FLICKR, ERVINS STRAUHMANISResearchers found guilty of scientific misconduct by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) went on to collectively receive $101 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to a study published this month (February 1) in the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. The authors also found that 47.2 percent of the researchers found guilty of misconduct they examined continue to publish studies.
“I knew from my work and reading other studies that careers after misconduct were possible,” coauthor Kyle Galbraith, a research integrity officer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Science. “But the volume kind of shocked me.”
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Galbraith and colleagues identified 284 researchers who were sanctioned by HHS for misconduct during the last 25 years, then scoured public databases to determine how many of these researchers continued publishing studies after their verdicts. The team found that nearly half had published at least one study after their sanctions. Only 8 percent went on to receive NIH funding, but did so prolifically—17 researchers within this group collectively won $101 million in publicly funded grants, the team reported.
Thirteen of these 17 had already been receiving NIH funds and were simply not cut off despite the findings of their misconduct. The remaining four were granted large amounts of money after they were found guilty. “Clearly,” Galbraith told Science, “misconduct is not the career-killer one might have expected.”