Most busy scientific research laboratories have a spectrum of projects underway at any given time. Some projects are producing exciting results, and others seem to be heading nowhere. Why not shift personnel from the losers to the winners?
Here’s one big reason: The government is watching. And unless you’re careful, simply moving a couple of post-docs from one project to another can generate False Claims Act (FCA) liabilities up to three times the amount of money the government thinks it was shortchanged.
Counting the hours
National Institutes of Health requirements give research institutions leeway on how they account for work funded by federal grants, but they demand consistency and good record keeping in exchange. Although this may make veteran principal investigators (PIs) grumble, keeping track of lab members’ hours is just one of the essential compliance duties research institutions must enforce, as both the Department of Justice and profit-motivated whistleblower lawyers place increasing scrutiny on research spending. The institutions that get this right will find not only are they protecting themselves against FCA liability over minor things like accounting for time and effort, but they’re also increasing the odds of uncovering major problems like falsification of data and plagiarism.
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