Disgraced CU scientist debarred after falsifying data

Rajendra Kadam , a formerly promising Ph.D. student studying the application of medicine in people‘s eyes at the University of Colorado‘s Anschutz Medical Campus, was barred from federally funded research projects for three years following an investigation of his published articles by the United States Office of Research Integrity.

The debarment decision is the result of an investigation prompted by the University of Colorado Board of Regents‘ own investigation into Kadam‘s research after the results were questioned by several of his colleagues in 2013.

As a result of that investigation, , and because his research was at least partially supported by grants from the National Eye Institute and the National Institutes of Health, the Board of Regents also reported its findings to the federal government, which ultimately resulted in the debarment announced Wednesday.

According to a notice published in the Federal Register, “[The Office of Research Integrity] found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct by knowingly and intentionally falsifying and/or fabricating data by manipulating peak area data to reduce variability and/or alter statistical significance for twenty-six figures and five tables in his Ph.D. thesis and in nine published papers.”

When questioned by investigators, Kadam fully admitted to “gross scientific negligence,” but because Kadam was the only person in the lab able to use the necessary equipment for producing these results, neither investigation found evidence that anyone else in the lab, including professor Uday Kompella , whose lab Kadam worked in, participated in the fabrications or knowingly allowed them to stand.

After several interviewees expressed that Kadam felt immense pressure from his mentor to produce quality results that could generate future funding for the lab, the investigating committee did say that the incident raised “significant concerns about the quality of the mentoring of students and post-doctoral fellows.”

While no one else was disciplined as a result of the misconduct, CU System spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the university did review its practices to better prevent research fraud in the future.

“When incidents like this occur, we look at what we can learn from it and how we can improve,” he said. “You never like to hear that your researchers are fabricating data, but what I would say is there are thousands of people conducting substantial research projects each day here and one person does not reflect the entire facility. It was a severe measure to revoke his Ph.D., but I think (it) tells the government we are serious about this and if something like this arrives in front of us we‘re going to take the appropriate action.”