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Duke Pays Settlement in Fraud Case

This blog post has been updated to remove the name of a researcher who was not named as a defendant in the case, contrary to reporting in The Chronicle.

In November, Retraction Watch's Ivan Oransky said that Duke University was expected to settle a case brought against it by a whistleblower who alleged that the school knew that a researcher there was relying on falsified data to win grants.

Duke biologist Erin Potts-Kant was arrested in 2013 on embezzlement charges, which led to Duke uncovering "unreliable" data in more than a dozen of her papers and the retraction of 17 of her papers. In 2016, a former colleague of Potts-Kant's filed a whistleblower suit against her, her former supervisor, and Duke that alleged that fraudulent data was used to secure some $200 million in federal grants.

Today, according to the university's independent news organization The Chronicle, Duke has agreed to pay $112.5 million to the federal government to settle the suit.

In an email to the students and faculty, Duke President Vincent Price wrote, "This is a difficult moment for Duke. This case demonstrates the devastating impact of research fraud and reinforces the need for all of us to have a focused commitment on promoting research integrity and accountability."

The NIH implemented additional regulations for Duke researchers in April 2018, requiring those applying for grants for less than $250,000 per year to provide a detailed budget of their proposed costs, the article also notes.

Duke, meanwhile, says it has taken additional steps to ensure scientific integrity. The university has established a new data management tool, is requiring "science culture and accountability plans for all School of Medicine units," and has created a program to monitor clinical quality, according to The Chronicle

Duke is also planning to appoint an Advisory Panel on Research Integrity and Excellence by June 30.