Several research findings have recently been found false and expunged from the published scientific record. In one case, a researcher tampered with materials in his experiments so he would get the results he wanted. In another case, researchers established a phony ring of reviewers by using fraudulent email accounts so that, at least once, they could approve their own papers for publication.
The first example is from Iowa State University, Ames. Dong-Pyou Han and his team were working on an AIDS vaccine. In order to keep receiving funding for the research through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, he needed impressive results, so he spiked the rabbit blood he was using in his experiments with human proteins that made it look as if the rabbits were producing antibodies and responding well to the HIV vaccine he had given them.
But they weren’t, and Dr Han has been charged with making false statements on his grant funding proposal, which caused the wasting of several million dollars of taxpayer money, the New York Times reports.
It’s very rare that people are actually prosecuted for doing this, but Dr Han’s fraud was so egregious and so costly that the Office of Research Integrity in the US Department of Health and Human Services arrested him for what he had allegedly done. His team had been spiking samples for years, the Huffington Post reported, and cheating taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
According to a report in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the National Institute of Health is withholding a $1.38 million payment but has not called back any of the remaining $14.5 million in grant money awarded to Dr Han’s team, which consists of researchers at several universities.
The second instance, out of Taiwan, involves a researcher accused of “perverting the peer-review process” by creating fraudulent online accounts to judge proposed research papers favorably and help get them published, the New York Times reports.
The Journal of Vibration and Control, which publishes studies on subjects like signal analysis and noise control, retracted 60 papers published over the last four years that all had at least one reviewer involved in the tainted peer-review process.
Chen-Yuan Chen allegedly established a “peer-review and citation ring,” which included both fake scientists he just made up and real ones whose identities he had assumed. He even used one of the aliases to review one of his own papers, the journal said.
The Retraction Watch blog posted a list of all 60 articles and also reported that up to 130 email accounts may have been involved with the phony peer-review.