Australian court finds Parkinson’s researcher guilty of fraud

Caroline Barwood
Caroline Barwood

A court in Brisbane, Australia, has found Parkinson’s researcher Caroline Barwood guilty of two charges of fraud and three counts of attempted fraud.

Barwood, 31, was formerly based at the University of Queensland (UQ). Released on bail in 2014, Barwood had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges. Yesterday, according to 9News, a jury found her guilty on the five counts, but not on two others.

She will be sentenced tomorrow.

The court also heard that Barwood was at the time also in an intimate relationship with her colleague Bruce Murdoch. Murdoch pleaded guilty to 17 fraud-related charges, and has received a two-year suspended sentence earlier this year.

According to 9News, Barwood admitted during an investigation by her institution’s integrity unit to have “not even met a single patient” or seen any patient files, ethical clearance documents or patient consent forms in regards to a 2009 study about Parkinson’s disease. Between 2011 and 2013, Barwood and Murdoch applied for about $700,000 (AUD) from various organizations for the 2009 study, which never took place.

Barwood, who left the UQ in 2013, was also found to have passed off another researcher’s papers as her own while applying for grants, fellowships and travel funding.

Crown prosecutor Caroline Marco said that Barwood’s actions denied other researchers of much-needed funding as well as costing her university money, 9News reported. She also noted that her research also gave Parkinson’s patients false hopes.

On the other hand, Gregory McGuire, Barwood’s attorney, said Barwood had lost her academic career due to a lie told by Murdoch, according to 9News. He added that she had already paid an “extraordinarily high price.”

Barwood has three retractions and a “reader alert” to her name; all four of her notices list Murdoch as a co-author.

Please see an update on this post, with details of Barwood’s sentencing.

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6 thoughts on “Australian court finds Parkinson’s researcher guilty of fraud”

      1. There is no mention in the 9News link of what Murdoch specifically lied about to Barwood. If Barwood’s crime is the unwitting publication of fabricated data fed to her by Murdoch, then she is not guilty of fraud, but at the most of being blinded by love.

    1. Totally disagree with Dr. TdS’ editorial on “militarization of science, and subsequent criminalization.”

      It’s a strawman. No one is arguing that honest or careless minor errors in papers should result in criminal charges or trials. On the contrary, increase transparency and weed out erroneous data.

      What is a crime is knowingly publishing fabricated, falsified or plagiarized data, submitting the data to obtain grants or contracts, and forging a career on the fraud. It’s worse than other so-called “white collar” crimes and should be subject to prosecution to the full extent of the law.

      1. rfg, thank you for your feedback. Certainly nobody is disagreeing with your side of the argument. Your views and mine are complementary aspects. Simply, few are ignoring my perspective because its a facet of the publishing industry that is not convenient to scrutinize.

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