After years of court battles, former Wayne State researcher barred from federal grants for five years

 

In a case that has involved eight years of misconduct allegations, two U.S. Federal agencies, a state university, and multiple lawsuits, a former Wayne State researcher has earned a five-year ban on Federal funding.

U.S. Administrative Law Judge Keith W. Sickendick found that Christian Kreipke

recklessly caused or permitted twenty-three (23) instances of research misconduct in his three (3) grant applications, two (2) articles on which he was the first listed author, and two (2) posters on which he was the first listed author.

Those 23 instances were fewer than half of the 64 — involving image duplication, falsified data, and other issues — that the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) had said it found following a Wayne State investigation. Partly as a result, while the ORI initially proposed a ten-year ban on Federal funding, Sickendick only recommended a five-year ban. That ban went into effect on July 13, 2018, according to an ORI summary posted today.

The ruling comes a year after Kreipke and the ORI squared off in court. At the time, five of Kreipke’s papers had been retracted; a sixth was retracted last month. Kreipke has always insisted that the allegations Wayne State originally brought against him — detailed in a 2011 final investigation report we obtained through a public records request — were simply retaliation because he had raised questions about how some of Wayne State’s Federal grants were administered.

Kreipke pursued that line of reasoning in a 2012 False Claims Act lawsuit for $169 million against the university, the same year Wayne State fired him. That suit was dismissed in 2013 on procedural grounds. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs, where Kreipke also had a position, fired him — a decision that was overturned by a judge last year. (A Wayne State attorney told Michigan Public Radio last year that the judge in that case had erred.)

In a word, it’s complicated.

What can we learn from the case?

Kreipke’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. [See update at end of post.] ORI, according to a spokesperson for its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

is thankful for the ALJ’s thoughtful decision and believes the research community is likely to find it useful and educational.

Indeed, the 126-page decision is exhaustive, and we look forward to input from attorneys familiar with such cases, and other readers who have thoughts on how the case played out. When we covered last year’s hearing, attorney Richard Goldstein, who has defended researchers accused of misconduct, said even obtaining a hearing was a significant hurdle, and that

The way they’re handling this case could be important for the way other cases are handled in the future.

Stay tuned.

Update, 0215 UTC, 8/1/18: Through his lawyer, Shereef Akeel, Kreipke issued the following statement:

I was disappointed by the ruling as to “recklessness.” But as can be seen in his ruling, The judge found that Wayne State and ORI failed to show any direct evidence of falsification or that I had any knowledge that anything was wrong and that I did not insert nor create any wrong images.

Nevertheless, in his desire to “satisfy” the government (his words) he ruled the way he did.   I will continue to fight this within the boundaries of the law until I receive full exoneration.  In the meantime the public can clearly see from the Judge’s ruling the incompetence of both Wayne State and ORI (stating that their own investigator had zero credibility) and can know that the government is not interested in the truth.