Coppin professor reprimanded for plagiarism

July 03, 1991|By Patricia Meisol

The federal government is requiring a Coppin State College psychology professor to have outside experts check his research and grant applications for authenticity for the five years after finding that he claimed someone else's work as his own.

The professor, Lonnie Mitchell, and his immediate supervisor, Jerusa Wilson, the chairman of the psychology department, also have been barred for five years from serving on committees that review federal grant applications as the result of an investigation into Mr. Mitchell's grant by the National Institutes of Health's Office of Scientific Integrity.

The Coppin professors are among 14 scientists penalized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for misdeeds in science since the investigative office opened in 1989, according to a report in today's Chronicle of Higher Education.

The offenses range from plagiarism of doctoral theses to altered and falsified laboratory data. Most involved researchers at medical schools or laboratories, ranging from Harvard University to the comparably tiny Coppin State in Baltimore. In most instances, researchers resigned their posts; others were reprimanded by their colleges and barred by the federal government from participating in grant review committees. In one case, a Tufts University

professor committed suicide, according to information released under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The Office of Scientific Integrity has examined 174 allegations of scientific misconduct in the past two years, the Chronicle reported. During that time, six scientists have been barred from receiving federal grants or contracts and eight others have received lesser penalties such as being banned from service on peer review committees -- the expert panels that decide who gets federal grants. The cases were forwarded to NIH after university investigations.

Neither Dr. Mitchell, whose specialty is drug and alcohol abuse, nor Dr. Wilson returned messages left with their offices yesterday.

Both professors received formal letters of reprimand from Coppin more than two years ago.

NIH investigators found that Dr. Mitchell represented a training program developed by a researcher in Georgia as his own in a grant application to the U.S. Office of Substance Abuse Prevention.

Coppin State President Calvin Burnett said yesterday that Dr. Mitchell maintained, and the college believed, that the plagiarism was the work of a consultant hired by the professor to help write the grant. Dr. Mitchell made minor changes to the grant application before Coppin approved and submitted it, the president said.

An NIH reviewer discovered that sections of THE SUN/1988 the proposal were taken LONNIE MITCHELL exactly from another person's work and alerted Coppin State, Dr. Burnett said. "There was no question there was some plagiarism," he said.

The president said the department chairman, Dr. Wilson, was not involved in the preparation of the grant but was responsible as Dr. Mitchell's supervisor.

The consultant, while taking responsibility verbally, refused to admit plagiarism in writing and cannot be located, Dr. Burnett said.

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