The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has sanctioned an assistant professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for plagiarizing from a grant application she was reviewing — which feels like a scientific version of insider trading — and a number of published papers.
engaged in research misconduct by plagiarizing significant portions from research grant application R21 AR061881 that she had reviewed for NIAMS, NIH, and inserting that text into her submitted grant application R01 AR062378-01. Respondent also plagiarized significant portions of text from the following scientific articles and one U.S. patent application available on the Internet:
- BMC Med Genomics 4:8, 2011
- J Am Col. Cardiol 52:117-123, 2008
- Nature 457:910-914, 2009
- J Autoimmun 29:310-318, 2007
- U.S. Patent Application No. 20090047269 (published Feb. 19, 2009)
- Toxicol Pathol 35:952-957, 2007
- BMC Med Genomics 1:10, 2008
- Open Systems Biology Journal 1:1-8, 2008
- Endocrinology 146:4189-4191, 2005.
Karnik is the second dermatology researcher at Case Western to be subject to ORI sanctions this year. In February, Bryan William Doreian, a former postdoc, was found to have falsified data in several papers. (The ORI announced the Karnik case Tuesday, and The Scientist was the first outlet we saw report it, but we haven’t had time to cover it until today.)
We haven’t seen a single department struck by this kind of lightning before, but that’s not terribly surprising given how few cases ORI reports on each year — about a dozen. That means it’s really impossible to say whether the cases are related or whether this is simply coincidence. Karnik — one of whose studies of genes for a type of baldness has been cited 40 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — does not seem to have published with any of Doreian’s co-authors.
The case does not appear to involve any retractions. Karnik agreed to have her work supervised for two years, and not to serve on any NIH peer review committees.
While the latter sanction is typical in many ORI cases, it seems particularly apt here given that Karnik seems to have committed the scientific version of insider trading that many scientists shudder to think about: Stealing from someone else’s grant application. Typically those fears are about a reviewer taking your ideas and running with them, then either getting a head start or recommending rejection of the grant. But plagiarizing is also stealing, of course.