“A national expert, New York University bioethics professor Arthur Caplan, said last month that prosecutors should have been alerted about the incident. Caplan told the Register that Han’s admitted actions were “flat-out fraud,” which should have drawn more than a temporary ban from federally financed research.”
DesMoines Register -“U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is suggesting that federal officials should have sought tougher sanctions against a former Iowa State University scientist who committed brazen fraud in an AIDS vaccine study.
Han resigned from Iowa State last fall after admitting he spiked samples of rabbit blood with human antibodies to falsely indicate a vaccine was protecting the rabbits against the virus that causes AIDS. The assistant professor signed a statement taking sole responsibility for the fraud and saying he was “very ashamed.”
The federal government’s top AIDS research administrator has said the “exciting results” of the tainted tests helped Han’s team gain millions of dollars in government grants.
Grassley’s letter to the director of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity suggests that more should be done to recover some of the grant money.
In a pointed letter Monday, the Iowa Republican asked why the culprit, Dong-Pyou Han, only received a three-year ban from participating in federally financed research.
“This seems like a very light penalty for a doctor who purposely tampered with a research trial and directly caused millions of taxpayer dollars to be wasted on fraudulent studies,” Grassley wrote to a senior official of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is suggesting that federal officials should have sought tougher sanctions against a former Iowa State University scientist who committed brazen fraud in an AIDS vaccine study.
…Grassley’s letter requested that federal officials respond within two weeks to his list of questions about the case. The senator’s questions include whether federal administrators have ever tried to recover grant money in such a case. He also asked whether research supervisors are ever held accountable for scientific misconduct by their underlings…
…In response to an public records request from the Register, ISU officials last month released hundreds of pages of documents about the situation, including numerous emails between the university and federal officials. The documents included no suggestion that anyone had alerted law-enforcement authorities about the fraud.” Full Article
Commit Fraud, Go to Jail?
LabTimes “In June 2009, a judge in New York City sentenced Bernard “Bernie” Madoff to 150 years in prison for his role in a massive fraud scheme that drained an estimated $18 billion from unwitting investors. Six months later, Scott Reuben, a Massachusetts anesthesiologist dubbed the “Medical Madoff”, was sentenced to six months in federal prison for health care fraud after fabricating data in clinical trials he did not conduct.
But since then, despite dozens of findings of misconduct by the Office of Research Integrity, no American researcher has been sent to jail for scientific fraud. You would think that the argument for prison would be easier to make when such fraud involves misusing the taxpayers’ dollars but most such cases don’t even result in outright bans on federal funding. A growing chorus of observers, however, is saying the time is right to make time behind bars part of the sanction against such behaviour.
Looking good in orange
To be sure, the sentiment is far from unanimous. While some scientists are frustrated that fraudsters roam free after faking their way to highly competitive grants and depriving others of research funds, many, if not most, scientists wince at the notion that their dishonest colleagues would look better in orange (the colour of a standard USA prisoner outfit). After all, finding a victim at the back end of the deed is often difficult. Sure, other researchers may have wasted time and money following up on bogus results. But the reaction seems typically to be more “Run ‘em out of town” rather than “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key”.
Yet, the arguments for making research misconduct a criminal offence is worth strong consideration. The leading voice was a December 2013 editorial in Nature titled “Call the cops”, which stated bluntly: “Science likes to shelter its crooks with euphemisms. The prefix ‘research’ softens fraud, and to deliberately obtain public money through deception gets labelled misconduct, among other things. This reflects the fact that the crime is viewed as being against professional standards rather than against the laws of wider society. The international game of science turned professional long ago, but the rules of play and their enforcement still harbour a decidedly amateur spirit.” Full Post on LabTimes