On Campus

NSERC bars scientist from receiving grants

Star engineer accused of plagiarism and misusing research funding

A freedom of information request by Canwest has revealed that the federal Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) has “indefinitely” barred a University of Calgary engineer from receiving grants. The NSERC ban stems from allegations of a misuse of grant money and plagiarism. Although the documents obtained by Canwest were blacked out in places, and NSERC has not revealed who the researcher is, the news organization has discovered that the allegations pertain to University of Calgary engineering professor Daniel Kwok.

The allegations pertain to 2005 or before, when Kwok was working at the University of Alberta. The specialist in interfacial phenomenon has received more than $1.7 million in grant money from NSERC since 1998, with more than half being awarded after he moved to Calgary. According to Canwest, the documents they obtained from NSERC do not go into detail regarding the plagiarism allegation, but they do tell of grant money being spent on items “inconsistent” with Kwok’s research activities. Kwok says the allegations are “unfair.”

The federal government documents indicate that while Kwok was working at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, he spent close to $150,000 on purchases that seemed “inconsistent” with his research grant proposals, including computers, monitors, printers, a smartphone, an iPod, AMG aluminum wheels and chrome exhaust pipes for a car and home entertainment gear worth $17,624.63. His purchases include two televisions — a 50-inch and a 42-inch, complete with wall mount — and a stereo system with a digital receiver, speakers and a subwoofer.

Then, in 2005, Kwok walked away from the University of Alberta amid scientific and financial misconduct investigations and took a new job at the University of Calgary, which was not told of the controversy at his previous posting.

The University of Calgary hired Kwok as an associate professor and arranged for him to receive a $500,000 Canada Research Chair under a federal program meant for “exceptional emerging researchers.” The university set him up in a state-of-the-art lab, and Kwok resumed teaching — and receiving more research grants.

Then NSERC officials, four years after the investigations into Kwok’s conduct began, took the most drastic sanction at their disposal. In September 2009, they cut off all Kwok’s grants “indefinitely,” accusing him of “plagiarism” and “misuse of funds” in 2005 or before.

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