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Former Wisconsin researcher sentenced for misconduct

Suzanne Winter

Elizabeth Goodwin was sentenced by a federal judge to probation and ordered to pay a fine after pleading guilty to making a false statement.

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Elizabeth Goodwin, former associate professor of a genetics and medical genetics at University of Wisconsin, Madison (UW-M) was sentenced to two years of probation and a $500 fine after pleading guilty on June 25 to one count of making a false statement. U.S. District Judge William Conley also demanded that Goodwin pay $50,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and $50,000 to a UW-M scholarship program.

The misconduct occurred while Goodwin was spearheading a lab that focused on the behavior of a particular strand of small RNA in the sex determination process of Caenorhabditis elegans. Source: University of Wisconsin.

Goodwin has been at the center of an academic misconduct investigation since 2006, when graduate students in her laboratory registered allegations with her supervisors that she was falsifying data in federally funded research grant proposals and in published papers.

The court’s demands are levied in addition to the terms of a Voluntary Exclusion Agreement that Goodwin entered into with the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) on July 22. For the next three years, Goodwin has voluntarily excluded herself from contracting or subcontracting with any branch of the federal government and excluded herself from any position relating to the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) advisory committee, board, or peer review committee. These terms were reached upon conclusion of the ORI’s review of false or fabricated data in two grant applications.

The University of Wisconsin called several papers authored by Goodwin into question, including this one published in Molecular Cell. Source: Molecular Cell

The misconduct occurred while Goodwin was an associate professor of the UW-M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the School of Medicine and Public Health, according to the allegations of her graduate students. She spearheaded a lab that focused on nematode sex determination. In particular, she was researching the behavior of a particular strand of small RNA in the sex determination process of Caenorhabditis elegans. To support her research, Goodwin was awarded over $1.8 million dollars in federal grants from the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Agriculture.

According to coworkers at UW-M, Goodwin was well-liked in her department for her charisma and ability to recruit graduate students to the university.

Yet several graduate students in her research lab became suspicious about falsified figures and data in her grant proposals, which implied better results than they had actually achieved. In response, Goodwin resigned and was unreachable during much of the following legal proceedings.

While most misconduct cases are investigated by the involved university and the ORI, Goodwin’s case was also investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, with full cooperation from UW-M.

Goodwin, now in the private sector, has released a statement through her attorney, stating that she wishes to atone for her past mistakes and move on with her life.

ORI ruling: