Misconduct Spurs NSF Debarments; OIG Highlights Prevention Efforts

A graduate student working on projects supported by two federal agencies added doctored images in years of progress reports. A professor submitted multiple proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF) containing text purloined from materials he received in confidence as a reviewer. A postdoctoral researcher passed off fabricated and falsified data as “original work.”

NSF has proposed debarring the three for research misconduct, defined as fabrication, falsification or plagiarism, but decisions are not final due to an appeals process, according to NSF’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The agency finalized lesser sanctions for three additional investigators for similar instances of research misconduct, and debarred another three for other misdeeds, according to OIG’s most recent semiannual report to Congress (these will be discussed in a future issue of RRC).[1] OIG itself does not issue findings or impose punishments but makes recommendations to NSF. OIG, in turn, issues twice yearly reports summarizing NSF’s decisions. Generally—and as reflected in the report—NSF follows OIG’s lead.

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