Friday, June 20, 2008

Kristin Roovers Punished for Falsifying Data

 
Kristin Roovers was a post-doc at the Ottawa Health Research Institute in Ottawa (Canada) until last week. Her job was abruptly terminated when OHRI learned that she had been convicted and punished for falsifying data while she was a graduate student and a post-doc at the University of Pennsylvania. Apparently they first heard that something was wrong from an article in The Chronicles of Higher Education [Journals Find Fakery in Many Images Submitted to Support Research].

Read about it in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen [Researcher's tainted past leads Ottawa health facility to sever ties]. See the fraudulent data on baylab [Kristin-gate at the OHRI].

You can read the July 2007 report from the Office of Research Integrity (USA) at Case Summary - Kristin Roovers.

Here's the question. Why was she hired at OHRI? They probably didn't ask for letters of reference and they certainly didn't Google her name.



10 comments :

  1. What I find upsetting about this kind of thing is that it appears as though many institutions go out of their way in order to keep the situation 'confidential' and out of the public eye. There was a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen talking about a researcher who'd been charging personal electronics (among other things) to his grant, wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars.

    After an investigation the university (which is not revealed) determined that he was guilty of tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges. However, it's an 'internal matter' and thus no charges had been pressed (as of the writing of the article) and NSERC wouldn't even reveal the perpetrator's name!

    No wonder you can apply to another institution without anyone knowing about your past. I'm not advocating elaborate show-trials, but there's gotta be accountability or public trust falters.

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  2. I'm not sure that references or "googling" would hae helped in this situation. She was hired the same year that her data first came under suspicion and 2 years before the ORI concluded their investigation. It is possible that her reputation and references were still in good order when she was first interviewed and screened for hiring.

    It is unfortunate that, following the ORI's decision, nobody thought it best for science to alert her current employer.

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  3. anonymous says,

    I'm not sure that references or "googling" would have helped in this situation.

    Thanks. I didn't know that.

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  4. She was hired the same year that her data first came under suspicion and 2 years before the ORI concluded their investigation.

    I still don't understand on what ground they terminated her in Canada, as she didn't repeat her fraud/peer pressure mistake there. She could argue that the investigation wasn't finished; innocent until proven guilty.

    With the decision against her, she should possibly inform the next employer I think. But perhaps there were no precedents on how to handle this. (Now there is.)

    Btw, if this had been a swedish blog I would have been all over Larry's ass for publishing her photo. Funny what different cultures allow in the public sphere.

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  5. fraud/peer pressure mistake

    Unclear. I tried to distinguish between willful fraud and naive fraud.

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  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says,

    Btw, if this had been a swedish blog I would have been all over Larry's ass for publishing her photo. Funny what different cultures allow in the public sphere.

    I don't think there's as much difference as you imagine. Most people here in North America would think it rude to publish her photo.

    Obviously, I disagree. I like to use photographs of the people I'm talking about and I don't want to make a distinction between those I praise and those I don't.

    Kristin Roovers cheated. She has been found guilty. As far as I'm concerned her career in science should be over. Permanently. There's no room in science for people who falsify data.

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  7. As to why they didn't find out earlier:

    I just accepted a job at a biotech company in California. All of my references tell me that they were never called.

    My wife was offered a job at a biotech company in Boston that she turned down. She talked with 2 of her references, and they were never called (she hasn't asked the 3rd yet).

    From my small sample (n=2), it seems that calling references isn't done. Why the hell not? I could be a sociopath for all they know...

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  8. the factician asks,

    From my small sample (n=2), it seems that calling references isn't done. Why the hell not? I could be a sociopath for all they know...

    I have no idea why they didn't check up on your references. In my university our job candidates have to submit letter of reference with their initial application. Post-docs are asked for letters as well.

    Even our graduate student applicants have to send in letters of reference with their applications.

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  9. FWIW, catching up on old threads.

    @ Moran:


    Kristin Roovers cheated. She has been found guilty. As far as I'm concerned her career in science should be over. Permanently. There's no room in science for people who falsify data.


    As for all crimes, I believe in punishment, then release. For all sorts of reasons, including false positives.

    I would make some allowances for the irredeemably ill, say pedophiles, which shouldn't be around kids at all.

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  10. Now she's a prof at the University of Ottawa...

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