Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has an op-ed piece today on scientific fraud specifically on scientists who fake results on experiments to receive government grant funds. Written by Adam Marcus, and Ivan Oransky, co-founders of Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks scientific errors, the op-ed raises critical issues especially related to the light penalties assigned to those who are caught committing fraud. The piece comments:
“Criminal charges against scientists who commit fraud are uncommon. In fact, according to a study published last year, “most investigators who engage in wrongdoing, even serious wrongdoing, continue to conduct research at their institutions.” As part of our reporting, we’ve written about multiple academic researchers who have been found guilty of misconduct and then have gone on to work at pharmaceutical giants…
In the vast majority of cases, in fact, funding is not repaid. And just a few of the hundreds of American scientists found to have committed misconduct have served prison time. In 2006, Eric T. Poehlman was sentenced to a year in prison — the first scientist to be imprisoned for falsifying a grant application — and also had to pay about $200,000 in restitution for whistle-blower lawsuits and lawyers’ fees. But the millions awarded to the University of Vermont for his work were never repaid.
Scott S. Reuben, an anesthesiologist, spent six months in federal prison starting in 2010 for faking data in many of his studies. Dr. Reuben was also forced to pay back more than $360,000 to Pfizer as restitution for misusing the drugmaker’s grant money.
But these are the rare cases.”
Those of us in research universities know the importance of federal grants and contracts to our work. However, we need to be vigilant about fraud. Marcus and Oransky are right to raise an alarm.