In July, the U.S. Congress wrote to Chancellor Randy Woodson of N.C. State University to ask why the university failed to notify scientific journals of falsification discovered at N.C. State and confirmed by the Office of the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation. The case is the longest-running fraud investigation in the history of the NSF because it involves established scientists who have made legal threats against universities and journals to prevent correction of the research record.
In his response to Congress, which I obtained by a public records request, Woodson wrote that the OIG had “discouraged” NCSU from notifying the journals. He wrote that based on a memo from the NCSU legal counsel’s office after a conversation with a federal agent.
I wrote to the Inspector General to ask whether the memo by NCSU legal counsel was an accurate account of the conversation. The OIG representative wrote that, “It is not our policy to encourage or discourage a university from contacting a journal regarding any research misconduct issue. We always recommend that universities follow their policies on such matters.”
NC State’s policy is clear. The Faculty Senate voted last year to make it a binding requirement to notify journals in cases, such as this one, where falsification has been determined by a university investigation. Why is Woodson afraid to choose an ethical path in this matter?
Professor of Chemistry, N.C. State University