Message to Duke Community About Research Misconduct Case

Dear Duke Colleagues,

Later today, Duke University will announce a substantial payment to the United States Government to settle Thomas v. Duke, a lawsuit alleging that a research technician falsified and fabricated data from animal experiments while employed at Duke from 2006 to 2013. These data were used in connection with research funding that Duke obtained from the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The settlement will include reimbursement of grants obtained as a result of the falsified and fabricated data as well as associated penalties. It is important to note that no human subjects were involved in this research. Further details will be available at https://today.duke.edu.

This is a difficult moment for Duke. This case demonstrates the devastating impact of research fraud and reinforces the need for all of us to have a focused commitment on promoting research integrity and accountability.

Over the past several years, we have taken important steps informed by this case to support and promote an environment and culture of scientific integrity including:

  • The appointment of Geeta Swamy, M.D. as Associate Vice Provost and Vice Dean for Scientific Integrity and creation of the Office for Scientific Integrity.
  • Implementation of a new data management tool that provides a documented, permanent archive for research data.
  • Required science culture and accountability plans for all School of Medicine units.
  • Establishment of a Clinical Quality Monitoring Program to oversee quality assurance and quality control measures related to clinical research.
  • Establishment of a Scientific Management Committee to review scientific programs that have commercial potential.
  • Educational efforts such as mandatory research integrity training for all School of Medicine faculty and staff involved in research (with campus-wide implementation underway) and town hall meetings on relevant research integrity topics.

We are now building on this work with a new set of activities that will further strengthen the quality and integrity of research conducted across campus, including:

  • The appointment of a new Advisory Panel on Research Integrity and Excellence chaired by Ann M. Arvin, professor of pediatrics and microbiology and former vice provost and dean of research at Stanford University, and including Edward M. Stolper, William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology and former provost of Caltech, and Barry S. Coller, David Rockefeller Professor, physician in chief and vice president for medical affairs at Rockefeller University. The Advisory Panel will provide recommendations to President Price and university leadership for improving the structure and function of research administration, with a focus on promoting research integrity, by June 30, 2019.
  • The establishment of a new, integrated leadership structure for research to provide clear and consistent policy guidance, oversight and accountability for all research at Duke University and Duke Health.
  • A new initiative to promote values and a culture of excellence and accountability at Duke.
  • The creation of an Executive Oversight Committee, chaired by Chancellor for Health Affairs A. Eugene Washington and including senior leadership and faculty, and a related Faculty Advisory Committee to oversee the ongoing implementation of Duke’s research excellence initiative.

We expect everyone at Duke to adhere to the highest standards of ethical behavior. This includes the responsibility to act with integrity and to report conduct that does not meet these standards. In this case and others, we have seen first-hand that the actions of those who do not can harm the entire institution.

To be clear: fraudulent and unethical behavior violates the fundamental values of our academic community and must be addressed. However, we know that it does not reflect the vast majority of our students, faculty, staff, and trainees. We are very proud of the work you do every day and the contributions you make to Duke’s enduring and essential mission of excellence in teaching, learning, discovery, service and healing.

 

Sincerely,

Vincent E. Price, President

Sally Kornbluth, Provost

Eugene Washington, Chancellor for Health Affairs and President and CEO, Duke University Health System

Tallman Trask III, Executive Vice President