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Misconduct to Behind Bars

With the number of academic fraud cases rising, Amy Ellis Nutt at the Washington Post wonders whether researchers who lie about their work should be jailed.

Between 2009 and 2011, the US Office of Research Integrity investigated and found cause for action in three cases of misconduct that involved National Institutes of Health funding — between 2012 and 2015, that number rose to 36, according to Nutt. And though criminal cases against researchers are rare, she says that they, too, are increasing.

One such recent case involved Iowa State University's Dong-Pyou Han. Han falsified the results of a number of experiments to make it seem as if his vaccine research was more promising than it really was. While the ORI banned him from receiving federal research funds for three years, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued that the punishment was too light.

Han was later arrested. He pleaded guilty to making false statements to obtain NIH research grants and was sentenced four and a half years in prison.

Nutt adds that other researchers such as the University of Vermont's Eric Poehlman and Massachusetts' Scott Reuben have also received jail sentences related to their research misconduct.

She notes that there is no official database of scientific retractions, though the blog Retraction Watch has an unofficial list that's topped by Toho University's Yoshitaka Fujii — Fujii has had 138 papers retracted. Retraction Watch and its parent organization Center for Scientific Integrity plan to partner with the Center for Open Science to create such a database, Nutt adds.

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