Duke University pays $112M to settle faked-research lawsuit

Duke University will pay $112 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit after federal prosecutors said a research technician's fake data landed millions of dollars in federal grants, the school and the government said Monday.

The private university in Durham submitted claims for dozens of research grants that contained falsified or fabricated information that unjustly drained from the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies, the U.S. Justice Department said. The school said it is repaying grant money and related penalties.

"Taxpayers expect and deserve that federal grant dollars will be used efficiently and honestly," local U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin said in a statement. "May this serve as a lesson that the use of false or fabricated data in grant applications or reports is completely unacceptable."

The lawsuit was first filed in 2015 by whistleblower and former Duke employee Joseph Thomas. The Justice Department took it over afterward. The suit claims the faked research was conducted by former research technician Erin Potts-Kant, who was supervised by pulmonary medicine researcher William Michael Foster. Foster's lab experimented with mice, seeking to determine the effects of inhaling diesel exhaust, among other tests. Several research papers by Foster's team were later retracted.

"We expect Duke researchers to adhere always to the highest standards of integrity, and virtually all of them do that with great dedication," university President Vincent Price said in a statement. "When individuals fail to uphold those standards, and those who are aware of possible wrongdoing fail to report it, as happened in this case, we must accept responsibility, acknowledge that our processes for identifying and preventing misconduct did not work, and take steps to improve."

The settlement was announced on the same day that U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles had scheduled a hearing on why the deal supposedly struck in November hadn't been finalized by the Justice Department.

The government alleged that between 2006 and 2018 Duke knowingly submitted faked data to federal agencies in 30 grants. The university had warning signs that some of the research was fraudulent but didn't act until discovering in 2013 that Potts-Kant had siphoned off money for spending on clothes and other items, the lawsuit said.

Duke University said the technician pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery in state court and paid the school restitution. Foster retired in 2015, university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said.

Thomas, the whistleblower, will get $33.75 million from the settlement, the government said.

Duke is still dealing with a different research scandal dating back more than a decade. Duke medical professor Dr. Anil Potti engaged in misconduct while researching treatments in human cancer patients, U.S. Health and Human Services Department investigators said in 2015. Potti's studies were published in top medical journals including the New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet Oncology between 2006 and 2009.

In a settlement reached with the federal health agency, Potti did not acknowledge liability but agreed to have all his research supervised until 2020. Potti left Duke in 2010. Duke settled lawsuits brought by patients and estates of patients who participated in those medical trials.

As a result of both cases, the National Institutes of Health last year required Duke University researchers to increase their reporting of how federal money was being spent.


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mqr
Mar 25, 2019
This is why science is distrusted, because is made by humans and if someone knows history, then it is well known how extremely easy is to bend human's will.

Some people wish that science would be their religion, but it as faulty as the established religions that are also tainted with human tendencies to wrong doing.

scientific data =! truth

Mar 25, 2019
And see, this is the problem: faked evidence != evidence. We already found that out with the anti-vaxxers.

Eventually someone tries to duplicate the experiment, and it doesn't duplicate. Then a couple others do the same thing and it still doesn't duplicate. Then the faker gets caught.

This is inherent in the scientific method. It's not a religion. Nobody believes anything until they can prove it themselves. Religions, on the other hand, rely on individual sources without any check at all.

Mar 25, 2019
'Thomas, the whistleblower, will get $33.75 million from the settlement, the government said.'

It is pretty sad state of science at Duke if they had to rely on whistleblowers to check their own work. Scientists used to care about their own reputation when they put their names on a piece of paper and by and large, they still do.

You can read about the two cases mentioned here: https://retractionwatch.com/

Mar 26, 2019
Nobody believes anything until they can prove it themselves. Religions, on the other hand, rely on individual sources without any check at all.

Right there, you have a very good description of the Big Bang, Stars forming all by themselves from clouds of gas, Planets forming all by themselves from clouds of dust, Life arising spontaneously from non-living materials and darwinian evolution.
So where are the checks that are supposed to keep this naturalistic religion in check and expose its mythical insides??? Where is it? Where are the emperor's clothes?
Yet, everywhere around the world these things mentioned are touted as unassailable scientific FACT with huge bodies of overwhelming evidence...
The only thing overwhelming is the lack of evidence.

Mar 26, 2019
This article highlights the fallen human condition. This kind of thing is not rare and in fact will only become more and more prevalent because of the atheistic belief system.
If there is no God, there really is no internal mechanism or guard against dishonesty. No matter how atheists would like to hail their strongly developed moral code, there are those growing up now who can see right thru the verbiage, smoke and mirrors and go directly to the logical conclusion: "If there is no God then as long as no human finds out, I can get away with it and score big time". This is reflected in the staggeringly frightening observation (casually, on the street) that when asked, almost ZERO of the those who professed to be atheists had ANY reservation that it's OK when someone goes ballistic and does a mass shooting that kills many at school or in public. Those asked had a very great difficulty in calling such actions evil. Some could not even get to the meaning of the word itself.

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