Dong-Pyou Han, who worked as a laboratory manager at the university, confessed to spiking samples of rabbit blood with human antibodies to make an experimental HIV vaccine appear to have great promise, the AP continues. Another lab uncovered irregularities that suggested the results were actually false, according to the criminal complaint.
Han, 57, was indicted last week on four counts of making false statements, according to the indictment filed in federal court, and each count carries up to five years in prison, according to the news service, which adds that Han did not respond to calls for comment.
The episode is attracting attention for a couple of reasons. For one, the research was considered very significant at the time and pumped up the scientific community about the possibilities of a breakthrough. Moreover, experts say it is unusual for the feds to file charges in situations where scientists have falsified data.
“It’s an important case because it is extremely rare for scientists found to have committed fraud to be held accountable by the actual criminal justice system,” Ivan Oransky, a physician and journalist who is co-founder of Retraction Watch, which tracks research misconduct, tells the AP.
He explained that charges are rarely brought because the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, which investigates research misconduct, does not have prosecution authority, and most cases involve smaller amounts of money. Of course, the misconduct also wasted tax dollars by causing researchers to pursue notions based on false data....I can't say that I feel very sorry for Dr. Han, although I am rather surprised that he's being brought up on federal charges.