Rare is the scientist who goes to prison on research misconduct charges. But on July 1, Dong-Pyou Han, a former biomedical scientist at Iowa State University in Ames, was sentenced to 57 months for fabricating and falsifying data in HIV vaccine trials. Han has also been fined U.S. $7.2 million and will be subject to three years of supervised release after he leaves prison.
His case had a higher profile than most, attracting interest from a powerful U.S. senator. Han’s harsh sentence raises questions about how alleged research fraud is handled in the United States, from decisions about whether to prosecute to the types of punishments imposed by grant-making agencies.
Han was forced to resign from Iowa State in 2013 after the university concluded that he had falsified the results of several vaccine experiments supported by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). In some cases, Han spiked rabbit blood samples with human HIV antibodies so that the vaccine appeared to have caused the animals to develop immunity to the virus.
The case has raised some concern among experts in scientific misconduct. The very few researchers who face criminal charges are not necessarily those who have caused the most harm to other scientists’ careers, or to science generally. “We’re so preoccupied with major cases and so subject to policy pressure, we’ve lost sight of the larger picture,” says Nicholas Steneck, an expert in research integrity at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: US vaccine researcher sentenced to prison for fraud