The HHS Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has entered into a voluntary settlement agreement calling for the supervision of a researcher found to have committed misconduct at two different universities over a six-year period. In a May 24 notice on its website, ORI said Ricky Malhotra committed the misconduct while a research assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan (UM) from 2005-2006, and later as a research assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago (UC) from 2007-2011. “All told, Malhotra claimed to have conducted 74 experiments that never happened, and falsified well over 100 Western blots,” the blog Retraction Watch reported. According to ORI, Malhotra “reused and falsely relabeled Western blot gel images, falsified the related densitometry measurements based on the falsified Western blots, and falsified and/or fabricated data for experiments that were not performed. [Malhotra] continued this falsification at UC, after the UM research misconduct investigation was completed.”
ORI has a range of ways it can resolve misconduct findings, from imposing outright permanent debarment from government-funded programs to requiring supervision in Public Health Service (PHS)-funded activities. In this case, Malhotra’s voluntary settlement agreement is more complicated than typical. He agreed that if he applies for or receives any PHS funding during a five-year period beginning May 6, “that for a period of ten (10) years beginning on the date of his employment that any institution employing him shall submit, in conjunction with each application for PHS funds, or report, manuscript, or abstract involving PHS-supported research in which [he] is involved, a report and certification to ORI at six (6) month intervals that the data provided by [him] are based on actual experiments or are otherwise legitimately derived and that the data, procedures, and methodology are accurately reported in the application, report, manuscript, or abstract.” Alternatively, he is “to provide certification to ORI on a quarterly basis for a period of five (5) years, beginning on May 6, 2016, that he has not engaged in, applied for, or had his name included on any application, proposal, or other request for PHS funds made available through grants, subgrants, cooperative agreements, contracts, subcontracts, supplements, awards, fellowships, projects, programs, small business technology transfer (STTR) and small business innovation research (SBIR) programs, conferences, meetings, centers, resources, studies, and trials, without prior notification to ORI.” The agreement also calls for the retraction of one paper.
Links to Full Articles: https://ori.hhs.gov/content/case-summary-malhotra-ricky