Fired Scientist Sues University of Connecticut
HARTFORD (CN) - A scientist accused of faking research on the health benefits of red wine sued the University of Connecticut, claiming it violated his rights in firing him.
Dipak Das sued the University of Connecticut, its president, provost and Board of Trustees, in Superior Court. He claims the two-year investigation and hearing process that lead to his dismissal was flawed and violated his civil rights.
The university's Health Center Special Review Board began investigating Das on allegations of research misconduct in January 2009.
Das had become famous for his research into health benefits from natural substances such as resveratrol and tocotrinols. Resveratrol is an ingredient in red wine thought to promote longevity in laboratory animals.
The Health Center Special Review Board released its initial findings on June 5, 2010, and in November 2010 it released its final report, which found that Das had fabricated and falsified data.
Das denied it in March 2011 during a meeting with the former head of the UConn Health Center Cato Laurencen.
Dismissal hearings were held with a committee of three and then a committee of five when the committee of three couldn't reach a conclusion.
The committee of five held five days of hearings between Feb. 29 and April 13, 2012.
In his 11-page complaint, with 62 pages of exhibits, Das claims he was not allowed to introduce "exhibits, testimony, and cross-examine witnesses" at the five-day "dismissal hearing."
He claims that the only testimony he was able to present was "mitigating factors as to why he should not be terminated."
"As a result of the dismissal hearing, the committee of five unanimously, but wrongfully, found that the Health Center had met its burden of proof and recommended the plaintiff's dismissal from the Health Center," the complaint states. "However, not only did the Health Center violate the procedural protections of Section XIV.H3.e, f, h, but the Health Center also failed to prove adequate cause by clear and convincing evidence as required by Section XIV.H3.e of the by-laws for the termination of the plaintiff."
The committee of five sent its recommendation to UConn President Susan Herbst on April 30, 2012 and Herbst approved the findings. Das appealed to the Board of Trustees, who approved his dismissal.
Das claims that in January 2011, before the committee of five had completed its report, the university notified 11 journals that he had "committed research misconduct in completing the findings in the scientific articles that the plaintiff had submitted to the aforementioned journals."
Das claims that UConn notified the journals "as a means of coercing the plaintiff into settling by harming his reputation and standing in the scientific community."
He claims UConn violated his 14th Amendment right to due process.
He demands reinstatement, with tenure, lost wages and benefits, restoration of about $1.5 million in National Institute of Health funding and wants the university to rescind the notification of research misconduct to the 11 journals.
He is represented by J. William Gagne Jr.
The New York Times reported on Jan. 11, 2012, that UConn accused Das of "widespread scientific fraud, involving 26 articles published in 11 journals."