.

"No further action is required on our end as the university did not recommend a retraction of the articles.”

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