There are many serious ramifications in pursuing science that fits a narrative instead of collecting data, then deriving proper theories from real data.
One of the consequences, especially in this seemingly new era of real justice that we are now enjoying, is that cheating scientists can get caught and punished.
For example, Duke University will now pay the U.S. government $112.5 million in a settlement related to the submission of faked to win federal research grants. A whistle-blower is also going to enjoy a big reward, instead of fired or otherwise punished.
The settlement will also bring a $33.75 million payment to Joseph Thomas, the whistleblower who drew attention to the fraud when he worked for Duke.
Thomas, a former Duke lab analyst, sued the university on behalf of the federal government, saying that a Duke researcher fudged data to help the university win and keep lucrative grants from two agencies, the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The dozens of grants in question covered the study of the lung function of mice. The Justice Department says Thomas’ lawsuit alleged that “between 2006 and 2018, Duke knowingly submitted and caused to be submitted” claims to federal agencies that were unknowingly paying grant money for falsified research data. It adds that while the agreement settles the court case, it does not mean Duke has been determined liable.
The researcher responsible for the data has a long history of being a cheat.
Former Duke researcher Erin Potts-Kant conducted the alleged fraud from 2006 to 2013. She was fired for embezzling money from the university, which happened during the same period, according to Duke. After her firing, her research was scrutinized, which led to the retractions of 17 scientific papers, according to RetractionWatch.
Her findings were used to support the request for millions of dollars in grant money that was ultimately given to the institution.
In his suit, Thomas alleges that Potts-Kant manipulated data that she collected when studying the lung function of mice. Based on that data and pursuant research articles, she was then able to secure additional research funding from the federal government, according to the suit. These allegations bring more than 60 federal grants—totaling approximately $200 million from agencies like the National Institutes of Health and Environmental Protection Agency—into question.
Potts-Kant is not the only one accused of questionable conduct in the suit. Supervisors William Foster, former professor of medicine, and Monica Kraft, former division chief of the Pulmonary division, are accused of ignoring warnings of misconduct and being negligent in their supervision.
Prosecutors said the school’s higher-ups knew about Potts-Kant’s problematic approach to research but allowed it to continue. The school countered it didn’t learn until later.
“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,” said Matthew G.T. Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “May this serve as a lesson that the use of false or fabricated data in grant applications or reports is completely unacceptable.”
Lung function in mice exposed to pollutants would be of interest to the green justice advocated in the Environmental Protection Agency, hoping to create even more controls and more rules to support an ever-expanding bureaucracy. By funding Potts-Kant’s work, what other worthy projects have been neglected, including those that may have really benefited the American people.
Legal Insurrection has covered a wide array of fraudulent theories passed off as real science: Food rules, polar bear populations, tampered-with temperature data, plastic pollution in the ocean, just to name a new.
How many billions are squandered by businesses in senseless environmental compliance? How many people have gotten obese or developed diabetes because of unhealthy good guidelines? How much more funding could have been devoted to effective, local pollution-solutions instead of uselessly endeavoring to “fix” the global climate?
When politics contaminates science, it hurts everyone. In fact, I would argue it is the most dangerous pollutant in today’s world.