In our next article we will discuss the details of the Berge case and its implications for scientific research. This case raises these areas of concern for scientists submitting proposals to NIH, NSF or other federal agencies:
The individual submitting the proposal need not actually know that the information is false. Exposure under the FCA also extends to individuals acting in deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard that the information might be false. Thus, a failure to thoroughly investigate or weigh every statement in a proposal may be sufficient to trigger the sanctions of the Act. (Sec. 1)
Here the sanctions provided in the FCA may be imposed even if the author does not actually know that the information is false. Furthermore, the false information is not limited to unsupported data, but may include citation of other papers for unsupported propositions, references to unsupportable theories, and the like. (Sec. 2)
After the control of funded research was handed over to the administrators in the late 60's and early 70's, basic scientists found themselves in a quandry. Unable to communicate the real merits of basic research, they invented payoffs to satisfy the need of the administrators and the new political constituency for instant gratification. Misrepresenting the real goals of basic research amounts to a conspiracy under FCA to defraud the Government to get a false or fraudulent proposal funded. (Sec. 3)
Even if there was no original intent to use funds in any manner other than as disclosed in a proposal, doing so subsequently without express consent amounts to a false statement to decrease the grantee's obligation to return funds that were not expended as originally proposed. (Sec. 7).
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