False Claims Act Can Hamper Science With 'Bounty Hunter' Lawsuits

Fraud and misconduct in scientific research have become a problem attracting national and international attention. Although concern over research misconduct was once confined to the scientific community, it has since become the focus of media scrutiny and the obsession of congressional committees. With this growing interest has come increased governmental intervention, particularly where public research funds are involved. Whereas deceitful scientists were once subjected only to the disapprov

Dan Burk
Sep 3, 1995
Fraud and misconduct in scientific research have become a problem attracting national and international attention. Although concern over research misconduct was once confined to the scientific community, it has since become the focus of media scrutiny and the obsession of congressional committees. With this growing interest has come increased governmental intervention, particularly where public research funds are involved.

Whereas deceitful scientists were once subjected only to the disapproval of their peers, their activities may now invoke serious criminal and civil sanctions. Among these are civil "bounty hunter" provisions of the Federal False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue for a share of squandered federal funds. By substituting a financial incentive for the self-policing norms of the scientific community, this statute promises to have a negative impact on the way scientific research is conducted.

Research misconduct takes a variety of forms, any of which could potentially trigger legal liability....

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