Investigators: US lab worker in Colorado faked test results

July 1, 2016 by Dan Elliott
Storm clouds build over the sign that stands outside the main entrance to the Federal Center on Friday, July 1, 2016, in Lakewood, Colo. Investigators say a worker at a U.S. Geological Survey laboratory intentionally manipulated test results for years that may have affected 24 research projects on coal, water and other topics. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A worker at a federal laboratory in Colorado intentionally manipulated test results for years, possibly tainting research on toxic metals in the Everglades, uranium near the Grand Canyon and coal in Afghanistan, investigators say.

The falsified data from a U.S. Geological Survey lab may have affected 24 coal, water and environmental research projects costing a total of $108 million, according to a report released recently by the Interior Department's inspector general.

The agency isn't sure why the employee falsified the results of chemical analyses, but it wasn't for personal gain or "any nefarious reason," USGS spokeswoman Anne-Berry Wade said Thursday.

A notice on the agency's website said the manipulation was done in part to correct calibration failures in the instrument being used, a mass spectrometer.

The agency took action against the employee, but Wade declined to say what it was, citing privacy rules. She also would not say whether the employee was still working for USGS or release his name.

Researchers around the world rely on USGS data, and it often shapes laws, regulations and policy. The inspector general's report said the bad data from the Colorado lab could erode confidence in the entire agency.

USGS said it did not believe the tainted data affected any decisions by lawmakers or regulators.

Sign stands outside an entrance to the Federal Center on Friday, July 1, 2016, in Lakewood, Colo. Investigators say a worker at a U.S. Geological Survey laboratory intentionally manipulated test results for years that may have affected 24 research projects on coal, water and other topics. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
"We can only hope that this incident won't have a long-lasting effect on the agency's reputation," Wade said.

Any request for a criminal investigation would be made by the inspector general's office, Wade said. An inspector general's spokeswoman was out of the office Friday and didn't immediately return a message.

The manipulation occurred between 2008 and 2014 at the USGS Energy Geochemistry Laboratory in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, the inspector general said. The test samples were mostly coal and water.

The researchers whose test data may have been manipulated were notified, according to the report dated June 15. Wade said one USGS report that used the falsified data was retracted, revised and republished. A second USGS report was revised before it was published.

The laboratory is part of the USGS Energy Resources Program, which studies potential energy sources around the world. The program made headlines two weeks ago when it said western Colorado contained 40 times more natural gas than previously thought, making it the second-largest gas formation in the country. There was no indication that report relied on the falsified data.

A sign stands outside the main entrance to the Federal Center on Friday, July 1, 2016, in Lakewood, Colo. Investigators say a worker at a U.S. Geological Survey laboratory intentionally manipulated test results for years that may have affected 24 research projects on coal, water and other topics. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

USGS managers halted all work at the laboratory when they discovered the manipulation in late 2014, Wade said. In February 2016, the agency permanently closed the section of the lab that was involved.

The inspector general's report raised questions about why the problem went undetected for so long, saying employees were suspicious of the lab's work for years. Wade said a new lab director took over in 2014 and decided to look into the suspicions.

Investigators previously found that mass spectrometer operators in the same lab violated standards between 1996 and 2008. Investigators said the operators were making excessive adjustments in instrument readings to compensate for calibration problems.

The Energy Resources Program said on its website it plans to create the position of quality assurance manager to monitor data.

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19 comments

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orti
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 02, 2016
Goverment manipulated science. Who would have thought.
AGreatWhopper
3.7 / 5 (12) Jul 02, 2016
One worker is not "the government". "The government" detected, corrected, and disclosed the problem.

The denier parrots never demonstrate nearly that much intellectual integrity.
antigoracle
2.2 / 5 (10) Jul 02, 2016
Not even the tip of the iceberg, wait till they get to NOAA and NASA, the heart of the AGW Cult and the wasted BILLIONS in fraud.
Da Schneib
3.7 / 5 (9) Jul 02, 2016
Interesting that it should be someone working at the Geological Survey. Particularly in Energy Resources.
geokstr
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 02, 2016
Goverment manipulated science. Who would have thought.


Amazing, isn't it, that someone chose to downrate your comment? I thought the leftlings here were all about the science, wherever it leads, the honor and trustworthiness of its practitioners, especially those who toil for the all-benificent, wonderful Collective..

Since the story isn't very informative about what effects these manipulations of data had on what studies, it's safe assume that all these fabricated numbers made the analyses critical of the evil capitalist-roaders. If they been anything else, the "traitor" would have named.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (6) Jul 02, 2016
One worker is not "the government"

LOL.
OH! The catechisms of the AGW Cult, fed to the indoctrinated Chicken Little idiots.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (5) Jul 03, 2016
Chicken Littles just give lip service to science.
http://www.nature...-1.18660

http://www.breitb...ategate/
Eikka
5 / 5 (9) Jul 04, 2016
Do not ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.
antialias_physorg
4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 04, 2016
Goverment manipulated science. Who would have thought.

They don't know yet why the employee falsified data. To jump from "they don'r know" to "government manipulation" shows a frightening lack of thought on your part.

ForFreeMinds
1 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2016
One worker is not "the government". "The government" detected, corrected, and disclosed the problem.


I suspect that government managers were told of calibration issues, and they in turn told the technician to do the best they could under the circumstances. And this went on for years. Then management disclosed and corrected the problem, blaming it on the technician. Do you remember how Lois Lerner blamed the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups on low level employees in a Cleveland office?

This is the kind of thing that doesn't happen in private industry, because the owners/employees know that if they falsify records or even give out bad data, the business will likely go out of business along with their jobs. This doesn't happen in the government because nobody can fire the government, and "customers" don't have a choice. You can bet the government will continue to require that researchers use their labs.

adam_russell_9615
4.6 / 5 (5) Jul 04, 2016
One worker is not "the government". "The government" detected, corrected, and disclosed the problem.


Based on the story, that one worker was attempting to correct bad data that came from an improperly calibrated spectrometer. Why was he forced to use a spectrometer could not be calibrated? Its not too big a jump to assume that management would not spring for the budget to fix it properly so he had to make do. While Im not going so far as to blame Obama, this most likely was not a problem rooted in one person but a problem rooted in the system above him.

This is the kind of thing that doesn't happen in private industry...


Sure it does.
Code_Warrior
5 / 5 (6) Jul 04, 2016
I suspect that government managers were told of calibration issues, and they in turn told the technician to do the best they could under the circumstances. And this went on for years. Then management disclosed and corrected the problem, blaming it on the technician...

This is the kind of thing that doesn't happen in private industry, because the owners/employees know that if they falsify records or even give out bad data, the business will likely go out of business along with their jobs.

BS, this happens in private industry all the time and it often results in going out of business and ruining people's lives. Enron management didn't seem concerned about falsifying records when they drove the company out of business. Bernie Madoff didn't seem to be concerned about running a ponzi scheme. Jan Hendrik Schön was a Bell Labs researcher who became infamous for falsification.
antialias_physorg
4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 04, 2016
This is the kind of thing that doesn't happen in private industry...

Volkswagen, anyone?
ElectricBoobVerses
Jul 04, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (4) Jul 04, 2016
the manipulation was done in PART to correct calibration failures in the instrument being used, a mass spectrometer.

Can you say LIES and COVERUP.

Investigators previously found that mass spectrometer operators in the same lab violated standards between 1996 and 2008. Investigators said the operators were making EXCESSIVE ADJUSTMENTS in instrument readings to compensate for calibration problems.

Excessive adjustments is what the AGW Cult calls "science" and the only way NOAA and NASA knows to "prove" gloBull warming.
ElectricBoobVerses
Jul 04, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2016
108 MILLION dollars, pales in comparison to the fraud at NOAA and NASA
http://www.nature...-1.18660

http://principia-...a-fraud/
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 05, 2016
Anyway the reason why they are mum about the individual

my take is they are keeping mum because there'd be a witch hunt/smear campaign initiated against that individual before the verdict is out.

Why do I think that? You only have to look at the posts in this comment section. They exemplify that the mentality which brought about some of the biggest disasters of the past century is alive an well and still frighteningly widespread.
Guy_Underbridge
1 / 5 (2) Jul 05, 2016
...possibly tainting research on toxic metals in the Everglades, uranium near the Grand Canyon and coal in Afghanistan...
The inspector general's report said the bad data from the Colorado lab could erode confidence in the entire agency.
My, My. Now, who would want that...hmmm?

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