In research, it is crucial to not only ensure that data collected is meaningful and sound, but also that subjects (whether it be animals or humans) are treated properly.
Recent stories have been released in regards to a nutrition study from researchers at Purdue University that highlight examples of what not to do in a scientific study.
The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effects of low sodium diets on adolescent children with high blood pressure. Children were signed up for a seven week trial over a summer that placed them in campus housing. The project was dubbed Camp DASH, an abbreviation for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension(1,2).
Everything went awry after a video of one of the girl participants showering appeared on social media. The police were notified and other accusations arose involving additional children within the study.
It appears from the start, the study was inadequate in planning, and was not fully prepared for hosting the adolescent children.
Within the first week of the study, it was reported that two participants were arrested due to violence among the adolescent children. Injuries were severe enough warrant a hospital visit for one of the participants. Both of the children were removed from the study, but this highlights the first of many faults in this study; lack of proper supervision(1,2)
Just one week after the two were dismissed, another accusation arose involving one male participant sexually harassing several of the female participants. The male was ejected from the study, but the harassment was not reported to necessary university personnel.(1)
These are just a few examples of the many incidences that occurred during the time of the study.
The principal investigator of Camp DASH, Dr. Connie Weaver, has been brought under scrutiny for the research, and from the reports, it appears to be just.
Dr. Weaver was notified throughout the entire study of the misconduct going on, and did not make the proper corrections to ensure the safety of the children within the study(1)
In a statement released earlier this week, Dr. Weaver commented on allegations arising from the study.
“I am deeply saddened by the instances that caused Camp DASH to end early. As the principal investigator, I accept responsibility for events that occurred at Camp DASH. The safety and security of research participants always comes first.” (3)
Not only were the accusations hidden, but personnel staff were not properly screened before beginning the study.
Every hired member of the camp were required to undergo a detailed background check. Only seven of the 132 members were screened (2). Furthermore, each member on the staff was required to complete online training before the study began. Thirteen percent of staff members did not complete the training, including the Camp Manager, who did not complete his training until the day he was terminated.
As a result of the problems within the study, the university ended it two weeks prior to its scheduled completion date, and all of the data generated from the study was discarded.
This is a perfect example of research misconduct during human trials. Not only did the principal investigator overlook accusations, she did fulfill the duties of keeping the subjects safe that were specifically written during her proposal.
This neglect thus resulted in directly wasting 8.8 million dollars from the NIH (federal funding source), and placing over 70 adolescent children in an environment leading to violence and sexual harassment(2).
While the principal investigator and university staff overseeing Camp DASH have not been directly reprimanded, we expect more news to be released as the story develops.
Be sure to look for our updates as news continues.
We recommend that if you are interested, to read this detailed report written by Alysa Rollock, the Vice President for Ethics and Compliance at Purdue University.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written By: Cody Wolf
- Rollock, Alysa. “Report on Review and Assessment of Purdue University’s Actions in Connection with the Camp DASH Research Study. Accessed online 12/1/2017. https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/documents/campdash-report.pdf
- Gastelum, Amy. “Purdue University Mounted a Child Nutrition Study. It Went Very, Very Wrong.” Undark.org. https://undark.org/article/purdue-camp-dash-nutrition-weaver/
- Menchaca, Mateo. “Purdue review board throws out Camp DASH data.” The Exponent. https://www.purdueexponent.org/campus/article_5ec9584b-1565-502d-a6f5-f49498411138.html