The federal government recently barred a Penn scientist from receiving federal research funds for a period of 10 years because he falsified data while working at the Harvard Medical School. Evan Dreyer, a professor of Ophthalmology and director of Penn's glaucoma program, signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on November 13 in which he voluntarily waived his right to apply for federal funding. In exchange, the government dropped all further disciplinary action against him. Penn Health System spokeswoman Rebecca Harmon said yesterday that the University was unaware of the charges when it hired Dreyer three years ago, and that his status is now under review. Dreyer declined to comment yesterday, referring all questions to Harmon. The case against Dreyer began in 1997, when he was on the staff of the Harvard-owned Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a professor of Ophthalmology at the Harvard Medical School. At that time, he was accused of fabricating information in a 1996 application for National Institutes of Health funding for a project that would investigate the causes of Meniere's disease, an ailment which may lead to hearing loss. After Harvard investigators -- tipped off by a suspicious colleague who noticed irregular data -- informed the government of Dreyer's alleged misconduct, the investigation switched to the Office of Research and Integrity at HHS. There, investigators found that Dreyer had likely participated in six different acts of scientific misconduct, most of which involved the falsification of various types of research data. Dreyer's agreement with HHS acknowledges his guilt on one specific charge of misconduct, but does not offer an admission to most of the charges of fraud. Harmon said that Penn was not involved in the agreement with Dreyer and said she believes that he is not conducting any research at this time. After the government was notified of the alleged violations found by Harvard and the Infirmary in early 1997, Dreyer resigned and moved later in the year to Penn. Harmon said that the University was not aware of the allegations against Dreyer prior to inviting him to join the Medical School's faculty. She added that the agreement had been received by Penn administrators yesterday and that the School of Medicine will now follow a formal policy for dealing with any allegations of misconduct against faculty members. According to the policy, a review will be conducted to reach a formal resolution. If such a resolution is not possible, Harmon said, a second review will occur and the situation may "move into another category... and when appropriate sanctions may be imposed on the faculty member, some [sanctions] may be termination, suspension or a reduction in academic based salary." The government's penalty against Dreyer is especially harsh because it is believed that after the Harvard investigation began, he continued to make up additional data to cover up his original fabrications. Under the agreement, any research grants supported by federal funds will not be available to Dreyer. The terms and conditions of the settlement do not preclude the University from applying for other types of federal research support. Dreyer proposed in his grant application in 1996 to investigate whether elevated levels of an amino acid called glutamate contribute to Meniere's disease.Comments powered by Disqus
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