NIH Urges Eligible PIs to Establish Early Stage Investigator Status
Attention Principal Investigators! If you attained your terminal research degree or completed your medical residency within the past ten years, and you have not previously received a substantial NIH research grant, you may be eligible to qualify as an Early Stage Investigator for the purposes of your NIH R01 research grant application. An ESI is a subset of the New Investigator category.
How exactly does that benefit you, you may ask? Well, for one, your R01 grant application will be flagged as an Early Stage Investigator application beginning with the February 2009 R01 submissions. In reviewing this application, reviewers will be instructed to focus more on the research portion of your application and less on your track record. Beginning in May 2009, Early Stage Investigator applications will be clustered for review. The idea behind this new policy is to encourage scientists to seek NIH funding for their research early on in their career.
Universty Professor and Tennessee Company Indicted for Arms Export Control Act Violations
J. Reece Roth, a Professor Emeritus at The University of Tennessee, and Atmospheric Glow Technologies Inc. (AGT), a Knoxville-based technology company, are charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. Air Force and disclose restricted U.S. military data about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or “drones,” to foreign nationals without first obtaining the required U.S. government license or approval. Roth is charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Air Force and violate the Arms Export Control Act; 15 counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act, and one count of wire fraud for defrauding the University of Tennessee. AGT is charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Air Force and violate the Arms Export Control Act and 10 counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act. According to the indictment, between January 2004 and May 2006, Roth and AGT engaged in a conspiracy to transmit export-controlled technical data related to a restricted U.S. Air Force contract to develop plasma actuators for a munitions-type UAV, or “drone,” to one of more foreign nationals, including a citizen from the People’s Republic of China. The jury found that he indeed had violated the law by providing information to two graduate students who worked with him, and by carrying information about the project on a computer to China. The two graduate students were from China and Iran. The University of Tennessee was victimized by the conspirators and cooperated throughout with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led federal investigation.
Researcher Fired for Plagiarism
An animal researcher whose allegations of mistreatment led to the University of Nevada-Reno paying a fine several years ago has been fired after a university panel found him guilty of plagiarism, according to press reports. Hussein S. Hussein said he learned of the firing on April 10. A four-member faculty committee earlier had found that "Hussein plagiarized from his graduate students by sending excerpts from their master's theses to donating corporations. Hussein said it was for oversight and the student names appeared on the published theses. One committee member said Hussein should be fired. Two said he should be demoted and lose tenure. One said he should be reprimanded. [University President Milton] Glick, who held the final decision, fired Hussein," according to a newspaper report. In 2005, the university paid a fine of $11,400 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture after being cited for 46 violations, which Hussein had brought to the agency's attention. Hussein who reportedly has 15 lawsuits pending against university officials, charging them with violating his civil rights, said he plans to appeal the firing.
ST. Louis University Agrees to Pay $1 Million to Settle Federal False Claims Act Allegations
The United States Attorney's Office announced that St. Louis University, in St. Louis, Missouri, has agreed to pay $1 million to settle allegations raised in a “whistleblower” lawsuit that the University’s School of Public Health violated the federal False Claims Act by mischarging “additive” or “supplemental” pay for its faculty members to federally funded grants, contracts and cooperative agreements. United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said, “The Justice Department remains committed to protecting federal funds from fraud. This settlement should be a reminder to those who receive federal funding of any kind that they must abide by the rules and regulations that govern receipt of that funding.”
False Claims Act Suit Revealed Against the University of Georgia
Documents relating to a 2006 lawsuit filed against the University of Georgia were recently unsealed. The suit charges researchers at the University of Georgia and state education officials with violations of the False Claims Act, for receiving more than $1 million in federal grants based on published research using allegedly manipulated data that discounted the toxicity of sewage sludge. The suit was filed by the U.S. government on behalf of qui tam (whistle-blower) plaintiffs David L. Lewis, an adjunct senior research scientist at UGA and a former microbiologist at the Environmental Protection Agency, and two farming families that contend the sludge killed their cattle and contained harmful chemicals. The suit alleges sludge samples were not included from farms that reported animal deaths and were taken only during drought periods, when toxin levels would be lowest, and charges that the researchers "knowingly used false statements and fabricated scientific data to obtain federal funds in violation of the False Claims Act." In the defendants' motion to dismiss the case filed in February 2007, the state attorney general argued that the suit "fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, it fails to allege fraud with sufficient particularity," and the district court where the suit was filed "lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter."
PETA Calls for Federal Investigation of Cat Death at UConn Lab
The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a cat inside a University of Connecticut-Storrs laboratory, based on a complaint that "the cat bled to death after experimenters drilled holes in the animal's skull." UConn, however, rebuts PETA's contentions. "The PETA account provided to the media has several serious inaccuracies: the truth is that the cat in question was never paralyzed and did not bleed to death," U Conn said in a statement provided to RRC.
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