Duke University Pays US Govt $112.5 Million In Science Fraud Case

  • Date: 25/03/19
  • Junkscience

Duke University will pay $112.5 million to the United States Government to settle Thomas v. Duke, a lawsuit alleging that a research technician improperly falsified and fabricated data from 2006 to 2013 to obtain research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies, the university announced Monday.

This case includes air quality research fraud previously mentioned on this page.

The Duke Today report (Web | PDF) is below.

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PUBLISHED MARCH 25, 2019 IN CAMPUS

DUKE AND U.S. GOVERNMENT REACH SETTLEMENT
BY DUKE TODAY STAFF

Duke University will pay $112.5 million to the United States Government to settle Thomas v. Duke, a lawsuit alleging that a research technician improperly falsified and fabricated data from 2006 to 2013 to obtain research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies, the university announced Monday.

Duke discovered the possible research misconduct in 2013 after the technician was fired for embezzling money from the university, which also occurred over the same period. The payment to the government includes both reimbursement for grants received as a result of the falsified and fabricated data and associated penalties.

The Thomas v. Duke suit was filed by a former Duke employee under the False Claims Act, a federal law that allows people not affiliated with the government to file actions on behalf of the government against persons and companies that defraud the government. Persons filing under the act can receive a portion of damages.

“We expect Duke researchers to adhere always to the highest standards of integrity, and virtually all of them do that with great dedication,” said President Vincent E. Price. “When individuals fail to uphold those standards, and those who are aware of possible wrongdoing fail to report it, as happened in this case, we must accept responsibility, acknowledge that our processes for identifying and preventing misconduct did not work, and take steps to improve.”

Thomas v. Duke was filed under seal in federal court in 2014 — after the research technician was discovered to have embezzled federal grant funds that had been awarded to the university, but before Duke understood the extent of her research misconduct. Duke reported this to the appropriate agencies and repaid the embezzled funds along with all grant-funded compensation and benefits that had been paid to the technician. The technician eventually pled guilty to two counts of forgery and paid restitution to Duke.

The university then launched a formal scientific misconduct investigation of the technician’s experiments. Those experiments involved measuring the lung function of laboratory mice using highly specialized equipment and were not connected to human subject or clinical research.

Following a detailed, three-year review of more than 50 potentially compromised research grants, Duke concluded that the technician had falsified or fabricated data that had been included in grant and payment requests submitted to the NIH and other agencies over the period of her employment. Duke also retracted scientific publications that relied on the data.

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