A former researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis has won back the right to apply for Federal research funding despite a 2011 finding against him by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).
Philippe Bois, a cancer researcher now working at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, argued that the alleged misconduct in the ORI findings — which led to a three-year ban on applying for funding — was actually honest error. As Bois’s attorneys explained last year:
When research scientists are accused of scientific misconduct by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), they have a legal right to appeal and seek an adjudicatory hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to clear their name. Since 2005, ALJs have, without exception, denied every such hearing request by a scientist. That may now change as a result of a recent decision by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. in a lawsuit involving a research scientist represented by Donoghue Barrett & Singal’s Litigation Department.
On March 2, 2012, United States District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a written opinion and order vacating a Debarment Order imposed by HHS on Dr. Philippe Bois, Ph.D., and remanding the case back to HHS for a hearing on the merits (the full text of the opinion can be found here. ORI sought to debar Dr. Bois because it claimed he had committed research misconduct. Under HHS regulations, Dr. Bois challenged the debarment and requested a formal adjudicatory hearing. However, the ALJ denied his request for a hearing and HHS thereafter issued a formal Debarment Order which prohibited Dr. Bois from receiving any further federal funding for any of his research. Dr. Bois sued HHS in US District Court, asking a federal judge to overturn its Debarment Order, and to require HHS to hold a hearing at which Dr. Bois could defend himself against the allegations and try to clear his name.
In a settlement of that suit, announced yesterday in the Federal Register,
…Bois denied that he committed research misconduct but he agreed not to further appeal ORI’s findings of research misconduct…
Bois agreed to three years of supervision for any Federally funded research, and to not serve on any NIH committees for the same length of time..
In a statement released to The Scientist — which was first to report the settlement — Bois said:
I have been fighting to clear my name for almost 7 years, and I am glad to be able to put this matter behind and to move on with my career in science. ORI’s decision to cease seeking a debarment is a clear signal to me that its findings would not have been sustained by a judge and that its proposed punishment, a three-year debarment, was excessive and unreasonable.
One paper, in the Journal of Cell Biology, was retracted in 2007, and another, in Molecular and Cellular Biology, was corrected that year. The MCB paper has been cited 43 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.