Review of The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business, and Society, by Peter W. Morgan and Glenn H. Reynolds.
Rameshwar Sharma needed cash to continue his research on two proteins, alpha2A and alpha2GC, so he turned to the federal government. At the time he submitted his grant application, Sharma had completed a good deal of work on alpha2A but very little on alpha2GC At some point while typing his forty-six page grant application, Sharma realized that repeatedly typing alpha2A and alpha2GC was annoying. To ease his pain, he created macro keys that he could hit whenever he wished to type either protein. Big mistake. On page twenty-one he hit the wrong key, inserting alpha2GC where alpha2A should have been. No one on the National Institute of Health (NIH) review panel was fooled – they all knew that if Sharma really had done the work on alpha2ac that his typo seemed to indicate, he would have trumpeted his progress. In addition, the surrounding discussion concerned alpha2A. Quite apart from the typo, the NIH panel denied Sharma’s grant application. Had this been all that had happened to Sharma, he would have considered himself lucky. Instead, an anonymous accuser forwarded his application to the Office of Science Integrity (later the Office of Research Integrity (ORI)). After investigation, the ORI determined that his typo constituted scientific misconduct. The gist of the ORI’s position was that Sharma was attempting to fatten his chances by fabricating his work product.