Fraud-Convicted Researcher Spared Jail Time

A confession and supportive letters convince a judge to go easy on a researcher who fabricated data in a federal grant proposal.

Jessica P. Johnson
Jun 29, 2011

NODAR KHERKHEULIDZE VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Immunologist Luk Van Parijs avoided six months in jail for data falsification after confessing to the crime and receiving letters from several prominent scientists asking for leniency on his behalf, Nature reports.

In 2004, after researchers from his lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suspected that Van Parijs fudged data in experiments on immune system deficiencies in autoimmune diseases, a series of investigations began, including inquiries by MIT, Harvard Medical School, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI)—all of which concluded that he was guilty of data fabrication.

In total, his misconduct affected seven published papers, three submitted papers, one submitted book chapter, and a successful 2003 application for $2 million in grant funds from the National Institutes of Health, according to the ORI.

This February, the US government filed federal charges against Van Parijs...

Prosecutors had requested a 6-month jail sentence, but his willingness to cooperate and supportive letters from scientists (including Nobel prizewinner David Baltimore, Van Parijs’ postdoc advisor at Caltech, and Richard Hynes, Van Parijs’ MIT-appointed advocate during the investigation there) convinced the federal judge that Van Parijs was truly remorseful for his actions.

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