Former federal contractor faked data, says ORI

oriweb_logoThe Office of Research Integrity has found that Timothy Sheehy, formerly a scientist at a contractor for the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, committed misconduct in work paid for by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a contract to his former company, SAIC-Frederick, Inc.

According to a notice in the Federal Register today, ORI found faked data in a 2010 paper, “Simultaneous Recovery of DNA and RNA from Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded Tissue and Application in Epidemiologic Studies,” that Sheehy and colleagues published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention:

Specifically, ORI found that Respondent fabricated the quantitative and qualitative data for RNA and DNA purportedly extracted from 900 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) colorectal tissue samples presented in Table 1 of the CEBP paper and falsely reported successful methodology to simultaneously recover nucleic acids from FFPE tissue specimens, when neither the extractions nor analyses of the FFPE samples were done. Thus, the main conclusions of the CEBP paper are based on fabricated data and are false.

Sheehy agreed to supervision of any of his federally-funded research for three years, not to serve on any NIH peer review committees for the same amount of time, and to retract the CEBP paper. That paper has been cited 15 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

SAIC-Frederick is now Leidos Biomedical Research. Sheehy, who at least as late as last year was director of genomics at Promega, shared a 2011 NIH Merit Award:

The group responsible for the development of the DNA Extraction and Staging Laboratory, including Marianne K. Henderson, M.S., Chief, Office of Division Operations and Analysis, Karen E. Pitt, Ph.D., Office of the Director, and Mr. Timothy Sheehy, SAIC, was recognized for innovation in process improvements and automation to increase the high-throughput capacity of this NCI and SAIC-Frederick facility in Frederick, Maryland.

Here he is discussing “Careful Selection of the Proper Tools to Increase Productivity of Biobanks.”

7 thoughts on “Former federal contractor faked data, says ORI”

  1. Another devastating penalty meted by ORI. Not serving on an NIH grant review panel for three years – yeah, that will really hurt, especially for a guy working in industry. None of the claimed extractions were even performed, and ORI’s ultimate response is a gentle scolding? When it comes to penalties ORI apparently has no teeth, but do they also lack gums?

    1. Let me see, he still gets to keep his NIH merit award, he can still work on NIH grant projects, He doesn’t have to do any work on peer review (that he would have to do for free), He doesn’t have to give back the grant money (that he took without having to do any work or if he did, he did it fraudulently). he didn’t have to give back his pay. He cost the ORI probably a half million dollars or more to investigate his fraud. He had 15 people who believed in his work/ideas and truthfulness enough to cite him, causing others to lose credibility. Willy Sutton, John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde were in the wrong business.

    2. Again, ORI can only take actions that it is authorized to do by Congress. ORI can investigate, examine records, and make determinations. They do not have law enforcement authority nor can they initiate law suits on the part of the government. There is no point in blaming the ORI for not doing what they are not authorized to do.

      Recipients of government grants and contracts are protected by a multilevel system of rights and procedures. It is extremely hard to get a recipient barred from new grants and contracts, and essentially impossible to have current ones revoked.

      This is the way Congress has arranged the system.

  2. Cases of intentional fraud that invalidate conclusions of a paper speak directly to the ethics of the scientist – does it not? I find this very disheartening.

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