An internal review has discovered that, over five years, a medicine lab at the University of Utah "recklessly" fiddled with data in 11 papers.
In its report, the Consolidated Hearing Committee from the university concluded that assistant professor of medicine Ivana DeDomenico "engaged in research misconduct by 'reckless disregard of accepted practices' in her area of research." The report also found that Dr. DeDomenico's misconduct was only part of a bigger pattern of "complicity in misconduct within laboratories" and stressed that punishment for the bad behavior should not end with Dr. DeDomenico alone.
A complaint was first launched against Dr. Domenico during fall 2011 when editors of a journal that published one of her papers expressed concerns to the university's research integrity officer Dr. Jeffery Botkin. Other concerns were also raised by Dr. Tomas Granz, a UCLA professor who had partnered with DeDomenico on some of her published papers, through the Federal Office of Research Integrity.
According to the report, the falsifications in the eleven papers fall into three main categories including: "misrepresentation of images from films of laboratory experiments (gels transferred to western blot images and then scanned into computer files), misleading or erroneous creation graph curves reflecting circular dichroism data, and inaccurate error bars."
In total, the report found 21 errors in the 11 papers.
The committee concluded that although there was evidence of "intentional falsification, it could not prove that they were Dr. DeDomenico's work, "thus the CHC finding of misconduct was based on reckless disregard of accepted practice." It added that, based on its investigation, "the large number of instances, over a period of several years, indicates a reckless disregard for the integrity of the research record, as opposed to the occasional lapses that might occur in any laboratory, and the resulting record is now nearly impossible to reconstruct."
Dr. DeDomenico, in a statement released by her lawyer to the Salt Lake Tribune disagreed with the committee's charge of "accidental misconduct" and stressed that she didn't alter research data on purpose.
In the statement to The Tribune she said she, "maintains that she conducted her work as conscientiously as possible within the context of a very difficult work environment at the university," and agrees with the committee's report that the research discrepancies were only part of a larger problem. She added that, during the investigation, the university took away her rights and due process.
The CHC report recommended that Dr. DeDomenico either be allowed to resign or be fired from the University but again stressed that that one action would not solve the bigger problems revealed by the investigation. It called for "further investigation of the laboratory procedures uncovered in this investigation."
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