Research Integrity Officer (RIO)

Examples of Research Misconduct

John Darsee, Harvard University
Eric Poehlman, University of Vermont
Hwang Woo-Suk, Seoul National University

***By: Justine Stasik
            Baruch Honors College
            SPAR College Assistant


John Darsee was a reputable and admired figure in the medical research field. He was a leading researcher in the field of drugs that helped patients to recover from heart attacks. From 1974 to 1979 Darsee worked at Emory University’s Grady Memorial Hospital, serving as the chief medical resident. His work then led him to work at the Cardiac Research Laboratory at Harvard University. Eugene Braunwald, the head of the lab, regarded Darsee as “one of the most remarkable of the 130 fellows who had worked in his lab”. By 1981, Darsee had written over 100 research papers and abstracts.

Despite his apparent accomplishments, Darsee’s research integrity was questioned by his co-workers. In May of 1981, two of the lab’s fellows shared their concerns with the lab director, Dr. Robert Kloner. When Darsee was confronted about the authenticity of his work and was asked to show raw data for an abstract he was working on, he drew data from a single experiment involving a dog, and recorded it as data drawn from several experiments over time. After being accused of falsifying his recordings, Darsee admitted he was guilty. In total, 8 papers and 32 abstracts at Emory University, and 9 papers and 21 abstracts at Harvard University were retracted that Darsee had written. Further investigation showed that he created erroneous data as an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame. He was stripped of his NIH fellowship, his Harvard faculty appointment, and was barred from any NIH funding.

Bibliography:

  1. “John Darsee.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 25 March 2008. 22 April 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Darsee.
  2. “Michael D. Mann.” The Ethics of Collecting and Processing Data and Publishing Results of Scientific Research. 22 April 2008 http://www.unmc.edu/ethics/data/darsee.htm.

                                                                                                

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Eric Poehlman, once among the most reputable researchers of human obesity, is now known as the first academic in the United States to be sentenced to prison for falsifying data in a grant application. Poehlman worked as a full-time professor at the University of Vermont. His research fell within a wide range, and included: the physiological changes associated with menopause, obesity, affects of exercise on obesity, and the human aging process. Poehlman was in extremely good standing within his research fields, ultimately publishing over two hundred journal articles.

Soon enough, however, Poehlman was accused of scientific misconduct by Walter DeNino, a former lab technician at the University of Vermont. DeNino’s report marked U.S. history, making Poehlman the first man ever to be imprisoned based on invented data in a grant application. On March 17, 2005, Poehlman pleaded guilty to charges for scientific misconduct, admitting that seventeen of his grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health were based on false data. Furthermore, ten of Poehlman’s published papers were proven to be fictitious.

On June 28, 2006, Poehlman was sentenced to serve a year and a day in federal prison. It was totaled that Poehlman cheated research agencies out of $2.9 million. Moreover, money allocated to Poehlman and his fabricated proposals left other honest applicants at a disadvantage. Judge Williams Sessions III said Poehlman “violated the public trust”. As a result, Poehlman is prohibited from receiving any future federal grants, and was told to write various corrections to his published journals. Currently, Eric Poehlman is teaching high school science in Kuper Academy, located in Montreal.

Bibliography:

  1. “Eric Poehlman”.  Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.16 February 2008. 22 April 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Poehlman.

                                                                                                  

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Hwang Woo-Suk, a South Korean scientist, was once looked at as a global source of hope and inspiration. He was a professor of biotechnology and theriogenology at Seoul National University. His known status came when he declared extremely important advances in the field of stem cell research. Such advances affected people worldwide, spreading hope to millions. His research would, for example, enable paralyzed people to walk. Most notably, in 2004 and 2005 he published articles in the Science journal that stated through cloning, he created human embryonic stem cells. The news of research was so praised, it was even featured on a Korean postage stamp.

His glory soon ended when it was discovered that his published articles were based on falsified data. On March 20, 2006, Hwang Woo-Suk was released from his position at Seoul National University. On May 12, 2006, he was “indicted on embezzlement and bioethics law violations linked to faked stem cell research”. He confessed to numerous frauds and violations against ethics and research. Stem Cell research continues to be a field heavily researched and examined. Hwang Woo-Suk is no longer a part of this field, though he remains in the sciences, working at the Suam Bioengineering Research Institute in Yongin, studying animal cloning.

Bibliography:

  1. “Wang Woo-Suk”.  Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.27 March 2008. 22 April 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hwang_Woo-Suk.
  2. NewYorkTimes.com. “Researcher Faked Evidence of Human Cloning, Koreans Report”. 10 January 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/10/science/10clone.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1208885616-O3zsrqSTadwpnwni5G+Fqg.

                                                                                                   

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                                                                 Last updated October 3, 2011