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.”