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University creates new research integrity position after high profile misconduct cases

In the midst of a recent research fraud lawsuit, Duke has created a new role to maintain scientific integrity.

Assuming the new title of vice dean and associate vice provost for scientific integrity, Geeta Swamy was previously the senior associate dean for regulatory oversight and research initiatives in clinical research for the School of Medicine. Swamy's office will partner with the Office of Research Support and the Office of Research Administration to manage potential financial conflict of interest issues.

“I oversee the Advancing Scientific Integrity, Services and Training (ASIST) initiative, financial conflict of interest management, misconduct review and the Duke Office of Research Initiatives (DORI), as well as the institutional research incident response team,” Swamy wrote in an email.

Work in this position will involve assessing, investigating and reporting research misconduct. Some of the issues Swamy will face will be fabrication, falsification and plagiarism. 

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote to The Chronicle that Swamy’s appointment is a part of Duke’s ongoing effort to ensure faculty and staff conduct research held to the highest standards of integrity.

The change comes after several high-profile research misconduct incidents have occurred at Duke. Anil Potti, a former cancer researcher, falsified data in papers that were used in the design of clinical trials, according to a 2015 report from the government Office of Research Integrity. Potti resigned from his position at Duke in 2010.

More research misconduct allegations surfaced when six papers authored by former professor of medicine William Foster and former clinical research coordinator Erin Potts-Kant were retracted. The National Institutes of Health also placed additional regulations on Duke research in response to the controversies, The Chronicle reported in March. 

One new initiative—the responsible conduct of research program—will provide education and training to faculty and staff. This program will include online modules and small group and workshop-style programs.

To assist researchers, there will also be new electronic tools and resources such as the new electronic research notebook software solution to improve data management.

Federal agencies that fund research also expect increased transparency, rigor, reproducibility and responsibility in research. To match these growing expectations, this position was created to provide a consistent vision for scientific integrity standards, Swamy wrote.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Swamy's new title was "assistant" instead of "associate." The Chronicle regrets the error. 


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