Vice Chancellor for Research Resigns

The University accepted on March 10 the resignation of Terry Magnuson as UNC’s vice chancellor for research. He will remain on the faculty at the School of Medicine.

The resignation is the result of a report posted March 8 by the Office of Research Integrity, a National Institutes of Health agency tasked with detecting and punishing misconduct of scientists who conduct research funded by the U.S. government. The office reported Magnuson had “engaged in research misconduct by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly plagiarizing text from” online articles and a published paper when he submitted an application for cancer research last year.

In a letter sent March 11 to deans, directors and department chairs at the University, Magnuson wrote that he “made a mistake” in the National Cancer Institute application, which included portions of text from two equipment vendor websites and a publicly available online article. He inserted the copy as placeholders in the document, intending to rework “the two areas where the techniques were discussed,” he wrote in his letter. Magnuson said he “lost track” of his editing and “failed to rework the text or cite the sources.”

Magnuson wrote that in his role as vice chancellor of research, he serves as the University’s institutional official to ensure research integrity and compliance with federal regulations. It’s his duty, Magnuson wrote, “to ensure others can trust that the system treats everyone equally, without regard to position or status, and that no one is above the law.”

Magnuson’s last day as vice chancellor was March 11.

Magnuson wrote he will return to the lab and the faculty at the School of Medicine. He entered into a voluntary settlement agreement with the Office of Regulatory Research that will require his work to be supervised from Feb. 25, 2022, to Jan. 5, 2024. Magnuson also must submit his proposals to the vice dean of the School of Medicine “to check for plagiarism and ensure compliance with acceptable scientific practice for citation of prior work,” according to the office’s report.

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and Provost and Chief Academic Officer Christopher Clemens wrote in a message sent March 10, “The University has a very specific role it must play in these matters, and it followed its federally mandated policy regarding research misconduct.”

Guskiewicz and Clemens wrote Magnuson “has left an indelible mark on Carolina, and we thank him for his service.”

Magnuson served as vice chancellor since 2016. He is also the Kay M. & Van L. Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professor of Genetics in the UNC School of Medicine and was the founding chair of the department of genetics. Magnuson is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

During his tenure, Magnuson oversaw a campus research enterprise that attracted annual awards of more than $1 billion. He was behind projects such as Creativity Hubs, a seed funding initiative that creates virtual research networks to concentrate interdisciplinary talent and resources. He was a key partner in developing the concept for the Institute for Convergent Science, along with representatives from the College of Arts & Sciences and Innovate Carolina.

Penny Gordon-Larsen will serve as interim vice chancellor for research. She is the associate dean for research at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition. She leads the Gillings School’s $200 million research enterprise and is a leading nutritional science researcher.

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