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Fraudulent academic data could cost Duke University millions




A U.S. district court opened a whistleblower lawsuit accusing a researcher at Duke University of including fraudulent data in federal grant applications.
A U.S. district court opened a whistleblower lawsuit accusing a researcher at Duke University of including fraudulent data in federal grant applications.
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A U.S. district court opened a whistleblower lawsuit accusing a researcher at Duke University of including fraudulent data in more than 60 federal grant applications.

The researcher, Erin Potts-Kant, worked in a prominent lab of pulmonary biology on campus until she was arrested on charges of embezzlement three years ago. Most of her work since the arrest has been retracted or corrected for citing “unreliable” data.

The current suit, brought on by the Federal False Claim Act, could fine Duke university up to three times the ill-received funds. Investigators now must prove the questionable data were instrumental in securing federal grants.  So far, most alleged fraud cases have been in the healthcare industry.  In comparison, false claim lawsuits rarely target private universities and other research institutions. However, this case, if successful, could be a turning point for academics to re-examine their peer-review processes.

Guest host Patt Morrison talks with Alison McCook, who first wrote about the Duke case for Science magazine, and Joel Androphy, an attorney specializing in false claim litigation. 

Guests:

Alison McCookEditor at Retraction Watch, a watchdog for science publishing; she tweets @alisonmccook.  She first wrote about this lawsuit in Science magazine.

Joel Androphy, Attorney at Berg & Androphy in Houston, Texas, who specializes in false claims litigation; he tweets @jandrophy