U. of North Carolina’s Head of Research Cited for Research Misconduct

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The vice chancellor for research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill engaged in research misconduct when he plagiarized in his application for a federal grant for cancer research, according to a recent report from the federal Office of Research Integrity.

In its findings published Tuesday, the office said Terry Magnuson, also a professor of genetics, “knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly” plagiarized from three online articles and one published paper in his grant application to the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health last March.

The Office of Research Integrity, which is housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a federal watchdog agency tasked with detecting and punishing the misconduct of scientists who conduct research funded by several federal departments, such as the NIH. The office defines research misconduct as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.”

Magnuson, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is the founding chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Genetics. He was appointed the university’s vice chancellor for research in 2016 and then reappointed in April 2021 following administrative review. He oversees the campus’s $1-billion research program, including supporting research faculty, staff, trainees, and students, and maintaining regulatory compliance.

Magnuson entered into a voluntarily settlement agreement, consenting to have his research supervised from February 25, 2022, to January 5, 2024. During this period, Magnuson will be subject to additional oversight and will need to receive office approval before engaging in research supported by Public Health Service funding. His proposals also must be submitted first to the vice dean of UNC’s School of Medicine “to check for plagiarism and ensure compliance with acceptable scientific practice for citation of prior work.”

A university spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the institution maintains high expectations for the integrity of research activities conducted by faculty and staff members and students.

“The university follows a federally mandated policy regarding research misconduct, and we hold anyone involved in research activity at the university to that standard,” Beth Keith, associate vice chancellor for university communications, said in the statement. “We will continue to follow the standards and processes set forth by the Office of Research Integrity and our research sponsors.”

Dan Bauman contributed to this report.

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