"In the worst case of scientific fakery to come to light in two decades,
a top obesity researcher who long worked at the University of Vermont
admitted yesterday that he fabricated data in 17 applications for
federal grants to make his work seem more promising, helping him win
nearly $3 million in government funding." [...] "Some colleagues speculated that Poehlman buckled to an exaggerated
perception of the pressure to publish papers and win grants to keep his
laboratory going. Or perhaps he was so sure he knew the right answers
that he cut corners to get to them, they said."
Page 3 of the Globe coverage gives the whistle-blowing part of the story.
The whistle-blower was an undergraduate at University of Vermont who
had been hired as a research assistant. ''I was in a unique position to
act," [Walter] DeNino said. ''I did not rely on
Dr. Poehlman for funding, a post doc [research position], or a salary."
DeNino had to expend thousands of dollars in lawyer fees when Poehlman
denied the claim that he falsified data. Fortunately, under the US
whistle-blower protection statute, he will receive $21,600 before taxes
and his legal fees will be paid.
There's another article on this at The Scientist.
In terms of scientific impact, the worst part is the ripple effect. Poehlman was a huge star in obesity research. Many other
researchers trusted and built upon the work that Poehlman had published
in peer-reviewed journals. The validity of their own work is now called into question. According to The Scientist, "Poehlman's work was cited widely; the top 10 most-cited of his more
than 200 papers have been cited an average of 125 times each. One of
those top 10, a 1995 Annals of Internal Medicine paper that was retracted last year was cited more than 150 times." And three times this year. Ouch.