Unusual: HIV vaccine researcher who faked data arrested, faces felony charges
Dong Pyou-Han, a former researcher at Iowa State University who spiked rabbit blood samples to make it look as though a potential HIV vaccine was working, was arrested earlier this week on felony charges.
According to the Des Moines Register:
The federal charges filed by Nicholas Klinefeldt, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, each carry a sentence of up to five years in prison. Han was arrested Monday and appeared before a magistrate judge in Ohio before being released. Han is scheduled to appear at the federal courthouse in Des Moines on Tuesday.
This case and others have led to a lively conversation about whether scientific fraud should be treated like a crime. The number of U.S. researchers who have been found guilty of fraud and have served jail time — Eric Poehlman and Scott Reuben come to mind — is very small.
Some are also asking why none of the grants based on Han’s fakery — some $10 million — are being returned to the NIH. As the the Des Moines Register story notes:
The case prompted U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley to question whether the government would ever be able to recoup any grant money awarded as the result of Han’s fraud. In a May 9 letter to Grassley, a director with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote that ISU would have to repay $496,832, which was the amount of federal grant money that went toward paying Han’s salary.