Here’s something we haven’t seen before: The U.S. Office of Research Integrity has issued a second notice for a former researcher at the National Institutes of Health, after determining she withheld information during the first investigation.
Last year, the ORI sanctioned Brandi M. Baughman — formerly at the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences — after she “falsified and/or fabricated data” in 11 figures in a 2016 paper. Sanctions included agreeing to have her research supervised for three years. Now, the agency has barred her from receiving federal grants for two years. The reason:
Because Dr. Baughman knew when she signed the 2017 Agreement with ORI that there was an additional paper with falsified figures…
John Dahlberg, former deputy director of the ORI, told us:
…I do not remember ORI having made two sets of findings on a case during my tenure. We did have a number of cases involving multiple institutions, and in those instances we waited until all the findings were made at the institutional level before concluding our oversight analysis…The additional findings evidently justified an additional administrative action which including exclusion from [Public Health Service] funding (equivalent to debarment) rather than the original sanction requiring supervision of any research involving PHS funds.
A spokesperson for Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the ORI, confirmed she believes this is the first time the agency has issued two notices for one person. The spokesperson said the ORI learned of the additional misconduct from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), where Baughman was working as a postdoctoral fellow:
In her initial settlement, Baughman misrepresented the extent of her misconduct. Her lack of candor, coupled with the offenses committed, raised the administrative action to the debarment level.
Typically, ORI sanctions stem solely from misconduct — not withholding information.
With regards to the misconduct, according to the new ORI notice, while at UNC,
Respondent falsely reused and relabeled 14 individual Western blot images from an unrelated experiment conducted in September 2013…
The images appeared in a 2016 paper, “The L3MBTL3 Methyl-Lysine Reader Domain Functions As a Dimer,” which was retracted in December; last author Stephen Frye of UNC told us:
I think that everything’s that’s needed to know is in the retraction.
We were unable to find contact information for Baughman. She appears to have posted a listing on a job search site, noting her experience as a consultant and scientific writer.
Hat tip: Theresa Defino
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