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There has been an uptick in cases of academic fraud being reported in the mainstream media.

With websites like retraction watch tracking the general field of things.

Popular commentators such as Pete Judo covering famous cases.

And professional researchers such as Elisabeth Bik exposing cases.

At this point I am curious as an American citizen and American tax payer how much of the fraudulent research that is being exposed has been funded by grants that are in part supported by my taxes.

Obviously it will be a drop in a bucket but instead of thinking about profitability but morality, is there any chance I can sue the fraudulent individuals for effectively scamming me out of "$10" worth of research (say out of the Q dollars I spent only "$10" ended up in a grant consumed by fraudulent researcher X that year).

The way I see it I have been damaged by this fraudulent research since my expectation that the money would be spent of legitimate research ended up being false. I can't guarantee that some "breakthrough" or discovery necessarily would happen but I was entitled for that tax payer money to have it spent on legitimate research with legitimate scientific content. I wonder if I can sue for the damages of not having received this research.

My motivation behind this is to create a chilling effect of "engaging in academic fraud can result in you being sued into bankruptcy, so don't get caught engaging in outright fraud such as data fabrication"

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Can an american tax payer sue a researcher that knowingly conducted fraudulent research with taxpayer funded grants?

No. Taxpayers do not have standing to sue arising from the misuse of federal funds (with a narrow exception for qui tam actions, for the benefit of the federal government less a percentage for taking on the cost of bringing the lawsuit, that has nothing to do with the fact that one is or is not a taxpayer).

The appropriate people in the federal government, on the other hand, could cause the U.S. Justice Department to sue the researcher for damages in many cases along these lines.

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  • Interesting so it is still possible to sue the fraudulent researchers on behalf of the United States Government, without necessarily getting approval from the Government? Oct 26, 2023 at 4:08
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    @SidharthGhoshal No. A qui tam action requires you to offer the government an opportunity to handle the case which it declines to utilize. You have to confer with the government and it has to neither take the case for itself nor quash the suit. Effectively, in that context, it is hiring you as outside counsel to pursue to the claim. By being the first to identify the issue, you get first dibs on the job of prosecuting the case if the government doesn't want to handle it.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 26, 2023 at 4:11
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    False Claims Act actions have resulted in significant rewards, e.g. $33 million out of $112.5 million in the case of Duke University's research fraud.
    – user71659
    Oct 26, 2023 at 6:08
  • Interesting, so the University/Research Institution which received the grant can be held liable, what about the PI in charge of the Fraudulent Research? Are they ever held liable as well? Oct 30, 2023 at 15:18

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