Report: Government agency refuses to discipline scientists caught cooking the books


And Democrats wonder why there are so many skeptics when it comes to conclusions reached by government scientists?

The inspector general for the National Science Foundation issued a report showing that at least 23 scientists applying for taxpayer-funded grants either plagiarized the text or manipulated data but were not barred from receiving grant money in the future.

Washington Free Beacon:

The inspector general for the National Science Foundation identified at least 23 instances of plagiarism in proposals, NSF-funded research, and agency publications in 2015 and 2016. It found at least eight instances of data manipulation and fabrication in those years. NSF officials disregarded recommended sanctions against some of the scientists and academics implicated in those findings. Though many were temporarily barred from receiving additional federal funding, nearly all will be eligible for taxpayer support and official roles in NSF-funded research in the future.

In one investigation that concluded in Nov. 2015, the IG found that an NSF-supported researcher had "knowingly plagiarized text into five NSF proposals."

"These actions were a significant departure from the standards of the research community, and therefore constituted research misconduct," according to a report on the investigation's findings.

The IG recommended to NSF that the agency officially classify the plagiarism as research misconduct, require the researcher to undergo "a course in proper research methods," certify that all research over the subsequent three years was not plagiarized, and bar the researcher from serving as an NSF consultant, advisor, or peer-reviewer.

The NSF accepted most of the recommendations, but it chose not to bar the researcher from working for NSF in an official capacity, as the IG had proposed. The researcher would be free to continue advising, consulting, and peer-reviewing taxpayer-funded research.

In another investigation, which concluded in Aug. 2016, the IG found that a university professor supported by an NSF grant "falsified the status of a total of seven manuscripts in four NSF annual grant reports and four NSF proposals" and "engaged in a total of twelve acts of research misconduct in a continuous pattern spanning several years."

"The professor's fabrication of data and falsification of manuscripts' status were intentional acts, fit a pattern of research misconduct, and were a significant departure from accepted practices," the IG concluded.

The NSF agreed, pursuant to the IG's recommendations, to debar the professor for one year and require a course on proper research methods.

However, "contrary to our recommendations," the IG wrote, the agency did not require the professor to submit certifications of data integrity after that period of debarment and did not ban him from serving as an NSF advisor, peer-reviewer, or consultant going forward.

If any of these scientists had tried to pull a stunt like that when applying for a grant from a private source, he'd be shown the door – permanently.  Frankly, there is no incentive in government to punish cheating, largely because of the cliquish nature of the scientific community that milks the government for research money.  Review panels are made up of scientists who may very well be applying for a grant themselves.  Today's cheater might be tomorrow's judge of who gets grant money.  This lack of desire to discipline cheaters is probably more common than one scientific agency.

Tens of billions of tax dollars are doled out every year in grants to study everything from climate change to nutrition to education – anything federal agencies fund.  There would be billions in savings to be had if adequate oversight were exercised.  Unfortunately, "business as usual" is a government catchphrase and difficult to fight.