Federal Office Reprimands Former San Francisco Public Health Official for Falsifying Data in Study of Men at High HIV Risk
The federal Office of Research Integrity has reprimanded Joao Carlos deSales, a former counselor for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, after an investigation determined that he "falsified data" in a national study to determine the effects of intensive counseling on "risky" sexual behavior and HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. DeSales, who had worked for the department for more than three years, was terminated on Aug. 29, 2000, after it was determined that he "switched randomized assignments" -- the type of counseling received -- for four pairs of subjects between April and September 1999 and then changed study records to hide his actions. Dr. Susan Buchbinder, director of HIV research for the health department, said the alterations were "pretty well hidden" but "[b]ecause of the additional checks and balances we build into our research to ensure its integrity, we were able to find the discrepancy and trace it back." She added that because the changes were found early, they did not compromise the study's validity. However, because the study, which surveyed more than 4,000 men nationwide, was conducted in conjunction with NIH, the Office of Research Integrity conducted an investigation and issued sanctions. In a report filed Friday in the Federal Register, the ORI said deSales had agreed for the next three years to be supervised if he participated in any "Public Health Service-supported research to ensure the integrity of the research." He also agreed to "exclude himself from serving in an advisory capacity to the Public Health Service" and not to make any "written public statements denying the findings of scientific misconduct." If deSales violates any part of this agreement, he could be prohibited from participating in any government-sponsored research for four years (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.