Federal prosecutors are filing charges against Dong-Pyou Han after a major case of disgusting research misconduct having to do with a breakthrough AIDS vaccine. Great news article here.
Investigators say former Iowa State University laboratory manager Dong-Pyou Han has confessed to spiking samples of rabbit blood with human antibodies to make an experimental HIV vaccine appear to have great promise. After years of work and millions in National Institutes of Health grants, another laboratory uncovered irregularities that suggested the results — once hailed as groundbreaking — were bogus. Han was indicted last week on four counts of making false statements, each of which carries up to five years in prison.
To me, it is about time that researchers who waste American taxpayer money by committing obvious scientific fraud be held accountable. Not only is this type of fraud a gross waste of research money (that could have gone to someone who was not making up data), it also has the bigger problem of encouraging public mistrust of scientists. Ivan Oransky, of Retraction Watch (definitely check out his blog), gives his opinion on the case:
“It’s an important case because it is extremely rare for scientists found to have committed fraud to be held accountable by the actual criminal justice system,” said Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which tracks research misconduct.
I completely agree, and it is nice to see that scientists will be held accountable for wasting money and destroying the credibility of scientists as a community. Retractions of papers due to intentional fraud are increasing, and this will be the topic of my next “Problems in Science” post. What drives scientists to lie and make up data? How can we stop this? How will the scientists be held accountable (looks like some might serve jail time)? Check out my first post in the series (Part 1: The broken economics of academic publishing)