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Feds say that fired researcher falsified data, back UW’s probe
The federal Office of Research Integrity issued a report Monday concluding that former UW blood researcher Andrew Aprikyan engaged in research misconduct; the UW fired Aprikyan in 2010.
Seattle Times science reporter
The federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) issued its final decision Monday in the long-running misconduct case of Andrew Aprikyan, a University of Washington blood researcher fired in 2010.
The federal investigation concluded Aprikyan had falsified data, the same finding reached by UW administrators. The federal case summary lists seven instances in which Aprikyan falsified data or fabricated text to strengthen his hypothesis about an inherited blood disease called neutropenia. The false information was included in two published research papers and three federal grant applications. One of the papers was later retracted, and the other was corrected.
Aprikyan fought the charges and his termination from the UW through several internal reviews stretching over seven years. One of the reviews, by a panel of UW faculty who are not scientists, agreed with Aprikyan’s claim that the mistakes were simple errors, not fraud.
UW administrators overruled the panel, though some faculty members continued to support Aprikyan. He was fired in May 2010. A few months later, a King County judge dismissed his lawsuit against the UW.
ORI launched a separate investigation. Aprikyan agreed to settle that case, though he still denies misconduct. He “entered into the agreement solely because contesting the findings would cause him undue financial hardship and stress, lead to lengthy and costly appellate proceedings, and he wished to seek finality,” the case summary says.
The agreement does not bar Aprikyan from future federal research funding, a step ORI often takes in the most serious cases of scientific fraud. But it does require all federally funded research he performs for the next two years to be closely supervised. Any research institute that employs him must also certify all of his data, and he is not allowed to serve on any federal research committees or boards for two years.
Aprikyan could not be reached for comment Monday.
The case against him dates to 2003, when another researcher noticed that an image of a cell in a published study appeared to have been flipped and labeled as a different cell — and thus another bit of evidence.
According to court documents filed in his lawsuit, Aprikyan received about $2.5 million in grants during his 11 years at the UW. The documents also included admissions of sloppy record keeping, noting that a technician working with Aprikyan kept notes on paper towels that were never transcribed.
Aprikyan also served as the UW table-tennis coach.
Material from Seattle Times archives was included. Sandi Doughton at: 206-464-2491 or email@example.com
This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that the University of Washington faculty panel that backed Andrew Aprikyan was not made up of scientists.