State Watch

University of Florida initiates investigation into alleged destruction of COVID-19 research data

The University of Florida has launched an investigation into alleged claims by researchers after a report that said they felt pressured to delete COVID-19 data while working on a study for an undisclosed state entity.

In a statement to The Hill on Friday, David P. Norton, vice president for research at the University of Florida said the university takes breaches in research integrity very seriously and has a long-standing, rigorous process in place to investigate them. 

“Through a recent UF Faculty Senate report, UF Research became aware of possible violations of the UF Policy on Research Integrity as it relates to the reported destruction of COVID-19 research data at UF,” the statement added.

“Pursuant to UF policies and procedures, and with the support of President Kent Fuchs, UF Research, in collaboration with UF Office of Compliance and Ethics, has initiated a formal investigation, the results of which will be made public once completed,” the statement said.

A report released on Monday by the faculty senate committee stated that staff felt “external pressure to destroy” data and “barriers to accessing and analyzing” data in a timely manner.

The document added that staff said there were “barriers to publication of scientific research which inhibited the ability of faculty to contribute scientific findings during a world-wide pandemic.”

On Thursday, university officials told The Hill via email that the issues raised by the report are “sobering” and “changes need to be made to better protect all aspects of academic freedom and to restore trust and confidence in our processes.”

University of Florida employees were also reportedly told “not to criticize the Governor of Florida [Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis] or UF policies related to COVID-19 in media interactions.”

The six-person panel was convened to investigate academic freedom issues after the university decided to bar three professors from testifying in a federal lawsuit against the state over a recently enacted elections bill.

University of Florida spokeswoman Hessy Fernandez previously told The Hill that the university has “a long track record of supporting free speech and our faculty’s academic freedom.”

Tags COVID-19 Data Ron DeSantis University of Florida

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