April 13, 2018

Manifestly Untrustworthy’ Former UAB Researcher Debarred for 10 Years

Following a ruling in January by an administrative law judge, the HHS Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has debarred a former University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researcher for 10 years for misconduct that included falsifying data published in nine papers and deposited in a registry. In an April 10 notice on its website, ORI said H.M. Krishna Murthy “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly engaged in research misconduct by falsifying and/or fabricating X-ray crystallographic data” used in the papers and by placing false data in the Protein Data Bank a dozen times. Murthy’s research and the data bank were supported by NIH funds. The misconduct stretched from 1998 through 2007, according to the judge’s ruling, which ORI issued with its finding.


At the same time, Wanda Jones, interim ORI director, penned a rare, if not unique, blog post praising the efforts of ORI, a related government office, and UAB that led to the resolution of this case. The agency had invested “years” and “countless hours,” while UAB, Jones wrote, also “dedicated a massive amount of time and effort to the inquiry and investigation.” The case would have been resolved sooner but for Murthy’s appeal of ORI’s determination, which was heard by Judge Steven Kessel. In his 12-page ruling, Kessel described Murthy’s defense of his actions as “fanciful” and emphasized the damage he had wrought to those who relied on his research, particularly related to the data bank. Murthy “evinces neither remorse for nor understanding of his misconduct,” wrote Kessel. “I can only infer from [Murthy’s] continued defiance that he is manifestly untrustworthy and that his untrustworthiness justifies a lengthy debarment and prohibition.” The 10-year debarment, which was accompanied by an equally long ban on serving as a government advisor, became effective April 2.


Link to misconduct finding, judge’s decision and blog post: https://tinyurl.com/y7v4k5fh