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Originally published Friday, May 21, 2010 at 1:58 PM

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Judge says UW can fire assistant research professor

A King County judge Friday said the University of Washington can fire assistant research professor Andrew Aprikyan over allegations of academic misconduct.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A King County judge Friday said University of Washington can fire assistant research professor Andrew Aprikyan over allegations of academic misconduct.

With the ruling, Aprikyan's dismissal took effect at the end of the workday Friday, said Bill Nicholson, assistant attorney general for the university.

Aprikyan, a blood-disease specialist, had sought a temporary injunction to stop the university from firing him. He argued the action would compromise his ongoing research.

Superior Court Judge Joan DuBuque, however, said such an injunction was an "extraordinary remedy that is not to be granted lightly," and that Aprikyan's argument did not meet the threshold for issuing the order.

Aprikyan's lawyer, Rick Gautschi, said the assistant research professor plans to continue his lawsuit against the UW that challenges the basis of the dismissal. A trial has been scheduled for November.

Aprikyan had been under investigation for seven years after allegations he had committed academic misconduct in his published work on blood disorders.

This year, UW President Mark Emmert concluded Aprikyan should be fired.

The case started in 2003 when another researcher noticed something that didn't look right in an Aprikyan paper posted by the journal "Blood" on its website.

A UW-appointed committee spent three years investigating the allegations, then forwarded its report to Paul Ramsey, dean of the UW School of Medicine. Ramsey spent another year reviewing the report, concluding Aprikyan had falsified seven figures and tables in two research papers, and that his actions amounted to academic misconduct.

A second faculty panel, originally appointed to decide whether Aprikyan should be fired, spent another two years reviewing the case.

It decided that, while there was plenty of evidence of sloppy methods and erroneous results, there was no evidence Aprikyan deliberately had falsified his work.

That's when Emmert stepped in. He said the second panel had no authority to review the first committee's findings, and he ruled Aprikyan should be fired.

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During Friday's hearing, Gautschi said the investigatory process led to a "show trial" that assumed guilt and, for Aprikyan, was "eerily reminiscent of something he'd witnessed all too often growing up in the former Soviet Union."

Elin Rodger, a UW lab technician who has worked with Aprikyan for 11 years, was at the courthouse to support the scientist. She said the university should have sought an informal resolution.

"He's not dishonest," Rodger said. "With that depth of the investigation, you would find errors in every researcher's work."

DuBuque said the upcoming trial will have to sort out the contradictory reports from the two UW panels.

"There seems to be a deep division with the UW itself," she said.

Andrew Doughman: 206-464-3195 or adoughman@seattletimes.com

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