CLOSEOUT FOR M95060027 a - - officer in the - This case came to OIG on June 26, 1995, when ~ r . NSF's program rograrn in the Division of 1_-__ r that research supported by his program had been falsified. OIG later learned that the subject of the allegation was Mr. ,- formerly a computer programmer at Attached is the OIG investigation report, including its appendices. Also attached is the notice of misconduct in science determination and proposed debarment that NSF sent to Mr. which explains NSF's adjudicative decision. These documents explain the actions subsequently taken by OIG and NSF in this case. cc: AIG-0, IG - NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION 4201 WILSON BOULEVARD ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22230 October 15, 1997 - OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR CERTIFIED MAIL-RETURN RECEIPT REOUESTED Mr. 1 - Re: Notice of Misconduct in Science Determination and Proposed Debarment Dear Mr. B: This letter and the attached investigative report serve as formal notice that the National Science Foundation (NSFI proposes to debar you from directly or indirectly obtaining the benefits of Federal research grants for a period of three years. A person who is debarred will be excluded during the period of debarment from Federal financial and non-financial assistance and benefits under non-procurement Federal programs and activities. See 45 CFR P620.110, S620.200. In addition, you will also be prohibited from receiving any Federal contracts or approved subcontracts under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) at 48 CFR Subpart 9.4 for the period of this debarment. 45 CFR §620.110(c). Debarment of an individual is effective throughout the executive - branch of the Federal Government. NSFts decision to propose debarment is based upon a referral from our Office of Inspector General (OIG). The ~oundation's administrative record indicates that you were formerly a computer programmer at .- While at -, you falsified data by wilfully designing computer programs for an NSF-funded scientific research project to alter the experimental research results and make the results confirm hypotheses that researchers on the project sought to test. Under NSF1s misconduct in science and engineering regulations, ami is conduct' is defined to include "fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing, carrying out or reporting results from activities funded by NSF . . . l t 45 CFR §689.l(a). Your falsification of data constitutes falsification and is a serious deviation from accepted practices within the scientific community. We therefore conclude that you committed misconduct in science. Peaulat o w Basis for Debarment - In deciding what response is appropriate when misconduct is found, NSF must consider the seriousness of the misconduct; whether it was deliberate or careless; whether it was an isolated event or part of a pattern; and whether the misconduct affects only certain funding requests or has implications for any application for funding involving the subject of the misconduct finding. 45 CFR §689.2(b). Severe misconduct is a cause for debarment because (i) it affects the integrity of NSF research or education programe, see 45 CFR §620.305(b); 45 CFR 0689.1(e), and (ii) it is a 'cause of ao serious or compelling a nature that it affects the present responsibility of a personN, 45 CFR 4620,305 (d). Debarment must be for a period commensurate with the seriousness of the cause. 45 CFR 9620.320(a). The burden of proof is on the government to establish facts which justify debarment by a preponderance of the evidence. 45 CFR §689.2(d), §620.314(c). According to the Investigative Report, you deliberately engaged in falsification. You intentionally designed computer programs that falsified research data in order to confirm an untested research hypothesis. You purposefully wrote the computer programs in a manner that would avoid detection by your research - colleagues. In addition, when your colleagues became suspicious about the errors in your programs, you lied to them about the cause of the errors and continued to write programs that falsified the data. Falsification of data is an extremely serious offense because it distorts the scientific record. The scientific record is the foundation for all future research. Both the Federal Government and the scientific community have a vital interest in protecting the integrity of the research process. To undo the damage you caused to the research, your colleagues had to expend considerable amounts of time and expense rewriting the data analysis and collection programs and replicating the'ir research findings from two years of research. The purpose of debarment is to protect the Federal Government from dealing with individuals who lack present responsiblity. In - your response to the OIG, you state that you have a dissociative disorder which causes you to have selective memory and differing motivations in differing mental states. In your opinion, this disorder caused you to engage in the data falsification. YOU acknowledge that you will need additional professional treatment before you can ensure that the misconduct that occurred at will not happen again. My duty is to ensure that the Government is fully protected from a reoccurrence of the misconduct. Accordingly, I am proposing that you be debarred for three years. - Procedures Governina-Proposed~ebarment/ScientificMisconduct filleaations Under our regulations, you have 30 days after receipt of this notice to submit -- in person, in writing, or through a representative -- information and argument in opposition to the . proposed debarment. 45 CFR 9620.313 (a) During this 30-day period you may also review the attached ~nvestigativeReport and . submit comments or rebuttal. 45 CFR 9689.8 (c)(11, 9689.1 (e) Comments submitted within the 30-day period will receive full consideration and may lead to revision or withdrawal of the Investigation Report or of the recommended disposition. Any response should be addressed to Lawrence Rudolph, General Counsel, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, "~oom 1265, Arlington, VA 22230. If you have any question~i please contact Mr. Rudolph at (703) 306-1060. We are attaching a copy of the Foundation's regulations on Nan-Procurement Debarment and Misconduct in Science and Engineering. Sincerely, Joseph Bordogna. Acting Deputy Director -- Attachments (4) Investigative Report Nonprocurernent Debarment Regulations , . FAR Regulations Misconduct in Science Regulations NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION 4201 WILSON BOULEVARD ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22230 December 11, 1997 - - omcE OF THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS Mr. Re: Debarment Dear Mr. -: On October 15, 1997, the National Science Foundation (NSF) sent you a Notice of Misconduct in Science Determination and Proposed Debarment in which NSF proposed to debar you from directly or indirectly obtaining the benefits of Federal grants and contracts for a period of three years from the date of the letter. NSF's debarment action is based upon your severe misconduct in science discussed in detail in the Notice of Proposed Debarment. In that Notice, NSF informed you that you had a period of 30 days within which to respond to the proposed, debarment. NSF did not receive a response from you. Accordingly, you are debarred until October 15, 2000. You will be excluded during the - period of debarment from Federal non-procurement Federal programs and activities with the Executive branch of the Federal Government, as either a'participant or principal. See 45 CFR Sections 620.110 and 620.200. Nonprocurement transactions include grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, fellowships, contracts of assistance, loans, loan guarantees, subsidies, insurance, payments for specified use, and donation agreements. In addition, you will also be prohibited from receiving any Federal contracts or approved subcontracts under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) at 48 CFR Subpart 9.4 for the period of this debarment. 45 CFR Section 620.110(c). Under NSF's regulations, you have 30 days to submit an appeal of 'this decision, in writing, to the Director of the Foundation. 45 CFR Section 689.8 (c)(1)(iii). Any appeal should be addressed to the Director, National Science Foundation, 4201Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia, 22230. (A copy of the applicable regulations was enclosed with the previous notice of Proposed Debarment. ) If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our General Counsel, Lawrence Rudolph, at (703) 306-1060. Sincerely, (C/ Joseph Bordogna Acting Deputy Director REPORT OF INVESTIGATION INTO AN ALLEGATION OF MISCONDUCT IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING SUMMARY The Ofice of Inspector General (OIG) has determined that Mr. subject), formerly a computer programmer at -(the by willfully designing the computer programs he wrote for an ~ S sponsored F research project to alter experimental research results and make them confiirm hypotheses that researchers on the project sought to test. This conclusion is based on our analysis of evidence collected by the University. OIG recommends that NSF find that the subject committed misconduct and take the following actions as a final disposition in this case. The subject should be told that NSF has made a finding of misconduct and should receive a letter of reprimand from the NSF Deputy Director. NSF should enter into a voluntary exclusion agreement with the subject for a period of three years or, as a .alternative, debar the subject from participation in federally funded projects for a suitable period of time. The subjixt has indicated that he is agreeable to - a voluntary exclusion agreement such as that described in this report. THE UNIVERSITY'S INVESTIGATION This case came to OIG on ~ u h 26,e 1995, w h e n , NSF's program officer in the - ' P r o g r a m of the Division ofB-1 informed us of an allegation that research supported by his program - 4 had been falsified. Two days later, the University dean responsible for misconduct inquiries and investigations (the Dean), informed us that, at the conclusion of a University misconduct inquiry, the subject had admitted to falsifying data, whereupon the University had made a finding of misconduct and termhated the subject's employment.' The Dean told us that the University planned to investigate further to verify that the subject had confessed to the full extent of his data falsification, and she promised to send OIG a report of the University's investigation. On July 1, 1996, the Dean sent OIG a letter stating the University's conclusions in this case. Attached to the letter were nine appendices, some divided into alphabetically labeled parts, containing the evidence on which those conclusions were based. The Dean's letter and the relevant portions of the appendices to it comprise Appendix 1 to OIG's report; except for Appendix 2, which is the subject's reply to OIG's draft report, appendix numbers and letters below refer to the appendices to the Dean's letter. For convenience, we have attached to our report only those appendices to the Dean's letter to which we refer in the text. The remaining appendices areavailable on request. The University's misconduct procedures (point #5) permit a finding of misconduct at the close of an inquiry under these circumstances. See Appendix IX. e -- The subject worked as a computer programmer on research funded by NSF awards (Award #la), These awards supported studies of how humans (Award #lb), and experimental results" indicating that there were sm s e inaccuracies fit an-pattern: w ward #2).2 In 1992, the PIS published inaccuracies-ni research participants alkteiy human subjects, some studim focused on people suffering f r 6 m d i s e a s e . . . ordinarily in the C computer language, to and to analyze the data the subject in the research group as follows ("Amplification of My Views, " p. 1, Appendix 1.A): [The subject] has developed the real-time data collection programs that have been standardly used in our laboratory for several years. He has also developed the more difficult data analysis programs. . . . He has provided programs to many researchers working on o [student #l] , [the [Student # 21, [the co-PJJ, [Student #3], me, and several undergraduate honors students [the undergraduate], and . He is an excellent programmer, with a thorough knowledge of many computer languages and many computer architectures. Dt. 0of the Department (the PI) was the principal investigator for Award #la, which was awarded to the University. Dr. -(the co-PI)was the principal investigator for Award #lb, which was awarded to the University o-f where the CQ-PIis a member of the faculty. These were identical proposals and were proposed to NSF as a collaborative effort, with funds administered by both " - universities. The projects were entitled These awards funded the PIS' research until January, 1994. Award #2, entitled was an award to the University under the direction of the PI and the co-PI. This award became effective on January 1, 1995. 'The PIS also conducted contemporaneous, related research on supported by National Institutes of Mental Health (NLMH) award '!'mm- in animals. This research was . The subject served as a programmer for this project. The University concluded that the subject did not commit misconduct in connection with this research, and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity, which is responsible for handling misconduct cases involving NIMH awards, accepted this conclusion. .4 + (1992). 9 'The-. degree and i;ow affiliated with the Department of at the laboratow. She has since wmoleted her She was also married to the subject, a fact that she did not reveal to any other members of the research group until August 30, 1995, when she informed the PI. The University concluded that there is no evidence that she was involved in the data falsification, and OIG agrees with this conclusion. See below. scientific meetings, such as the Society for participant in our weekly-eetings - He is a creative designer of transducers and interfaces. . . .' The isometric pressure transducer, and associated interface and software that he has developed, produces much more reliable data than a standard switch. . . . He . . . deeply cares about the substance of the search. He spends vacations at He is a major and a collaborator in many of our research projects. Because we work closely as a group, it is difficult to identify the source of many ideas, but it is my impression that his ideas have been at least as important as those of any other participant in our group. If asked to order the quality of intellectual contributions to our research in the last few years, I would probably list [the subject], [the recent graduate], and me (in that order). His technical contributions to our research are clearly enormous. The subject was listed in the proposal for award #2 as a co-author of two published articles and a third article that had been submitted for publication. This evidence indicates that the subject played an important scientific role in the project and had a clear responsibility to understand thoroughly the ethical requirements of that role. In a February 26, 1995, memorandum, "Facts about which we are certain" (Appendix I.A), Student #2, Student #3, and the co-PI described numerous errors in computer programs and experimental apparatuses developed by the subject. An undated second document, "Additional Findings" (Appendix LA), reports information and conclusions "discovered after February 27, 1995" @. 1). These documents were submitted to the PI, who concluded that the subject had made certain technical errors and that at least one such error might be interpreted as intentional and, hence, as misconduct in science. Along with Student #2, Student #3, and the co-PI, the PI took steps to gather evidence of the subject's actions and to assess the extent of his errors. According to the PI'S March 20, 1995, memorandum to the Dean ("Report of Concern," p. 1, Appendix I.A), the PI then discussed "the general nature of the problem" with the subject and "asked him many specific technical questions." Although the PI concluded that "there is no evidence of scientific misconduct," he reported this matter to the Dean so that she might appoint a disinterested committee to deterhine whether there was substantial evidence indicating that the errors resulted from misconduct in science by the subject. To head the committee, the Dean, at the PI'S suggestion, named Dr. - a colleague in the PI'S department who, aceording to the PI, possessed app- lolowledge, familiarity with the people involved, and no prior knowledge of the incidents in question. The committee reported its conclusions to the Dean on May 10, 1995 (Appendix LC, "Professor flll(ll(bLaboratory - Report of Findings"). After interviewing relevant members of the research group and examining computer codes and other pertinent documents, the committee concluded @p.2-3): The strong argument against [the subject] is the sheer number of errors. While it is difficult for us to accept that such numerous and pervasive errors could go undetected, nevertheless, we are unable to determine that any of his actions were deliberate, intentional, or with motivation to deceive. Therefore, we cannot conclude that fraud, dishonest behavior or scientific misconduct has occurred. We base this conclusion on the following: 1) [The subjectl's explanations and answers to all of our questions were reasonable and plausible. . . . ' 2) It is extremely difficult to determine a motive for [the subject] to fabricate data or to act dishonestly. As a technical assistant he did not have the pressures experienced by graduate students and faculty to achieve certain results and/or to develop data in support of a specific hypothesis. . . . 3) me subjectl's health problems [the report makes reference earlier to C r o b l e m s that had caused the subject to be hospitalized] have been documented and could indeed produce a state of depression that would lead to negligence of the type that has occurred. 4) During all of our questioning [the subject] made no attempt to cover up errors or blame someone else or be uncooperative in any way. Therefore we conclude that the errors represent a severe case of incompetent performance. . . . On April 1, 1995, the research group reported some of its results in a talk at the Association meetings in m6Dr. of- the Department university (the repli&tor) heard the talk and attempted to replicate - the reported results. She informed the PI on M a y 27, 1995, that she was unable to do so. A discussion of the experimental methods in the two laboratories revealed no significant differences. The replicator sent the PI data on one of her subjects, and Student #2 then analyzed the data and found no evidence of b the - f This led Student #2 to - reexamine the analyses from the PI'S laboratory and eventually to discover evidence of falsification, which he reported to the PL7 On June 23, 1995, the PI sent a memorandum to the Dean reporting that the subject had confessed to falsifying data and explaining how a data collection program written by the subject had falsified data in experiments. The memorandum (Appendix 11, p. 1) states: [Student #2, the recent graduate, the subject, and the PI], " n t h m an August 31. 1995, memorandum fmm the PI to the Dean ('Repon," p.4. Appendix VII). [The subject] gave [Student #2] a program to present a of varying a n d to record the location of a line to which subjects pointed with a cursor controlled by a mouse. . . . The program introduced an artifact in the data, a small systematic error in the reported location of the cursor that was functionally related to the ' o f the stimulus. The code that produced that artifact apparently was put into one of the standard C libraries. . . . The code had no other purpose than to create this small systematic error. By writing this code and giving it to [Student #2], [the subject] created a data collection procedure that necessarily would produce falsified data. The nature of the small systematic error was to produce 0 tasks that would have been of particular theoretical interest. The memorandum goes-on to describe how the subject programmed the computer to accomplish the falsification and what steps the PI proposed to take to ascertain the extent of the falsification and to correct the scientific record. On June 24, 1995, the subject wrote a "voluntary" and "unsolicited" statement outlining his method of falsifying data, surveying the extent of his falsifications, and explaining the motive for his action (Appendix IV). With regard to method, the subject stated (p. 1): In all cases the mechanism of falsification was to alter the standard C libraries with special pattern matching code that looked for patterns in the data, and once these were found, modified the data by adding a small artifact to the real data. The source code for the original libraries was available in the package that the C compiler came in. The purpose of performing data falsification W way was to allow the actual source code to be distributed to members of the lab and also to allow me to write programs in a normal manner. This served the purpose of deceiving myself as well as others. . . . Thus either the subject or another researcher on the project would write a source computer program that was not corrupted. The source program would send input to the library and direct the library to perform specified calculations. The library, which the subject had corrupted, then performed calculations that were different fiom the calculations the project's scientists expected. The library next returned the results of these corrupted calculations as output to the source computer program. The source program, in turn, relied on these results in its subsequent operations. Researchers on the project had copies of the source program and could examine it for errors, but the library was part of the computer system software and was therefore effectively invisible to the researchers. , All versions of programs used to collect data for the - With regard to the extent of the falsification, the subject stated (p. 1): estimation task were altered. They contain various routines that were placed into various standard C library functions to add a small, nonlinear, categorical artifact to all data that were of nearly linear form with a few outliers. While there were many false or modified functions that were contained in the libraries that I modified, the one that had the primary effect was located in the "fprintf" function. All data collected and report& in [the undergraduatel's Thesis and the m? portion of [another studentl's Thesis contained no modifications. The data co ect subsequent to that also contained no modifications, except for the most recent program used by [Student #1] (This was unintentional, it was just that it was compiled with corrupted libraries). All analyses performed on data collected from "normal" subjects afier september 1993 weri falsified or altered in some way. AII (IY -analysis pro@ams that were written after September of 1993 are suspect. . . . All raw animal data is [sic] clean and unaffected by any tampering. . . . A subset of recent analysis programs was unintentionally compiled with the corrupted libraries and may not be trustworthy, though the exact effect of this is not yet known. . . . The subject reported that all other data collection and analysis programs for both human and animal data were "clean from any intentional defect" (p.2). With regard to the motive for his actions, the subject explained as follows (p.2): Motive: The primary motivation to modify these data was to insure that all results obtained in experiments on "normal" subjects that could be potentially used with -patients in a short test period, such as an hour or less, would show the same pattern (or as that obtained by [the undergraduate] and myself in her honor's yl1-ht important to me that the m t a s k show this result because it could provide strong evidence that the nonlinearities i n w t a were in some way 'central" to the s t e m and not related to any peripheral n o i n e a r i t i e s . If all "normal" subjects showed this pattern then the differing pattern seen in the -tien@ would have to be seen as resulting from the disease. Circumstances surround in^ Motive: I have a dissociative disorder that causes me to have selective memories and differing motivations in differing mental states. I have been told by several @at this could be the result of the taht- a switch from one state to another can be "triggered" by external events. In September o s JO who acted v ~ r ymuch like -who -!- isease not too 1 was e trigger. At the time look like the original normal data collected by [the undergraduate] and myself and thus causing all differences between normal subjects' data and 4 u b j e c t s ' data to look as though the resulted from the disease then our results could lead to an early detection test for -disease and perhaps some idea of the mechanism of the disease and possibly a treatment or a cure. Upon reflection and much therapy, I realize that what I was trying to do was to esadicue'r in the hopes of (I ( II 1 am I realize that this motive does not make any real causal sense, but it is the truth. I seemed to think that I was doing some sort of good by modifying the programs and data the way I did. I am fairly certain that I believed that the pattern that [the undergraduate] saw in the was the "true" pattern and I don't think I trusted riment "properly" to find that pattern. In closing his statement @.3), the subject emphasized that he acted alone in falsifying data, that no one else was aware of his falsifications or tried to conceal them, that he was "very deeply sorry" about what he had done, and that he would accept "any reasonable sanctions" that university authorities imposed. On June 28, 1995, the Dean sent a letter to the subject (see Appendix V) informing him that the University President had found that the subject committed misconduct and had accepted the Dean's recommendation to terminate the subject's employment on June 30, 1995, on grounds of 'gross misconduct." On August 3, 1995, the Dean appointed D-r. of the University's Department of (the monitor) to monitor the efforts of the PIS and their research group to assess the extent of the damage done by the subject's falsification and to determine whether scientific findings of studies in which the subject participated could be replicated. The Dean's charge to the monitor is in Appendix V1.A. The monitor's September 5, 1995, report (Appendix V1.C.) explains that the research group chose to discard all data collection and . analysis programs designed by the subject.' The monitor explained @p. 2-3) that correcting the programs would not have been feasible: At least some of [the subjectl's programs clearly had mechanisms designed to hide their data fabrication procedures from attempts at systematic testing. Discovering these mechanisms in other, as yet untested, programs may not be straightforward, and certainly would be very time consuming. . . . [The subject] explained that his falsifications were done by modifying the source code for the standard C libraries that came with the C compiler; the source code for original data analysis programs was thus not obviously corrupted and could be distributed freely to lab personnel. Programs compiled by [the subject] with the corrupted libraries, however, produced fabricated data. [The subject] himself seems to be unsure which programs may have been compiled with corrupted libraries. Apparently all of these libraries and compilers were on [the subjectl's personal computer, and he claimed that all were lost or erased. Despite [the subjectl's claims, [Student #2] and [Student #3] stated to me that they suspect [the subject] may not have actually used this mechanism for falsifying his programs, although they have not been able to document specifically an alternative method. . . . mt was quite difficult to evaluate and document the nature [ofi the programs' behaviors. The monitor, summarizing his conclusions concerning preliminary results of studies the research group had undertaken to replicate findings that the subject had helped to generate, said that "the results of these replications so far provide no evidence for the fabrication or falsification of previous studies on but "definitive evidence for the falsification of a l l previous human esults" (p.6). This summary accords with the subject's descriptione -ofh t falsification, although, as the monitor repeatedly cautioned, the subject's precise statements about the falsification are not reliable. In particular, the monitor expressed doubt about the date the subject gave for the onset of his miscond~ct.~ The PI'S August 31, 1995, report on the replication efforts (Section II.F., p.6; the report is in Appendix VII) reaches conclusions similar to those of the monitor. Additional reports written in November, 1995, by the two PIS separately and in collaboration provide further evidence supporting these conclusions (see Appendix V1II.B) On August 30, 1995, the recent graduate revealed to the PI that she was married to the subject. There is no evidence that before this date anyone else in the research group was aware that the two were married. The PI informed the Dean of the marriage in a September 2, 1995, memorandum ("Addendum to Report of August 31 ," Appendix VII). He noted that this information did not alter his view that the subject was solely responsible for the misconduct. * "It is impossible or impractical to determine the precise start time or scope of [the subjectl's misconduct, although it dates at the latest to June, 1993." ("Report of research observations in [the Pu's laboratory," p.6, Appendix V1.C) The subject had suggested September, 1993, as the date he began falsifying the data (See the subject's statement in Appendix IV). The PI's memorandum went on to discuss preliminary replication data that tended to confirm results that the recent graduate reported in her dissertation and in a published article. OIG'S ANALYSIS For NSF to make a finding of misconduct, a preponderance of the evidence must show that the subject committed culpable acts with a culpable state of mind. The pattern of errors in the subject's computer programs and the subject's confession that these errors were part of a deliberate effort to create data sets and data analyses falsely supporting certain scientific hypotheses provide incontrovertible evidence that the subject falsified data. Above all, the scientific community values truth. Deliberate distortion of the scientific record to create evidence that falsely tends to confirm a hypothesis is a direct affront to the community's defining value commitment. The subject's actions pervert the main purpose for which NSF funds research-to advance scientific knowledge. NSF's Regulation on Misconduct in Science and Engineering defmes misconduct in part as a "serious deviation from accepted practices in . . . carrying out or reporting results from" research (45 C.F.R. $689.1(a)(l)). The regulation specifically mentions only three examples of misconduct, and one of these is falsification. There is no question that the subject's actions seriously deviate from accepted practices. OIG believes that the subject acted willfully. His falsifications were animated by a coherent purpose, albeit one that did not initially make sense to colleagues and investigators unacquainted with the subject's claimed psychological disorder. He chose to modify the standard C libraries so that he could distribute programs to other researchers that did not show traces of his falsifications, which were hidden within subroutines not ordinarily accessible to the project's researchers. When colleagues raised suspicions about numerous, uncharacteristic errors in the subject's programs, the subject lied convincingly to investigators and continued to write programs that falsified data. The subject's years of research experience and deep involvement with the substance of the research should have impressed upon him how profoundly wrong it was to distort scientific data. His actions indicate that he engaged in falsification knowing that it was wrong to do so. OIG agrees with the University that there is no evidence to indicate that anyone in addition to the subject was responsible for falsifying data. In all instances, the subject had both the ability and the opportunity to execute the falsification without assistance. In particular, we conclude that there is no evidence to implicate the subject's wife in his misconduct. However odd it may appear that the subject's wife did not reveal her personal relationship with the subject earlier, the pattern of falsification tends to c o n f m the subject's account of his motive and is inconsistent with the idea that either he or his wife falsified data to advance the wife's scientific career. The falsified data did not involve work distinctively associated with his wife, nor did the falsification appear to benefit her in any special way. Independent replication has tended to confirm the research findings with which the subject's wife was most closely associated. The wife's (and the PI's) initial reluctance to believe that the subject was guilty of falsification strikes us as no more than a natural reluctance to believe that a close colleague could commit misconduct. It is not evidence of complicity in the misconduct, any more than the University's initial conclusion that the subject was guilty only of "a severe case of incompetent performance" suggests that it was complicit. In addition, there is no evidence that the subject's wife acted in any way to hinder or obstruct the University's efforts to investigate this case. OIG9sConclusion Regarding Misconduct in Science OIG concludes that a preponderance of the evidence supports the conclusion that the subject committed misconduct in science by willfully falsifying data, and we recommend that NSF make a finding to that effect. OIG'S RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION Under 5 689.2@)of NSF's misconduct in science and engineering regulation, upon making a finding of misconduct, NSF, in determining what actions it should take, must consider the seriousness of the misconduct. This includes considering the state of mind with which the subject committed misconduct and whether the misconduct "was an isolated event or part of a pattern." We have explained why the subject's actions are a serious deviation from accepted practices and hence misconduct; this section explains OIG's recommended actions in light of our assessment of the seriousness of the subject's misconduct, i.e., our assessment of how serious this instance of misconduct is in relation to other instances. We believe that the subject's action, measured by the scientific significance of what was falsified, was extremely serious. His falsification did not merely alter a few data points or strengthen the case for a hypothesis that was already well supported with genuine data. Rather, his falsification was designed to c o n f i i a hitherto untested scientific hypothesis. It prompted the PIS to draw conclusions that were sufficiently significant to include in their progress report to NSF and present at a scientific conference. This is also a serious case of falsification if we measure seriousness by the labor required to undo the damage to the PIS' research program and the human and financial cost incurred. Several researchers on the PIS' project each spent several months rewriting data analysis and collection programs and replicating the major fmdings of two years of research to assess the effects of the subject's actions. A scientist at another institution wasted time and effort trying to replicate falsified fmdings. Graduate students in the PIS' research group spent countless hours that could have been devoted to productive research ferreting out errors that the subject willfully incorporated into his computer program^.^ We note that two of the three graduate students whose research was affected by the subject's falsification chose not to return to the PI's laboratory and to interrupt or terminate graduate study. (Student #1 took a leave of absence and Student #3 requested a separation from the University [PI's "Report," Appendix VII, p.2 and p.31. The subject's account of the motive for his actions suggests that NSF needs to take special precautions to safeguard the government's interests. By the subject's own admission, the impetus for his misconduct is outside his rational control and makes him resistant to ordinary moral suasion. Moreover, colleagues unaware of the subject's mental condition would be, as they were in this case, understandably slow to detect future misconduct because it would likely not be instnunentally motivated (i.e., it would not likely flow from a "rationaln motive). The subject's technical ability with computers enables him to hide misconduct from colleagues without similar ability. All of these factors suggest that the subject's actions need to be carefully monitored. We believe that the subject willfully engaged in extremely serious misconduct and ought to be excluded from employment in projects funded by federal awards for a minimum of three years. Our draft report recommended that NSF seek to enter into a three year voluntary exclusion agreement with the subject to be followed by a two year monitoring period in which the government enlists the subject's cooperation in protecting the government's interests (see 45 C.F.R. 5 620.105). As part of the agreement governing this two year period, we recommended that the subject stipulate that, before accepting employment on a federally sponsored project, he would inform the head of the project and the federal official responsible for the award that NSF found he had committed misconduct in science; that, as a result, he agreed to exclude himself from participation in federally sponsored projects for three years; and that his misconduct was caused, at least in part, by a long standing psychiatric disorder. In his response to our draft report (Appendix 2), the subject stated that he "would most certainly be willing to enter into the voluntary agreement that is described in the draft report," but would need more detail as to its exact provisions. He went on to describe the information that he currently provides employers to enable them to protect themselves from possible misconduct. In the light of the subject's response, we have reaffiied and finalized the findings and conclusions of our draft report. NSF's Debarment and Suspension regulation (45 C.F.R. 5 620.320 (a) (I)), provides that "debarment shall be for a period commensurate with the seriousness of the cause(s)* and that, though debarments generally "should not exceed three years[,] where circumstances warrant, a longer period of debarment may be imposed." The monitoring we propose is fully consistent with these provisions. The mental condition that apparently caused the subject's misconduct is, by his own account, deep seated and long standing. It will not be neutralized because the subject has been chastised or has learned a lesson. It is an unusual cause for misconduct, and it justifies the unusual remedy we propose. Although no single factor determines student career decisions, it is quite possible that trauma created by the subject's falsification played a role. If the subject proves unwilling to enter into an acceptable voluntary exclusion agreement, we recommend that NSF debar the subject for a suitable period of time. The debarment is a Group 111action (see 5 689.2(a) (3) (ii)). NSF should also send the subject a letter of reprimand, which is a Group I action (see 0 689.2 (a) (1) 0). We believe that the actions described above adequately protect the federal interest in the integrity of work carried out under federal awards and are proportionate to the seriousness of the subject's misconduct. The subject's reply to our report, along with his belated confession of wrongdoing and expression of regret to the University, encourage us to hope that this matter can be brought to an appropriate resolution.
Data Tampering / Sabotage / Fabrication
Published by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General on 1997-10-20.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)