Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘Legal Threats’ Category

Would-be Johns Hopkins whistleblower loses appeal in case involving Nature retraction

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A former researcher at Johns Hopkins who voiced concerns about a now-retracted paper in Nature has lost another bid for whistleblower protection.

Daniel Yuan, a longtime statistician for former Hopkins yeast geneticist Jef Boeke, was dismissed in 2011, after he’d spent years raising concerns about research coming out of the lab. Yuan’s criticisms, which continued after he stopped working for Boeke, peaked in 2012 after Boeke and former labmate Yu-li Lin published paper in Nature. Later that year, Lin was found dead in his lab, a suspected suicide. In 2013, the paper was retracted, citing an inability to reproduce the main conclusions. 

Since 2013, Yuan has pursued a wrongful termination lawsuit, claiming that federal regulations surrounding scientific misconduct afforded him protection from retaliation.

In late March, Maryland’s highest court ruled against Yuan, saying that those misconduct regulations are “too vague” to offer cover to employees claiming whistleblower protection. According to lawyers we consulted, the decision could make it harder for would-be whistleblowers to fight retaliation, while also giving institutions more leeway to handle these issues on their own.

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 25th, 2017 at 11:50 am

Ex-PhD candidate sues advisor, school: Colorado prof “poisoned the well” after research dispute

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A former University of Colorado Boulder graduate student is suing his ex-advisor for defamation after being shooed out midway through his doctoral program.

Robert Roscow says he had to leave CU Boulder’s department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO) in the fall of 2016 with only a master’s degree after fish evolution researcher David Stock dropped him as a student. Their relationship deteriorated following a dispute about whether another student should perform experiments Roscow considered to be essential to his dissertation.

Once dropped, Roscow was offered the chance to find another advisor, but never did. In his complaint, filed April 25 in Boulder County District Court, Roscow claims he has evidence that Stock “poisoned the well” by badmouthing him in email and in person to other professors, ultimately preventing Roscow from completing his degree.

As first reported by BusinessDen, Roscow is also suing CU Boulder for a breach of contract and for failing to “provide [him] with the reasonable opportunity to pursue his PhD,” among other allegations. 

CU Boulder declined to elaborate on the case. Chief Spokesperson Ryan Huff told us:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 22nd, 2017 at 11:35 am

Could bogus scientific results be considered false advertising?

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Could a scientific paper ever be considered an advertisement?

That was the question posed to a Tokyo court, in a criminal case where prosecutors argued — at the behest of Japan’s ministry of health — that a peer-reviewed paper containing faked data should be considered “fraudulent or exaggerated advertising” under that country’s laws.

In that case, however, the argument didn’t work. In March, the court decided that a fraudulent paper was not false advertising, allowing a pharmaceutical researcher at a Novartis subsidiary to escape jail time. The decision also cleared Novartis of charges and helped the company avoid a ¥4 million ($35,373 USD) fine.

According to an article in The Japan Times, the presiding judge Yasuo Tsujikawa said:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 17th, 2017 at 11:40 am

Ecologist loses appeal for whistleblower protection

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A top federal U.S. court has confirmed a decision by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to deny federal whistleblower protection to an ecologist who was fired after accusing a colleague of fraud.

After initially forcing NSF to more clearly explain its decision, the Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has agreed with the conclusions of NSF’s updated investigation, denying former Kansas State University researcher Joseph Craine’s appeal.

Attorney Paul Thaler, who has handled cases involving scientific misconduct (but was not involved with this one), told Retraction Watch that the latest decision appears to be the end of a cautionary tale of how not to report misconduct.

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 5th, 2017 at 11:00 am

$200M research misconduct case against Duke moving forward, as judge denies motion to dismiss

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A Federal U.S. court in North Carolina has denied a motion to dismiss a major lawsuit filed against Duke University and two former employees, allowing the case to go forward.

Last year, the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Virginia unsealed a whistleblower lawsuit filed by another former employee at Duke against the university, a biologist and her former supervisor, alleging they included fraudulent data in applications and reports involving more than 60 grants. The total amount: $200 million. If successful, Duke may have to refund three times the amount of allegedly ill-gotten gains, and the whistleblower could himself receive millions.

The researcher, Erin Potts-Kant, her supervisor William Michael Foster, and Duke all filed motions to dismiss; this week, that motion was denied.

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Written by Alison McCook

April 28th, 2017 at 9:35 am

Harvard teaching hospital to pay $10 million to settle research misconduct allegations

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Piero Anversa

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and its parent healthcare network have agreed to pay $10 million to the U.S. government to resolve allegations it fraudulently obtained federal funding.

The case, which involves three former Harvard stem cell researchers, dates back several years. In 2014, Circulation retracted a paper by Piero Anversa, Annarosa Leri, and Jan Kajstura, among others, amidst a university investigation into misconduct allegations. Anversa and Leri — whose lab was described as filled with “fear” by one former research fellow — later sued the hospital for notifying journals of that investigation. They lost.

In the agreement announced today by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Partners Healthcare and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have agreed to pay the government $10 million to settle allegations that the researchers fraudulently obtained funding from the National Institutes of Health:

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Written by Alison McCook

April 27th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

“Existence and motive to retaliate:” Judge hands victory to whistleblower scientist

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A Michigan researcher whose accusations of misconduct against his former employers led to years of legal battles has won a judge’s ruling that could earn him one of his jobs back.

Over the past few years, Christian Kreipke has been embroiled in legal battles with the Detroit VA Medical Center and Wayne State University, where he held a dual appointment. In 2010, Kreipke accused Wayne State of misusing federal funds — then was fired in 2012 when the university brought its own case of research misconduct against him. In 2013, the VA followed suit. In 2014, Kreipke lost a whistleblower lawsuit against the university. As a result of the Wayne State investigation, journals have retracted five of his papers, some as recently as last month.

In March, a judge ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to reinstate Kreipke’s position, among other requests.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

April 24th, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Chemist wins injunction against university trying to revoke her degree

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A scientist has won an injunction against the University of Texas at Austin, which was deciding whether or not to revoke her PhD.

We’ve been covering the case of Suvi Orr, a chemist now based at Pfizer who earned a PhD in 2008, for a few years. During that time, UT has tried to revoke her degree twice, after the paper that made up part of her dissertation was retracted in 2012 — for allegedly containing falsified data, according to the school. The university revoked her degree in 2014, then reinstated it after she sued.

Last year, the school tried to revoke it again, prompting Orr to sue for a second time — and ask for more than $95,000 in legal fees and expenses.

In a decision released April 20, a Texas Court of Appeals has upheld Orr’s request for an injunction against UT, preventing it from deciding whether to revoke her degree. Specifically, Orr asked that UT not be allowed to make a decision until the court has weighed in on a separate appeal, in which Orr argues the university doesn’t have the right to revoke her degree.

According to her lawyer, David Sergi:

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Written by Alison McCook

April 21st, 2017 at 2:52 pm

A diabetes researcher sued his former employer for defamation. Here’s the story.

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Franck Mauvais-Jarvis

The last decade hasn’t exactly been drama-free for Franck Mauvais-Jarvis, head of the Diabetes Research Program at Tulane University.

After being accused of falsifying three figures in a submitted manuscript, Mauvais-Jarvis sued his accusers and officials at his former employer — Northwestern University — for defamation and conspiracy in 2011.

In 2014, a judge dismissed the suit. We wish we could tell you more details about it—such as what the university’s misconduct investigation found, or how the lawsuit was concluded—but they remain shrouded in mystery. What we know is based on court records from the lawsuit, which we recently obtained through an unrelated public records request. Even without all the details, it’s a long, sordid tale, involving a lot of finger-pointing and allegations of misconduct.

In 2008, a former research technician in the lab of Mauvais-Jarvis, then an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University, raised concerns of fabrication in two figures in a paper on the regulation of insulin synthesis that had been submitted the Journal of Biological Chemistry. An inquiry committee at the university unanimously concluded that research misconduct charges against Mauvais-Jarvis were not credible.

But then a third figure in the manuscript was found to be “inaccurate,” and the university initiated a second inquiry. That’s when Mauvais-Jarvis — whose papers have been cited more than 2,000 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters — initiated a lawsuit. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Megan Scudellari

April 12th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Scientist who sued university earns two more retractions, bringing total to five

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A scientist who sued his employer for millions of dollars has earned two more retractions, for papers that had already been flagged by the journal.

By our count, Rakesh Kumar now has five retractions and multiple corrections.

Kumar sued his employer, George Washington University, for $8 million, alleging emotional distress when they put him on leave from his position as department chair following a finding of misconduct. That suit was settled last year, for undisclosed terms.

The two newest retractions in the Journal of Biological Chemistry — which tagged the papers with Expressions of Concern last year — both state that, according to Kumar, the problematic figures were assembled by “specific co-authors” — unnamed — in his lab. Here’s the first notice:

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