Fraudster’s colleague faked data, too

ori-logoA week after announcing that a researcher formerly at the University of Chicago had faked the results of more than 70 experiments, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity announced yesterday that one of his colleagues also falsified data.

According to the ORI, Karen D’Souza 

reused and falsely relabeled and/or falsely spliced Western blot images, falsified the related densitometry measurements based on the falsified Western blots, and falsified and/or fabricated data for experiments that were not performed or from unrelated experiments.

The faked or falsified data became part of a funded grant from the National Institutes of Health, two papers in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, two posters (including one from a Gordon Conference), and one presentation. The two papers — one of which was retracted without explanation last year, and the other of which D’Souza has agreed to retract — both included Ricky Malhotra, the prolific experiment faker also sanctioned by the ORI, as a co-author.

D’Souza and Malhotra have both agreed to retract 2010’s “q-mediated Activation of GRK2 by Mechanical Stretch in Cardiac Myocytes,” which has been cited 23 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science. A 2011 paper, “G protein-coupled receptor kinase-2 is a novel regulator of collagen synthesis in adult human cardiac fibroblasts,” was retracted in November 2015.

D’Souza agreed to two years of supervision for any Federally funded research, starting May 6, 2016. According to her LinkedIn profile, she left the University of Chicago in 2011 for the University of Arizona, and most recently worked as a research scientist at a Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.

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10 thoughts on “Fraudster’s colleague faked data, too”

  1. Seriously, if I got paid for a government contract and never actually did the work that I told them I did, I would be forced to pay back the money and/or charged with fraud. Why is it any different if it’s a grant as opposed to a contract?

    Especially in the U.S., where many professors only have nine-month annual salaries and are permitted to make up “the rest” of their year’s pay from their grants, there is some possibility that researchers who take government money and commit fraud have actually taken personal money off of these grants. (In addition to money that they’ve made by helping their careers.)

    There are enough honest scientists out there who struggle to get grants (or even to find jobs that allow them to hold grants in the first place), that we really need a “one strike and you’re out” policy when it comes to fraud.

    Let’s get instant firings, permanent funding bans, and criminal charges brought for this stuff already.

    1. Just as importantly, grant funding is strictly zero-sum. This person obtained grants at the direct expense of others who did not get the grants. Undoubtedly, fraud on research makes it look better. So, the fraudulent and inflated grants get funded, and less strong grants, which used honest and accurate results, did not. This is wrong. Stronger sanctions are needed.

  2. Congrats to ORI for putting the word “Retraction” into the final sentence of the Federal Register Notice! That simple addition means that the NLM-NIH now has no excuse to not place a “Comment” Link into the results of any future PubMed search reporting that questioned paper. Irrespective of whatever wording the paper’s retraction notice may use, this means that a PubMed user -and reader of the publication- can have ready access to the relevant details of which experiments were false (and also, by elimination, which experiments might be still valid within the paper). Keep it up, ORI!

  3. Any foreign national in the US that came in on a green visa or other foreign-friendly visa, and who is caught in an act of fraud or deceit should be shipped back to their country of origin.

      1. And specifically what is the problem with that suggestion? Such students come here, abuse our opportunities, take the place of a US citizen. They deserve nothing less than expulsion.

    1. I completely agree. The US really does not favor its own citizens for jobs in scientific research like many european countries do. If you are a foregin national who breaks the rules, than it is time for you to leave. This includes Candians as well.

      1. NMH. Deportation laws exist for criminal offenses. However, until academic fraud is criminalized at a wider and more acceptable scale, it will not be clustered with the the rest of criminals, unfortunately.

  4. In the social work field, the first falsified case note is cause not only for dismissal but also for loss of license. One strike and you’re looking for a new job in a different field. This could be done in medical research, it takes the will of the policy makers. Bobo is right and this should become a priority for funders and users of the research.

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