Brazil research foundation sues scientist over $103k scholarship

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), a state-level agency in Brazil that funds scientific research, is suing Paty Karoll Picardi, a protégé of Brazilian diabetes researcher Mario Saad.

According to a São Paulo Court of Justice website, the reason stated is for “recebimento of bolsa de estudos,“ which translates to “receipt of scholarship.” FAPESP is suing for 334,116 Brazilian Reals ($102,927).

Now, Picardi is counter-suing, according to a case document released Nov. 17 — although we’re not sure for what, and why. 

From 2011 to 2013, Picardi was the beneficiary of a “young researcher” scholarship from FAPESP, to study animal models of insulin resistance. Saad, who has seen many papers retracted, served as Picardi’s doctoral advisor.

Exactly why FAPESP is suing Picardi is not clear, and so far we haven’t been able to obtain the complaint against Picardi. A spokesperson for the court told us that the court documents — aside from a few procedural judgesorders (one of which we translated) — were not available for download and that they were not able to send the complaint and other documents to us directly.

The court spokesperson said that on Nov. 14, Picardi filed a “Contestação” — an answer — to the allegations. The Nov. 17 document, a judge’s order, directed Picardi’s lawyer to file a “Reconvenção” — a countersuit — as part of the same case.

We asked a lawyer for FAPESP for more details about the case, but haven’t heard back. Picardi has also not responded to our request for comment. We aren’t entirely sure where she’s working now, however, she’s listed in the faculty directory for the State University of Amazonas, in Manaus, Brazil.

She has worked with two researchers that our readers may remember: Saad and Rui Curi. Picardi worked under Saad at the State University of Campinas, near São Paulo, where Picardi received her master’s and doctoral degrees. Saad sued the American Diabetes Association in 2015 in an attempt to prevent it from retracting four papers he had published in its flagship journal, Diabetes; he was unsuccessful, and now has 13 14 retractions. Curi, of the University of São Paulo, was also litigious — his threat of a lawsuit helped shut down — and has himself racked up numerous retractions and corrections.

Picardi was second author on a 2011 paper published in PLoS Biology, along with Saad and Curi. That paper was retracted in 2016, citing inadvertent duplications. She was also co-author with Curi on one of three papers originally published in the Journal of Cell Biology and retracted in 2016, after a colleague took responsibility for mixing up images, again resulting in duplications.

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