US vaccine researcher gets prison time for blatantly faking data – #misconduct #science

In my personal opinion, the prison sentence for Dong-Pyou Han accurately punishes his blatant faking of data and disregard for science as a whole.

A former Iowa State University scientist was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for altering blood samples to make it seem like he’d achieved a breakthrough in creating an HIV vaccine.

Dong-Pyou Han will receive prison time for making false statements in research reports and will have to pay back $7.2 million to the government agency that funded his research. He entered a plea agreement in February admitting guilt in two counts of making false statements.

Han’s made up data wasted A LOT of tax-payer funding, and took money and time away from other REAL HIV vaccine research. Thus holding up a much needed vaccine for his personal ‘gain.’ Let this serve as a lesson to researchers that misconduct and fraud will be punished accordingly. There is no place for this type of fraud in science (especially when there are anti-science groups waiting for any type of ammunition against science and vaccines).

More info here from Nature if you have access.

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Colombian Master’s student faces 8 years in prison for sharing article #DiegoGomez

As I have mentioned in a previous post, one major hurdle for researchers in countries outside the US and Europe is gaining access to published science. And remember that doing effective science requires access to what other scientists have done, which often comes at an exorbitant price.

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Today I learned about Diego Gomez, a Colombian masters student in Conservation and Wildlife Management in Costa Rica. According to an article on Electronic Frontier Foundation by Maira Sutton, Diego Gomez is facing 4-8 years in prison for sharing an academic article (possibly just a master’s thesis?) on the internet with a group of other students and researchers. According to the Sutton article,

The author of the paper then filed a lawsuit over the “violation of [his] economic and related rights.”

I am curious who this author is… i mean really? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a publishing company or institution, but it seems crazy that it would be the author themselves. See a letter from Diego Gomez in english on karisma.org (the website of Fundación Karisma, who are supporting Gomez). Sadly, as you can see below, Gomez and other researchers outside the US and Europe are almost required to break laws to participate in research. Below are some excerpts from Gomez’ letter, bolding is mine.

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My name is Diego Gomez and with 26 years old I have defined my great passion in life: the biodiversity conservation.

Above all, I’m disconcerted that this activity I did for academic purposes may be considered a crime, turning me into a “criminal.” Today what the vast majority of the country’s researchers and conservationists are doing, despite being committed to spreading knowledge, is turning us into criminals.

Check out on twitter (mostly in spanish) at #CompartirNoEsDelito

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Not guilty plea in criminal AIDS vaccine fraud case #spikedsamples

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Dong-Pyou Han, the researcher who is criminally charged with falsifying data to get millions of dollars in federal research grant money, has entered a not guilty plea. Han was involved in a research project for an AIDS vaccine that led to breakthroughs that were later deemed to be fake. See my earlier post here for more info on why this was a big deal and how it all went down. Huffington Post has a great news article summarizing what happened in court by David Pitt.

According to prosecutors, Han wrote a letter to university officials before he resigned last fall in which he confessed that he had spiked samples of rabbit blood with human antibodies to make an experimental HIV vaccine appear to have great promise. Han told them he started the fraud in 2009 “because he wanted (results) to look better” and that he acted alone. “I was foolish, coward, and not frank,” he allegedly wrote.