Research Misconduct Allegations

Atlantic Data Forensics’ practitioners specialize in forensic analysis and reporting for research misconduct investigations.
ADF has performed forensic analysis for research misconduct and patent dispute investigations involving fields such as oncology, ophthalmology, and neuroscience. We’ve provided e-discovery and hosting for both PHS- and privately-funded research. And we’re knowledgeable (for laypeople!) on instrumentation, digital output, and forensic avenues related to flow cytometry, Western blot imagery, x-ray crystallography, and more.

Further, ADF’s own Jason Briody — a Director at ADF — has completed the intensive, ORI-sponsored, three-day Research Integrity Officer (RIO) Boot Camp.  Jason has also been a speaker and panelist at the Association of Research Integrity Officers (ARIO) conferences, including the ARIO Annual Conference, where he was honored to present “Digital Tools & Techniques to Uncover Research Fraud” at a plenary session to all those in attendance

Don’t Let Evidence Slip Away!

If allegations of research misconduct have been made, the time to act is now. Every moment that a computer is turned on or being used, crucial evidence could be overwritten and lost forever. Think about it; if a living room were a potential crime scene, would investigators allow people to use that room, even if only for day-to-day purposes?

Fingerprints, footprints, hair strands, dust trails, and more – they all have a digital equivalent, and using a computer that may contain crucial evidence can often be the equivalent of allowing someone to dust, vacuum, stomp through, touch objects in, and generally interact with that room. What evidence is being permanently damaged or overwritten due to the normal use of a computer at your institution?

Sequestering Computer Evidence

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) provides the following pointers for sequestration:

Experience has shown that prompt and complete sequestration of physical evidence is vital for resolving misconduct allegations. If evidence is not sequestered systematically or promptly, with an identifiable chain of custody, the integrity of the evidence can be questioned, creating avoidable complications in misconduct cases. Attention to detail is vital and it is better to secure more, rather than less, evidence and corroborating information. Proper evidence management protects the research and those involved.

 

ADF has performed numerous sequestrations on devices including:
    • Principal Investigator (PI), post-doc, and grad student computers and media devices (including lab computers, external hard drives, thumb drives, and more)
    • FCS (Flow Cytometry Standard) files
    • Kodak Imagers
    • Computers used in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop and Western blots
    • University file shares, network drives, and common areas
    • Becton Dickinson (BD) FACStation devices
    • Exchange/Outlook Email servers
    • Thermo Fisher Scientific myECL Imager devices
    • …and much, much more

Of course, we understand the need to “get back to science” — we’re of the same opinion! Once ADF has created a forensic image of all data on the computer with complete Chain of Custody (which typically takes just hours), those same devices — with all their data intact and in the same condition in which they were sequestered — can be returned to the labs. At that point, you’ve successfully completed a defensible data sequestration…and research marches on.

Why Should I Choose ADF?

We work closely with Research Integrity Officers (RIOs) to determine your institution’s goals, standards, and protocols. Since research misconduct and computer forensics intersect at many points, we have been engaged as independent third party reviewers or consulted with by inquiry committees, investigation committees, and standing adjudication boards.

We have made findings on questions such as:

    • I see what the timestamps say when I click “properties”…but I also know it’s easy enough to change these dates and times, even without specialized software. When were these files actually created or last modified?
    • Which user created these files? Were they modified after they were output from the scientific instrument?
    • Have these image files been "Photoshopped"?  Were the visual manipulations performed on these files global in nature, or a bad-faith attempt to skew the result for this experiment? How can you tell?

We’ve answered these questions before, and have been happy to help set aside the nagging doubts that accompany them for our Clients. Let our independent, evidence-based examinations put those doubts to rest.

Call ADF Today

Whether you’re tasked to investigate by ORI or a scientific journal for a PHS-funded grant; you’re hit with a patent infringement lawsuit; or you’re investigating falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism for what is solely an internal research misconduct matter — call in the experts at Atlantic Data Forensics to rigorously examine the digital evidence at issue.

We know the language, we know the landscape, and we’re here to help. Make a finding in which you can feel confident. Call ADF today at (410) 540-9000

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