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Science in Mind

Former Harvard researcher falsified data, federal investigation finds

A post-doctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School intentionally falsified data, figures, and a “legend” used to interpret the figures in a paper submitted to the journal Nature, according to the federal Office of Research Integrity.

A notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday, states that Helen Freeman, who left Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2009, misrepresented data from an experiment on a specific strain of genetically engineered mice. The rodents were treated with either saline or a chemical compound called genipin.

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“The genotype, treatment conditions, numbers of mice used, and mice age were not as claimed; these falsified data also were presented to a colleague for use in related experiments,” according to the notice from the Office of Research Integrity.

Freeman also falsified information contained in a video file and two figures associated with the paper, reporting that a particular genetic manipulation resulted in an alteration in the physical state of the mice, “when she knew this to be false,” the report said.

Freeman no longer works at Harvard or Beth Israel Deaconess. In a settlement, she agreed to supervision if she performs research supported by federal funding during the next three years, among other restrictions.

“We are fully committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and to rigorously maintaining the integrity of our research,” a hospital spokesman wrote in an e-mail. “Any concerns brought to our attention are thoroughly reviewed in accordance with institutional policies and applicable regulations.”

A 2006 paper in the journal Cell Metabolism led by Freeman was also retracted this year.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.
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