Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Penalty for fradulent research: jail sentence?

From Sunday's New York Times Magazine, "An Unwelcome Truth" by Jeneen Interlandi - the story of the trial of Eric Poehlman for a "career" of fradulent scientific research:

He presented fraudulent data in lectures and in published papers, and he used this data to obtain millions of dollars in federal grants from the National Institutes of Health — a crime subject to as many as five years in federal prison. Poehlman’s admission of guilt came after more than five years during which he denied the charges against him, lied under oath and tried to discredit his accusers. By the time Poehlman came clean, his case had grown into one of the most expansive cases of scientific fraud in U.S. history.
The story discusses the case and how portions of the fraud were initially discovered by a student collaborator who was faced with the uneviable challenge of investigating discrepencies and eventually disclosing the extent of fradulent research activities in Poehlman's lab by a formal charge of scientific misconduct with his institution. It details the internal investigation and progression of the case to criminal prosecution by the US Department of Justice, with sentencing this past June:

"Federal sentencing guidelines called for five years in prison based on the amount of grant money Poehlman had obtained using fraudulent data. But no scientist had ever spent time in prison for fabricating data. (One did spend 60 days in a halfway house.)... The sentencing judge was William Sessions, the same judge to whom Poehlman denied all allegations of misconduct at the injunction hearings four years earlier. He told Poehlman to stand and receive his sentence: one year and one day in federal prison, followed by two years of probation."
Commentary on the story:
- Orac of Respectful Insolence: "Jail for scientific misconduct?"

- Chad Orzel of Uncertain Principles: "Falsify data, go to jail"

- the Office of Research Integrity (US DHHS) report on the initial case

- More via a Google Blog Search or Technorati

And a related post by RPM of evolgen: "Fraud is okay"



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