, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 157-173

The poehlman case: running away from the truth

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Abstract

Eric T. Poehlman, Ph.D., was an internationally recognized, tenured professor at the University of Vermont (UVM) in Burlington when, in October 2000, a junior member of Poehlman’s laboratory became convinced that he had altered data from a study on aging volunteers from the Burlington area. This suspicion developed into one of the most significant cases of scientific misconduct in the history of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Research Integrity (ORI), launching a US Department of Justice (DOJ) civil and criminal fraud investigation and, eventually, to a much publicized guilty plea and felony conviction. In the end, Dr. Poehlman admitted to 54 findings of scientific misconduct made by the UVM and ORI, agreed to retract or correct ten of his publications and to exclude himself from federal procurement and nonprocurement transactions for life. The United States Government’s handling of this case was distinguished by a highly cooperative approach that integrated the resources of the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont (USAO) and both ORI and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in HHS in the common goal of prosecuting research fraud.

The content of this article represents the personal views of the authors and does not express the opinion or policy of DHHS or its components.
A paper on this topic was presented at the 6th International Bioethics Conference on the subject of ‘The Responsible Conduct of Basic and Clinical Research’, held in Warsaw, Poland, 3–4 June 2005.