Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Fraudulent scientist receives jail sentence
The New York Times recently published a (slightly lengthy) article on Eric Poehlman, a University of Vermont researcher who will become the first person to serve jail time for scientific misconduct. Poehlman, a Principal Investigator (PIs are at the top of a laboratory hierarchy) was found to have fabricated data that was published and used to obtain federal grant money over a period of ten years. Probably the most interesting aspect of the case is that he was brought down by a technician, the lowliest position in an academic hierarchy. Walter DeNino became suspicious after Poehlman, his boss, altered the raw numbers in a study on cholesterol so the resulting data supported his hypothesis. DeNino began his own investigation, working as a tech during the day and culling through old data at night. Once his suspicions were confirmed, he confronted Poehlman, who threatened to essentially ruin his career, but DeNino sought the help of a former post-Doc from the lab and eventually brought their concerns to the attention of the administration.