Retraction Watch

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Second former University of Queensland researcher to appear in court to face fraud charges

with 4 comments

Bruce Murdoch

Bruce Murdoch

Bruce Murdoch, a neuroscientist formerly of the University of Queensland, will appear in court next week to face fraud charges stemming from an investigation that has already led to three retractions, several corrections, and similar charges for one of his colleagues.

Here’s the notice from the Crime and Corruption Commission:

The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has issued a former University of Queensland researcher with a Notice to Appear in court on 16 fraud-related offences.

The CCC will allege that the 64-year-old Wivenhoe Pocket man fabricated research findings and fraudulently applied for public and private research funding. It will be further alleged that he produced false reports on the progress of research.

The CCC today issued the man with a Notice to Appear in court on the following offences:

  • 3 x Fraud, contrary to section 408C of the Queensland Criminal Code
  • 1 x Forge and utter, contrary to section 488 of the Queensland Criminal Code
  • 7 x Fraudulent falsification of records, contrary to section 430 of the Queensland Criminal Code
  • 5 x General dishonesty, contrary to section 135.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code

The man is scheduled to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 19 December 2014.

As a result of the same investigation, on 31 October 2014 the CCC issued a 29-year-old Kuraby woman with a Notice to Appear in court on fraud-related offences [see previous media release]

The investigation is now finalised.

As the matter is before the courts, the CCC will not comment further.

Murdoch’s former colleague and the 29-year-old woman referred to in the notice, Caroline Barwood, appeared in court on November 5 and was granted bail.

Comments
  • don kornfeld December 12, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    It is apparent from recent similar posts that our colleagues overseas take research misconduct more seriously than we do in the US. It is more likely that ORI will suspend such an individual from receiving Federal research funds, usually for 3 years.
    However, we can’t blame ORI. It has no prosecutorial authority and the AG rarely pursues these individuals. So rare, in fact, that we can remember their names, eg Poehlman. More recently, an investigator from Iowa State U. receiving Federal grants support was prosecuted, and the university returned some funds, after Senator Grassley made noise about the case. It shouldn’t require the intervention of a US Senator.

    We can understand, but not condone, the desperate post docs,who falsify their data convinced their most current project must be published in a high impact journal), in order to get an academic appointment, As has been suggested we can reduce misconduct in this group by finding ways of reducing such fear. For example, a really good mentor ( not just a supervisor).

    However, tenured professors who commit fraud are not fearful. It is more likely they are motivated by a quest for fame and fortune (grants and applause)). Perhaps if they were made more fearful of a well-publicized federal prosecution it might have a chilling effect.

    Don

    • Ken December 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      In Australia several of the states have permanent commissions into corrupt conduct by anyone who is a state official, and anyone may ask for an investigation. As almost all universities are entities set up by state government legislation we fall under that system. Generally the complaints are about commercial processes, like tendering. There is nothing stopping a student from asserting that the proper process was not followed in determining their result, but I haven’t heard of this.

      The commissions have extensive powers to collect evidence, and may hold private and public hearings. They then can either determine that the way an organisation operates must change or refer the matter for trial.

      What is of interest here is that all the charges relate to standard criminal legislation, not anything specific to research.

      • Donald S. Kornfeld, M.D, December 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm

        Ken
        In Australia several of the states have permanent commissions into corrupt conduct by anyone who is a state official, and anyone may ask for an investigation. As almost all universities are entities set up by state government legislation we fall under that system. Generally the complaints are about commercial processes, like tendering. There is nothing stopping a student from asserting that the proper process was not followed in determining their result, but I haven’t heard of this.The commissions have extensive powers to collect evidence, and may hold private and public hearings. They then can either determine that the way an organisation operates must change or refer the matter for trial.What is of interest here is that all the charges relate to standard criminal legislation, not anything specific to research.

        Ken
        In Australia several of the states have permanent commissions into corrupt conduct by anyone who is a state official, and anyone may ask for an investigation. As almost all universities are entities set up by state government legislation we fall under that system. Generally the complaints are about commercial processes, like tendering. There is nothing stopping a student from asserting that the proper process was not followed in determining their result, but I haven’t heard of this.The commissions have extensive powers to collect evidence, and may hold private and public hearings. They then can either determine that the way an organisation operates must change or refer the matter for trial.What is of interest here is that all the charges relate to standard criminal legislation, not anything specific to research.

        Ken,

        Thanks for the information on Australian law.
        In the States, investigators who have been funded by Federal grants, eg, NIH, have received Federal funds and are therefore subject to charges of fraud.
        In those rare instances when that is done, it is handled by the US Attorney General’s Office and, if found gulty, the individual is subject to a fine and imprisonment.
        I believe that an investigator has been sentenced to six months of home confinement.

        In the more recent case I referred to, prosecuted after Senato rGrassley’s inquiry,I believe the University was also sued to return the applicable grant funds.

        I believe if that were done more often, it would diminish research misconduct by senior
        investigators and the trainees under their supervision.

        Do you think it does have such an effect in Australia?

        Don

        • Ken December 16, 2014 at 4:56 am

          I don’t think most researchers are aware of how they can be investigated so it would make little difference. The corruption commissions are generally only there to deal with problems that aren’t resolved under other mechanisms, and they will generally advise on changes to the systems that should occur so that they aren’t required in the future. Presumably universities would be advised to refer any suspect practices to the police. There are some new rules on research integrity at the federal level, so they should change things, although they may just encourage more bureaucracy.

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