Some Scientists Who Falsify Data Still Get Millions in Federal Grants

Eric Scheiner | February 27, 2017
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Science Magazine reports, a new study suggests that for many U.S. researchers judged to have violated scientific misconduct rules, there is such a thing as a second chance and more federal funds.

Nearly one-half of 284 researchers who were sanctioned for research misconduct in the last 25 years by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the largest U.S. funder of biomedical research, ultimately continued to publish or work in research in some capacity, according to a new analysis.

And 17 of those scientists went on to collectively receive $101 million in new funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Kyle Galbraith, research integrity officer at the University of Illinois in Urbana and author of the study, published by the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, says he was surprised by the results.

“I knew from my work and reading other studies that careers after misconduct were possible. But the volume kind of shocked me,” Galbraith tells Science.

Galbraith identified 284 people who had been subjected to sanctions by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) between April 1992 and February 2016 for scientific misconduct - falsifying or fabricating data, or plagiarism.

Galbraith then searched through public databases and online resources to see how many of the 284 sanctioned researchers continued on in research. He searched for papers they had published in journals indexed by PubMed, grants they had won from NIH, and evidence that they held appointments in research fields. He found that nearly half—47.2%—had continued in research.

Overall, 23 of the scientists (roughly 8% of sanctioned researchers) received NIH funding after receiving an ORI sanction. Of that group, 17 researchers won more than $101 million for 61 new projects.

For the complete Science Magazine article, click here.

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