Research Compliance Topics in the News

A message from EVPR Jeannette Wing

Seeing the results of our research reported in the media and on the daily news brings deserved attention to our research excellence and our research impact on humanity and society.  These news stories help Columbia’s visibility and reputation.

However, when a news story focuses on a failure to meet regulatory requirements or reports a violation of ethical standards, the credibility of our research enterprise and our university is brought into question.

The Office of the Executive Vice President for research is dedicated to the support of Columbia researchers in the fulfillment of research compliance regulations and policies. As government oversight increases and the regulatory burden grows, we rededicate ourselves to help researchers avoid potential problems and reduce risk. It is to emphasize the seriousness of this task that we have added this section to our web page.

In the sections below, you will see a collection of news stories about significant research violations. We provide these examples to increase awareness of the gravity of many of the decisions that researchers have to make on a daily basis.

I hope you find this helpful and informative.

A conflict of interest (COI) exists where a researcher’s outside interests or activities could improperly affect, or give the appearance of affecting, the researcher’s activities at Columbia. Problems can arise from the failure of researchers to adequately disclose potential conflicts.  Visit Office of Research Compliance and Training's website on COI for more information. 

Conflict of Interest Cases
2018: José Baselga | Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Top Sloan Kettering Cancer Doctor Resigns After Failing to Disclose Industry Ties

"Dr. José Baselga, the chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, resigned on Thursday amid reports that he had failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from health care companies in dozens of research articles."

2008: Joseph Biederman, Thomas Spencer, and Timothy Wilens | Harvard Medical School

Harvard scientists disciplined for not declaring ties to drug companies

"Three US psychiatrists, responsible for trailblazing the use of antipsychotic drugs in children, are facing sanctions for their failure to declare their acceptance of millions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies between 2000 and 2007."

2008: Charles B. Nemeroff | Emory University

Top Psychiatrist Didn’t Report Drug Makers’ Pay

"One of the nation’s most influential psychiatrists earned more than $2.8 million in consulting arrangements with drug makers from 2000 to 2007, failed to report at least $1.2 million of that income to his university and violated federal research rules."


Research misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.  As cases of research misconduct show, misconduct is carried out by individuals at all levels and in many fields of research.  For more information on Research Misconduct, visit the Office of Research Compliance and Training website.  

Research Misconduct Cases
2023: The City University of New York's Hunter College

He said scuba diving in Fiji was 'research.' Now he owes the feds $375K.

"Jeffrey T. Parsons-Hietikko, a prominent HIV/AIDS researcher who resigned a distinguished professorship in 2019 after a debaucherous work-related party, improperly used federal research funds to enrich himself and take lavish scuba-diving trips in the Cayman Islands, Fiji and Belize, among other locations, according to newly unsealed court documents."

2020: Purdue University

Former Purdue Professor Sentenced for Scheme to Defraud the National Science Foundation

"The charging documents to which the defendants pled guilty allege that Dr. Han devised a scheme to defraud NSF into giving Hans Tech over $1.3 million in research grants through its SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (“STTR”) programs by making materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises and material omissions."

2019: Duke University

Duke settles research misconduct case, agrees to pay U.S. government $112.5 million

"Duke University has agreed to pay $112.5 million to the U.S. government to settle a lawsuit alleging that a research technician falsified data for several years to obtain federal grants, university officials announced Monday."

2011: Marc Hauser | Harvard University

Harvard Finds Scientist Guilty of Misconduct

"Harvard University said Friday that it had found a prominent researcher, Marc Hauser, “solely responsible” for eight instances of scientific misconduct."

2010 Anil Potti | Duke University

Potti found guilty of research misconduct

"In 2006 Potti’s team published several papers in high-profile journals reporting that certain gene expression signatures predicted a patient’s response to chemotherapy. Two outside biostatisticians soon raised concerns about the studies. In 2010, Duke put Potti on administrative leave and suspended three clinical trials based on his work after The Cancer Letter, a newsletter in Washington, D.C., reported that Potti had padded his resume."

2006: Eric Poehlman | University of Vermont

Poehlman Sentenced to 1 Year of Prison

"Experts say the case marks the first time a U.S. scientist will serve jail time for research misconduct not linked to fatalities."

2005: Hwang Woo-suk | South Korea

Korean scientist resigns over fake stem cell research

"A scientist today issued an apology as he resigned from South Korea's top university after the school announced he had fabricated results in stem cell research that had raised hopes of new cures for hard-to-treat diseases."

“Export controls” refer to U.S. laws and regulations that control the conditions under which certain technology, commodities and software can be transmitted overseas to individuals, including U.S. citizens, or to a foreign national on U.S. soil.  Consequences for violating export control laws and regulations are severe, and may include criminal penalties for the individuals who violate them.  For more information on Export Controls, visit the Office of Research Compliance and Training website.  

Export Control Cases
2009: Georgia Institute of Technology

Military secrets leak from US universities

"The disclosure came from a Georgia Institute of Technology course for federal employees and contractors on infrared technology used in weapons-aiming systems for aircraft, ships and tanks. Asked by instructor David Schmieder to copy the course onto a DVD, Georgia Tech’s media staff instead uploaded it to servers."

2008: J. Reece Roth | University of Tennessee  

Professor Is Convicted Of Sharing Technology

"A federal jury in Knoxville, Tenn., convicted a retired university professor on conspiracy, wire fraud and export control charges yesterday for improperly sharing sensitive technology with students from China and Iran."

Some research data are highly sensitive, such as Protected Health Information, including names or addresses associated with clinical information, or Personally Identifiable Information such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or personal financial data. The release of such data can lead to harm such as privacy violations or identify theft.  For more information on Data Management and Security, visit Research Data at Columbia website

Data Security Cases
2011: Bonnie C. Yankaskas | University of North Carolina

Chapel Hill Researcher Fights Demotion After Security Breach

"A prominent cancer researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is fighting the university's decision to demote her and cut her pay in half after a security breach in a medical study she directs was discovered. The breach could have revealed medical records of of more than 100,000 women whose data were studied."

Data Management Cases
2014: Oklahoma State University

Spreadsheet error forces loss of Appetite paper on obesity and parenting styles

The senior author of “Relation of Parenting Styles, Feeding Styles and Feeding Practices to Child Overweight and Obesity: Direct and Moderated Effects” requested a retraction of the paper due to the discovery of "an error in the data for the manuscript and had tracked down the source of the error to a column switching mistake in copying data from one spreadsheet to another by a research assistant."

2013: All India Institute of Medical Sciences

NEJM paper on sleep apnea retracted when original data can’t be found

"There were multiple errors in the table on pages 18 and 19 of the Supplementary Appendix...These errors, in turn, changed some values in Table 4 of the article. Although these changes do not alter the conclusions of the article, the primary data could not be located to verify corrections made from secondary tables. Accordingly, we have no way of confirming the correct data and, with regret, wish to retract the article."

One of the most potentially problematic funding issues is Scientific Overlap, which occurs when a research proposal is identical to or substantially the same as another proposal the researcher may have submitted or plan to submit to a different funding agency.   

Funding Cases
2012: Craig Grimes | Pennsylvania State University

Duplicate-grant case puts funders under pressure

"The recent charges were brought against Craig Grimes, who until 2010 was a professor of electrical engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Last month, he pleaded guilty to charges that included accepting grants from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund the same research on solar conversion of carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons."

2011: Guifang Li | University of Central Florida 

NSF Case Closeout Memorandum

"During our joint investigation with the Air Force into the plagiarism allegations, we learned the subject proposed the same research to the Air Force, NSF, and DARPA and was funded by each agency."

Laboratory-based research often involves materials that are or can be dangerous when not properly handled. Protecting the health and safety of research personnel and the environment of the surrounding community is a fundamental responsibility of any university.   As recent lab safety cases demonstrate, if researchers are not properly trained, compliance measure are not maintained, and proper safety procedures are not followed, accidents, sometimes fatal, can occur.  For more information on Laboratory Safety, visit Environmental Health and Safety

Laboratory Safety Cases
2010: Texas Tech

Case Study Identifies Systemic Deficiencies in University Safety Management Practices

"The accident occurred during the handling of explosive compounds and resulted in serious injuries to a graduate student. The case study...identifies systemic deficiencies in safety accountability and oversight by the principal investigators, the chemistry department, and the university administration at Texas Tech."

2009: UCLA

Fallout From a Lab Tragedy

"Unprecedented criminal charges against U. of California regents and UCLA professor, stemming from a death, highlight importance of proper safety training."

Visit Research Compliance Training website for more information on CU trainings.