The purpose of this blog is to comment on an ethical misconduct case posted on the Office of Research Integrity website.
In 2017, the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) concluded that Frank Sauer, Ph.D., from the University of California, Riverside, committed research misconduct in research supported by the following: the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. Dr. Sauer had falsified or fabricated images used in several publications and to apply for several grants.
As a result of a hearing Dr. Sauer requested, it was decided that he had in fact committed the research misconduct and the following actions were taken by ORI:
(1) Dr. Sauer is prohibited from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS including, but not limited to, service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant, through July 27, 2020, the end date of his government-wide debarment, which was imposed by NSF; and
(2) ORI will send a notice to PLoS requesting retraction or correction of PLoS One 5(5):e10581, 2010 (PMID: 20498723) in accordance with 42 C.F.R. § 93.411(b).
Though I am ignorant of the specifics regarding the misconduct and the subsequent actions taken, one can see that it was in the area of human medical research. That alone is enough of a reason to cause strong concern to a layman such as myself. If researchers are allowed to perpetuate false information for their own gain, which one would assume to be the motivation behind Dr. Sauer’s actions, serious ramifications in the area of public health could occur. To me this is a serious matter that perhaps be further investigated in a court of law. People’s lives are depend upon accurate and honest research methods that drive the treatments and diagnoses their various ailments.
It is appropriate, and comforting, that we have a body such as ORI to oversee such matters. However, it would seem that simply banning Dr. Sauer from any Public Health Service capacity might not be stringent enough. One the other hand, everyone deserves a second chance.