Duke settles case alleging data doctoring for $112.5 million

Retraction Watch readers may recall the name Erin Potts-Kant. We’ve been reporting on retractions by Potts-Kant, a former lab tech at Duke, since 2013. (The count is now 17.) Along the way, we learned that she had been convicted of embezzlement, but that there was a bigger story: There was a False Claims Act case against Duke, Potts-Kant, and Michael Foster, in whose lab she worked, alleging that the university had known that faked data had been included in grant applications.

The case has now settled, for what Duke acknowledges is a “substantial” sum of $112.5 million. That means the whistleblower, another former lab tech, will earn more than $30 million. For details, head over to Ivan’s story on Medscape.

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6 thoughts on “Duke settles case alleging data doctoring for $112.5 million”

  1. I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    And underneath is a mountain of sloppy science (euphemistically known as Questionable Research Practices) and a sea of moral hazard driven by PI plantation culture. Then there is the abysmal misuse of statistics trying to squeeze significance out of noise. And let’s not even talk about the so-called Social Sciences, where just using the word Science is itself a fraud.

    Why taxpayers put up with this, marching in the streets to support “Science,” is a mystery. Yet speak up against the rot urging reform and stronger oversight of a bloated entitled class living on the dole, whose self policing has proven to be an utter failure, and you get labeled a science denier.

    Perhaps the $30M whistleblower award will generate some enthusiam for reform. Or at least let the fraudsters know they are being watched.

    1. As someone who has post-doc’d most of my life in 4 different labs, you have made some correct points, to a degree. However, if you want to have an idea of how reproducible important science is, check out this site, which describes reproducibility of up to 18 studies in cancer biology:

      https://osf.io/e81xl/wiki/home/

      IMO, there is a lot of waste in academic research, but I think the biggest source is paying six-figure salaries to tenured faculty who no longer have active labs and refuse to retire (in my dept, for example, we have a couple of 80 yr old and one 90 yr old who makes 6 figs and have not brought in a grant in decades; I calculated the total salary for these over 60 yo inactive faculty in my department to be at 3/4 million per year). They have minimal teaching responsibilities, and do “administrative” work, but is it really worth 150 K a year? (Heck, I teach a class out of my specialty for $4000). IMO, no more money should be given to academia until the problems of irreproducibility and waste are solved. And this is coming from someone supported by NIH dollars.

  2. Yes, Bill. That lab tech making $35k a year sure is living high on the government hog. And all us professors who fight for funding with <15% success rates so we can have the privilege of advancing the medical research from which you and your friends and family benefit – well, we sure are terrible people, aren't we? Did you know that my "public" university, a medical campus, receives less than 10% of it's revenue from the public? Or does that not fit well with your worldview that casts me and my colleagues as parasites? Let me ask you, what do you think the world would look like without scientists? No antibiotics, no immunosuppressants, no anti-inflammatories, …

    1. @MM I am not sure thats what Bill is saying. These scam programs are actually hurting your profession. They are sapping funds that would be better served in what you claim is your field. Medical research. This situation isn’t about a less than 15% success rate. Its about blatant fraud. Fraudulent data that you and your peers use for your research. You should be absolutely furious about this if you are a professor behaving in good faith and with a moral compass pointed directly at real science and reason. I feel like the vast majority of reasonable people are looking towards the science community hoping and trusting that the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are being used to power REAL scientific study.

  3. Bill Frezza, from my contact net I don’t recognize the picture you paint. But perhaps our circle of friends are just very different.

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