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Falsified research goes unnoticed for over eight years

Posted for Fiona Tomkinson, British Science Association Media Fellow

The verdict is out on two researchers, Judith Thomas and Juan Contreras, who falsified results in journals and progress reports for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – spanning an incredible eight years and amounting to more than $23 million in NIH grants (The Scientist).

Thomas and Contreras were performing kidney transplants on rhesus monkeys, to see if immunosuppressant drugs would help the operation. The researchers claimed they removed both native kidneys from their patients, leaving the transplanted kidney, plus immunosuppressant drugs, to fend for itself. But in at least 32 animals, only one native kidney was ever removed.

Peter Abbrecht, of the US Office of Research Integrity, told The Scientist that the accepted studies "could lead to wasted research effort by other researchers and possibly place patients at harm if they were enrolled in clinical trials designed on the basis of the falsified results.”

Thomas has voluntarily agreed to a ten year exclusion from working with any United States Government agency; while Contreras has been given only three years. These bans will ensure both researchers are black-listed in the US, and possibly crush their career aspirations elsewhere. The knock-on effect so far has resulted in losing their jobs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

“Such behavior is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Richard Marchase, UAB vice president for research and economic development, said in a written statement (Birmingham News). “We take our commitment to ethics very seriously, and our first priority is to maintain the integrity of scientific data.”


  1. Report this comment

    Anurag chaurasia said:

    Intigrity of scientific data should be beyond doubt.90% research papers published today has falsified datas just for the sake of publication and funding.One example i will give insects started showing resistance to bt & over all yield of the crop does not improved but datas are collected in such a way that these truth takes many years to come out.If scientific datas are collected in wright way lot of time,money can be saved.Time has come that we from scientific community should think above Publication & project funding. At the same time funding agencies should be ready to listen -ve result also otherwise under pressure scientists will keep on playing with scientific datas. Anurag chaurasia, ICAR, India

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    chantal said:

    Surely a conviction for fraud in obtaining money under false pretenses?

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