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MIT Professor Fired for Inventing Data

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Oct. 28 -- MIT has fired biology associate professor Luk Van Parijs for inventing data in a published scientific paper, in manuscripts and in grant applications.

According to a written statement released by the university on Thursday, MIT launched an investigation in August 2004 when members of his research group brought allegations of misconduct by Van Parijs to the attention of the administration. During the course of the investigation, Van Parijs admitted to fabricating and falsifying research data in a paper and several manuscripts and grant applications. The university found no evidence that his co-authors or the members of his research group were involved in the misconduct or were aware of it when it occurred. Van Parijs was placed on leave immediately after the allegations were reported and has had no access to his lab or office in the 14 months since then. He started working at MIT in 2000.

"In this case a single individual admitted that he fabricated and falsified data," said Associate Provost and Vice President for Research Alice Gast, who oversees allegations of scientific and academic misconduct at MIT, in a written statement. "We are very concerned that his actions not cast a shadow over his co-authors or members of his research group, none of whom was involved in the misconduct."

According to the university, Van Parijs' area of research is in the use of short-interference RNA (or RNAi) in studying disease mechanisms, especially in autoimmune diseases. It involves basic scientific research related to normal immune cell function and defects in these cells during the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and arthritis. His work did not involve medical treatments.

Although the school refused to identify the paper in question, the Boston Globe is reporting that a scientific journal published an erratum in May 2005 states that the authors of a 2004 journal article, of which Van Parijs was the senior author, were unable to document an impressive claim involving the genetic modification of mice.

The university says it is working with the co-authors and the Office of Research Integrity in the US Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency that oversees these investigations, to see that retractions are published. In cases where research involves federal funding, as some of Van Parijs' work did, federal regulations specify how allegations of scientific misconduct should be investigated. Under MIT's own policies for such investigations, which follow the federal requirements, the associate provost and vice president for research appoints an impartial committee to investigate the allegations.

Federal and MIT rules require that investigations be conducted in confidence to protect the integrity of the review process and to avoid unjustified damage to the reputations of innocent colleagues and collaborators.

According to MIT, the final report of the investigation will be sent to the Office of Research Integrity, which will conduct its own confidential review of the matter and make the findings public when that review is complete.

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Oct 2005
biologyEmploymentfiredinvestigationLuk Van ParijsmisconductMITNews & FeaturesResearch and Integrity

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