Duke to Pay $112.5 Million Penalty for Falsifying Scientific Research


Duke University has agreed to pay $112.5 million to the U.S. government to settle a lawsuit over falsified research.

According to a press release from the DOJ, Duke University falsified research data in order to claim grant money from the National Institute of Health. Former Duke employee Joseph Thomas became a whistleblower in 2015 when he filed a lawsuit alleging that Duke researchers had falsified research on the effects of inhaling diesel exhaust. Thomas is set to receive $33.75 million from the settlement.

Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explained that Duke intentionally falsified research data to claim millions of grant dollars. “Duke knowingly, the government contended, falsified data to claim millions of grant dollars from the National Institutes of Health,”  Dixon said. “OIG and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold such grantees fully accountable regardless of the length or complexity of the investigations.”

United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina Matthew G.T. Martin condemned Duke University for its deception. Martin argued that taxpayers in North Carolina should feel confident that their tax dollars are used for honest causes.

“Taxpayers expect and deserve that federal grant dollars will be used efficiently and honestly.  Individuals and institutions that receive research funding from the federal government must be scrupulous in conducting research for the common good and rigorous in rooting out fraud,” Martin said.  “May this serve as a lesson that the use of false or fabricated data in grant applications or reports is completely unacceptable.”

Duke University President Vincent Price released a statement in which he said that the university accepts responsibility for the dishonesty of the researchers. He said that Duke University should adhere to the highest forms of academic integrity.

“We expect Duke researchers to adhere always to the highest standards of integrity, and virtually all of them do that with great dedication,” Price wrote in the statement. “When individuals fail to uphold those standards, and those who are aware of possible wrongdoing fail to report it, as happened in this case, we must accept responsibility, acknowledge that our processes for identifying and preventing misconduct did not work, and take steps to improve.”

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