Dr. Carmen M. Arroyo is either a young scientist on a "malicious, vindictive crusade" to destroy her former boss' career and scientific reputation or she is upholding scientific integrity by showing that he misrepresented experiments and fudged on federal grant applications.
Lawyers for the two scientists exchanged those opposing views yesterday to a six-woman Baltimore County Circuit Court jury that will determine whether Dr. Arroyo, 36, defamed Dr. Gerald M. Rosen, chairman of the pharmacology and toxicology department at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
Dr. Rosen is suing for $165,000 in damages, but both sides insist that the suit is not about money but about scientific truth and integrity.
Dr. Arroyo was the first major witness called by Howard Schulman, Dr. Rosen's lawyer. She reiterated her charges, asserting that Dr. Rosen fired her when she first questioned him about an experiment he asked her to check and whose results she could not reproduce.
Dr. Rosen and Dr. Arroyo are among a very small group of scientists who work in the esoteric field of free radicals, fleeting compounds that are thought to be important in the human disease process.
The evidence Dr. Arroyo used to support her charge came from a machine that measures free radicals. During experiments, the machine also picks up noise in the room, which shows up on a chart as wiggly lines.
Specialists say that the wiggly lines are like fingerprints, because the noise during each experiment is unique. Dr. Arroyo contended that the wiggly lines in some of Dr. Rosen's papers were identical, raising the question of whether the research had been done as described.
When she complained to University of Maryland officials, they investigated her behavior rather than her allegations against Dr. Rosen, she said, and eventually even had a police officer escort her from the building in which she worked.
Dr. Arroyo, a major in the Army Reserve who now works at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, said Dr. Rosen failed to supply her with his original data on the experiment, which he had conducted some years before at the Duke University Medical Center.
She testified that she examined about 50 of Dr. Rosen's 150 published works and accused him of lifting data from old experiments and publishing them as new in papers financed by more than $500,000 in federal grants over the past decade.
In an application to renew a National Science Foundation grant, she testified, he misrepresented the progress of an experiment that she said was her design and analysis.
In his counter-attack, Dr. Rosen accused Dr. Arroyo of improperly obtaining his scientific papers, research notebooks and a grant renewal application and using them to lodge a charge of scientific misconduct with the Office of Scientific Integrity at the National Institutes of Health and with the University of Maryland.
Two university investigating panels examined the allegations and eventually cleared Dr. Rosen. The university sent the case to the Office of Scientific Integrity for review as required by federal regulations. Dr. Arroyo also asked the National Institutes of Health to investigate.
The case was returned to the university more than a year ago with directions to reopen the investigation. The university had scheduled a hearing this week, but Dr. Arroyo successfully opposed Dr. Rosen's attempts to have the trial delayed until the professional hearing was concluded.
The first witness was Dr. Gregory Bulkley, director of surgical research at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, who once worked with Dr. Rosen. He said that after Dr. Arroyo outlined her allegations against Dr. Rosen to him at an Oxygen Society meeting in May 1991, she followed it up with a fax with additional information.