Archive for Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ex-Kansas State researcher fails to get whistleblower status

September 16, 2015

— A researcher who was fired from Kansas State University after accusing his colleagues of misrepresenting data in an academic journal has lost a bid for whistleblower protection under federal law.

The inspector general's office at the National Science Foundation concluded in a report that the research assistant professor of biology, Joseph Craine, didn't qualify for the legal status because he "failed to establish that the university violated or misapplied any of its written rules or regulations," the report said. However, the investigation did uncover evidence that two professors who sought Craine's firing referred to him in profane terms in emails withheld by Kansas State University.

University officials declined to comment on the foundation's report, the Kansas Whistleblower Act and the nondisclosure of emails, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The National Science Foundation became involved in the dispute because it sponsors research on prairie grassland coordinated by the university.

In December, the federal agency sent investigators to the university's campus in Manhattan to interview administrators, professors and researchers after Craine informed an editor of the journal "Ecology" that three university researchers were fraudulently characterizing field studies related to the Konza Prairie. Those researchers held firm to their published findings and administrators at Kansas State University determined that the researchers weren't involved in any wrongdoing.

Craine continued to question whether the researchers' analysis of plant growth on Konza Prairie plots set ablaze to promote growth of nutritional grasses was the scientific breakthrough that the article claimed it was.

He was fired in September 2014 for infractions listed in the university policy manual's section establishing protocol for resolving academic disputes.

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