Feds Decline Research Suit Against USF

Apr 9, 2012

The federal government has decided not to intervene in a false claims suit filed against USF by a former doctoral candidate.

That student accused College of Medicine researchers of falsifying scientific data to win federal and state research grants. 

According to the Tampa Tribune, Darren Rubin filed the suit in 2008, but the documents in the case were sealed until last week. That's when U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich unsealed the complaint, along with the federal government's decision not to intervene.

The Tribune reports:

Rubin's claim revolves around experiments concerning gene responses to estrogen. The results were used in two successful grant applications in 2004, one to the National Institutes of Health for $1.25 million, another to the Florida Department of Health for $970,000.

Rubin's complaint says a USF laboratory worker found two research notebooks documenting the estrogen experiments. But one was different from the other, the complaint said, showing the researcher used a non-estrogen substance in the experiments but falsely labeled it as estrogen to support the grant applications.

The complaint goes on to say that Rubin and another researcher with concerns about the experiments met with research supervisors, and their discoveries were confirmed. They were told, however, to "lock away" the evidence and not speak of it, the complaint says.

Rubin was reportedly upset that his allegations were dismissed by USF officials, even after he shared his concerns with them in 2005.

Campus newspaper, The Oracle, quotes USF spokesman Michael Hoad as saying USF Health’s Associate Vice President for Research Philip Marty "conducted a thorough review" of the matter and "confirmed the conclusions of the USF study. Bottom line: The USF review did not find evidence of falsification, fabrication or plagiarism.”

“USF did the right thing, which is why the Justice Department is staying out of it,” Hoad said. “But we can’t comment on further litigation that the complainant may choose to pursue.”