NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Lab Objects To Refunding Money For Bogus Research

August 12, 1999

When American consumers purchase a product that is defective, they know they can return it for a refund. But the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California apparently hasn't heard of such a policy.

It is protesting demands by the National Cancer Institute to repay more than $800,000 in federal grant money it received to conduct studies on possible links between electromagnetic fields and cancer. The researcher involved in the studies reportedly falsified data, leading to the erroneous conclusion that, yes, such fields surrounding high-voltage power lines do cause cancer.

  • The Office of Research Integrity within the Department of Health and Human Services charged that Robert P. Liburdy committed "scientific misconduct" by "intentionally falsifying and fabricating" data in two articles he wrote.
  • So the National Cancer Institute sent a letter this month to Lawrence Berkeley lab officials asking for a refund of its grant money.
  • The Institute says that "charges to the grant for the tampered data and all subsequent research, which was based on the data, did not further the purpose of the award and are unallowable."
  • But a spokesman for the laboratory argues that it "was brave enough to question the validity of some findings" and a return of the money "would be a chilling message to other institutions who are expected to police themselves."

That raises a question as to whether there should be a "lemon law" for taxpayer-funded "scientific research."

Source: Tanya Schevitz (San Francisco Chronicle), "Dubious Research May Cost Cancer Institute Its Grant," Washington Times, August 12, 1999.


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