Scientific fraud: Is prosecution the answer?

Despite a handful of recent criminal charges against researchers, experts say more legal action could hurt science

Alison McCook
Feb 9, 2006
Now-disgraced stem cell researcher Woo-Suk Hwang is facing criminal charges from the Korean government after fabricating data, and another American researcher, Eric Poehlman, could receive jail time for fabricating data in 17 applications for US federal grants. Still, experts say that criminal charges against scientists have likely not increased. And if fraud prosecution increases, it could cause more harm than good.It remains unclear how authorities will handle the case of Jon Sudbo, a Norwegian cancer researcher who recently admitted to fabricating data from 900 patients in an NIH-funded 2005 Lancet paper linking use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with a lower risk of oral cancer. Alan Price, associate director for investigative oversight at the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in Rockville, Md., told The Scientist that the ORI cannot comment on the Sudbo case, or whether he will face criminal charges.Price noted that criminal charges are...