Not so Mice Research

Case Study: Smart, Eric J. (www.ori.hhs.gov/case-summary-smart-eric-j)

In this blog post I examine and discuss a case study from the Office of Research Integrity (OIR),  where Eric J. Smart a former professor at the University of Kentucky (UK) was found of falsifying and fabricating data. I first want to summarize/discuss what Dr. Smart did and after this talk a bit about how I feel about it.

Dr. Smart was a professor of Pediatrics and Physiology at the University of Kentucky who was found to have engaged in research misconduct.  Dr. Smart was at the University of Kentucky for over 14 years before he was discovered of falsifying research. According to the Lexington Herald Leader (httpwww.kentucky.com/news/local/education) towards the end of Smart’s career he had 13 scientists in his lab and had a salary of over $ 160,000. Two different committees, the UK and ORI both came to this conclusion of research misconduct. The research projects under question were funded by: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and National Center for Research Resources. According to the University of Kentucky (www.uky.edu) Dr. Smart had brought in over 8 million dollars from federal grants. Dr. Smart had falsified data in 10 publications, one manuscript and 7 grant applications. Concurrently in some of these papers and other research, Dr.Smart has presented over 45 figures which were fabricated to show made up data. The thing that is most striking is that in some cases Dr.Smart had presented results that were non-existent. Dr.Smart had claimed he bred out certain genes in a group of mice, of which these mice never existed. This 10+ years of falsification resulted in:

  • His retirement from UK
  • Retraction / Corrections of all falsified articles/papers
  • Exclusion of contracting or subcontracting to any agency of the US government for a period of 7 years.

I am honestly in shock that this falsification of data could have continued for over 10 years. The fact that Dr.Smart had brought in over 8 Million dollars of research money is insane. I guess unless outside researchers recreate these experiments there is no way of proving that the results were incorrect/false. I will say the one thing I find quite strange is that a grad student that was working along side him did not come forward sooner. I can understand that Dr.Smart is their boss but I would like to think that most people would have enough foresight to realize that they would not get away with this. Especially in the filed they are in, this is pretty cutting edge research and when it comes to implementation its obviously not going to work. I’m unsure why you would even try to keep a lie like this going. I honestly feel bad for Dr. Smarts’ grad students who were oblivious to these malpractices and for UK for being taken advantage of.