Why did a university pay a scientist found guilty of misconduct $100,000?

Azza B. El-Remessy

Retraction Watch readers may remember a few posts about Azza El-Remessy, an eye researcher based at the University of Georgia (UGA) who had several papers retracted. One of the retraction notices explained that UGA found El-Remessy had “committed research misconduct by falsification or fabrication.”

Today, we have an update on the story in Science. As our Victoria Stern writes:

In June 2016, investigators at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens concluded that Azza El-Remessy, a faculty member who studied the impact of diabetes on the eye, had committed misconduct and recommended she be terminated. El-Remessy hired a lawyer to dispute the findings, but the following October she gave up her challenge after the university paid her $100,000 – essentially to leave.

Read the whole story here. You can also read UGA’s June 2016 investigation report and the settlement agreement between UGA and El-Remessy.

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9 thoughts on “Why did a university pay a scientist found guilty of misconduct $100,000?”

  1. I guess if companies pay poor performing CEO’s many-many millions to leave, why not pay a faculty to leave!?!

  2. Well, can we expect anything else? Look up most of the USA-based Professors on RW Leaderboard who were found guilty of research misconduct. They were allowed to retire with full benefits, and none were stripped of their faculty titles. Happy retirement to them at the expense of more tax payer money above and beyond what they already wasted and misused. Bankers who defraud tax payers are investigated by the FBI (not by the banks) and end up having to payback, plus do jail time. Why not the same for these scoundrel MDs and PhDs?

  3. This is common sense, Michael, and you worded it perfectly. As one who has conducted an investigation, I can say it was a horrifying experience. It takes so much time and effort. None of your other duties are suspended. Nobody cares why your scholarship suffered. I can’t even put this on my CV. You need skills you never learned before to go up against attorneys, to figure out who is honest when people tell opposing stories, etc. It’s a thankless task and one in which there are no winners. In the end, I couldn’t maintain my funding, graduated my last student and closed my research lab. Fortunately, I was in the last half of my career when this happened. (But still had more I wanted to accomplish in research.)

    Misconduct inquiries/investigations should be put into the hands of professionals who deal with legal issues and investigation quagmires for a living. This would also remove the inevitable claims of conflict raised by so many respondents. Finally, as you suggested, for those found guilty of research fraud, impose criminal and civil penalties. Anything other than this is just plainly illogical!

    A 3-year hand-slap from ORI?!? Oh, please.

  4. Note that the $100k would be taxable (probably characterized as economic damages for lost future wages, so also subject to Social Security/Medicare?). And, her attorney’s fees may also take up part of that 100k.

  5. This guy was a professor and well respected at the time. He got caught with plagiarism. Was reassigned and eventually let go. http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2017/04/26/asu-professor-matthew-whitaker-wins-arbitration-case-against-phoenix/100951134/

    As for comments on the sloth in termination of professors and researchers caught for misconduct – the universities generally go through an agonizing process to ensure to litigation for wrongful termination of a tenured professional as that can be very expensive.

    There is also an interesting book called the Rhum Affair on academic chicanery in the UK. Result – the bad professor… oh you have to read the book.

  6. I agree that investigations should be left to those specialized in that area. I also think that the rules of evidence should apply. At present the standards used to “prove” a claim of misconduct are incredibly low – almost any researcher I know could be found guilty if someone was out to get them.

    1. “At present the standards used to “prove” a claim of misconduct are incredibly low – almost any researcher I know could be found guilty if someone was out to get them.”

      I’ve seen a comment like this before on RW. As I’ve written before, I have conducted misconduct inquiries and investigations before and though the standard is preponderance, our committees have only made findings where there was little to no doubt at all.

      I would be interested in knowing whether someone could point me to a misconduct decision that was unsupported by evidence and based on “someone…out to get them.” I DO know of instances (including cases reported by RW) in which respondents have CLAIMED they were “framed”; it’s a common strategy for crooks…

  7. how would the stripping of the titles legally work? i know nothing about how the law is working in these matters. you may know the famous case of jan hendrik schön from germany, where it took almost 10 years (2004-2014) of one court after the other until university succeeded to revoke his PhD. that is enormous amount of money and efforts. 100k may be just a small price for letting it behind. whoever is then going to employ convinced fraudulent scientist does to its own detriment.

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