Miscounduct and Grantsmanship

U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu
Sun Dec 17 23:39:09 EST 1995

berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) wrote:

>My hypothesis that in science (especially, in highly
>"competitive" areas), "shoplifting" is a lot higher than 10 %,
>perhaps even 50 % is a conservative estimate, but we don't
>see it en-masse because almost all of it goes undetected.

And here I thought you read everything I posted....  well, then
again, I don't get to read everything you post???

"Scientists, institutions downplay misconduct - Accusers hit office
probing their charges as ineffectual" by Leslie Alan Horvitz.  The
Washington Times, May 3, 1994, pp.A6.

Article Highlights:

"Like politicians caught with their hands in the till, scientists
accused of fraud and incompetence have learned the art of

Roger Poisson is quoted in this article to say, "I always feel
sorry for a nice case to be denied the right to enter a good
protocol just on account of trivial details"

And the article goes on to report the results of a survey done by
the Acadia Institute of Bar Harbor, Maine... 43% of graduate
students and 50% of faculty members have "direct knowledge" of some
kind of misconduct in their laboratories.  Where misconduct is
defined as fraud, falsification and plagiarism (note: sloppiness
was not included in this survey).  And Jules Hallum, a virologist
and former director of the Office of Scientific Integrity is quoted
as saying, "I think that sloppy science is so much more dangerous
than crooked science, since there is so much more of it."

Charles McCutchen, NIH physicist is also quoted in this article to
say, "Once you get a really political atmosphere, then appearance
is all important, and if you need a little fraud to maintain that
appearance, you do it."

Mr. McCutchen points to the date when American science took a turn
for the worst:  Dec. 12, 1980.  For that was when Congress created
the Patent Reform Act which allowed universities to retain
exclusive rights to patents generated by research in their labs
(even if the work was subsidized by taxpayers).  This was the
beginning of the Gold Rush.

Mr. Minsky (chief of the National Coalition for Universities in the
Public Interest - a Ralph Nader group) offers a theoretical
example:  "I'm a scientist working on a new drug, and I want to
know if the drug's effective.  If I were just a pure scientist in
the old days, I might publish my results even if they weren't
conclusive."  The goal was to contribute to general knowledge.
Today, a scientist might be tempted to "massage" the data enough to
make it appear as if the drug is effective, motivated by the
prospect of a lucrative deal with a pharmaceutical company.

How many scientists succumb to this is unknown.

But according to a 1990 House Government Operations Committee
report:  "Many cases of scientific misconduct would have gone
undiscovered, and many of the scientists would have continued their
fraudulent or misleading research, without the courageous and
sometimes single-minded efforts of one or two individuals [whistle-
blowers], many of whom are sharply criticized by the institutions
involved as vindictive or jealous colleagues."

And as for the ORI (Office of Research Integrity)...

Robert Sprague (professor of psychology at the University of
Pittsburgh who testified before Congress on the Stephen Breuning
case of misconduct... and who was threatened with libel action by
that university).. he calls the ORI "window dressing".

Ernie Fitzgerald (an Air Force cost analyst who exposed defense
industry corruption) was quoted as saying "It's eyewash for the
public.  They will occasionally concede what's going to come out
anyway, but put the best possible face on it and assure the tax-
paying public that whatever problems there are have been solved."

Charles McCutchen called the ORI "the black hole bureau - it
vacuums up complaints and buries them."

     Even when ORI decides that someone is guilty, "they can't make
     it stick," says Walter Stewart, a researcher at NIH who has
     generated a great deal of controversy for his work (along with
     colleague Ned Feder) in examining fraud cases.  One big
     reason:  the agency's standards for determining misconduct are
     too stringent.  The ORI not only must prove misconduct based
     on a preponderance of evidence but on intent to defraud as

     According to ORI guidelines, any individual the agency finds
     guilty of scientific misconduct has the right to appeal to the
     Health and Human Services Departmental Appeals Board.  Lawyers
     comprise the board that has even higher standards than ORI and
     guarantees legal protection for those found guilty of

The article then goes on to discuss the case of Dr. Robert Gallo
and Mikulas Popovic... who the ORI first found "guilty of
permitting lapses and misrepresentation by his team," then 3 years
later that there were in fact guilty of "minor misconduct," and
finally after a review by the Appeals Board - dropped all charges.

     "The board has upped the stakes considerably," complained Mr.
     Bivens [of the ORI] after the [Gallo] decision.  "They
     basically treat these cases now as criminal cases.  This had
     led to a fundamental conflict between the legal and scientific

As for Whistleblowers:

Mr. Bivens, of the ORI, acknowledges that legal protection for
whistleblowers remain ineffectual.

     Phil Green, an Ann Arbor, Mich. lawyer who had won a major
     fraud case against the University of Michigan, sees little
     hope that whistleblowers will ever be free to expose
     misconduct and escape retribution.

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