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Harvard researcher said to plagiarize is banned

Federal health officials have banned an award-winning malaria researcher at Harvard from conducting government-funded research for three years after discovering plagiarism and falsified data in his work.

The punishment was given almost three months after the Harvard School of Public Health forced Dr. Ali Sultan to resign as an assistant professor of immunology on Sept. 3, following its investigation into plagiarism accusations by others at the school.

Sultan could not be reached for comment. Harvard officials said he had relocated to Qatar.

His research involved the biological workings of malaria parasites. The plagiarism and falsification occurred on a grant application to the federal government to study the topic, meaning his lapses did not undermine any actual research, a Harvard official said.

''It was in an application. It was not ongoing research," said Robin Herman, a spokeswoman for the Harvard School of Public Health. ''The situation was highly unusual. There was disappointment and dismay at the school.

''We have a policy that outlines what to do in an instance of misconduct. We followed that procedure."

According to an official notice issued last week by the federal Office of Research Integrity, a watchdog agency, Sultan plagiarized text and three exhibits in his application to the government to study malaria, a grant proposal titled ''Chemical Genetics and Malaria Drug Development." The document does not indicate the original source of the plagiarized material. In addition, Sultan tried to pass off experimental results from one strain of malaria as results from a more common type of malaria, according to the document.

When Harvard began investigating, Sultan doctored an e-mail from one of his postdoctoral students in an attempt to frame the student for the plagiarism, according to the federal document.

As a result, the federal government has barred Sultan from receiving federal money until Oct. 19, 2007, and from advising the government in any fashion.

Raja Mishra can be reached at rmishra@globe.com.

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