The University of Kentucky said it will begin the termination process for two professors, Xianglin Shi and Zhuo Zhang, from the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology in the College of Medicine if they do not resign, reports The Scientist. The university says its internal investigation found that Shi, Zhang, and staff research scientist Donghern Kim committed "significant research misconduct" in several of their studies. Kim has already been fired.
The investigation began more than a year ago when the university received an allegation that Shi, Zhang, and Kim had falsified data in a grant application, according to The Scientist. University of Kentucky administrators notified Shi and Zhang that they were under investigation. Retraction Watch reported in October 2018 that three of their papers were subsequently retracted for image duplication.
The internal investigation committee produced a 1,000-page report and shut down Shi and Zhang's labs late last week, The Scientist says. According to the university, the committee found "several examples of falsified or fabricated data that were among numerous irregularities in seven grant proposals and at least 13 scholarly papers sampled from their work."
In a response to the committee's findings, Shi said that many of the fabrications and falsifications were "honest errors or mistakes" and said the committee failed to consider "the fact that students or postdocs performed the study, analyzed the data, and generated the figures."
However, The Scientist adds, the committee stated that the researchers didn't provide much of the original data that was requested for the investigation, and therefore concluded that it was impossible to validate it.