Trouble for DeSantis As University of Florida Initiates Investigation into Claims from Researchers Who Were Pressured to Destroy Covid-19 Data

The University of Florida has initiated an investigation into researchers’ claims that they felt pressured to destroy COVID-19 data after a report said they were told “not to criticize the Governor of Florida [Republican Ron DeSantis] or UF policies related to COVID-19 in media interactions.”

A report by the Faculty Senate committee determined that staff felt “external pressure to destroy” data and “barriers to accessing and analyzing” data in a timely manner, noting that there were “barriers to publication of scientific research which inhibited the ability of faculty to contribute scientific findings during a world-wide pandemic.”

Earlier this week, the Faculty Senate committee said that they “did not have the resources or the time to fully investigate these reports or their legal and policy implications. Faculty did express discontent about political interference with our mission, that academic freedom is under attack, and that we will likely lose faculty as a result.”

However, that has since changed.

In a statement to The Hill, David P. Norton, Vice President for Research at the University of Florida, said: “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.”

Norton 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.”

DeSantis has been accused for months of downplaying the pandemic’s severity and undermining the recovery, allowing COVID-19 to spread unchecked in Florida, He has said that whether or not a person gets a COVID-19 vaccine comes down to “personal choice.”

The Florida Department of Health earlier launched an inquiry into the state’s reporting of COVID-19 deaths after DeSantis suggested that the official reports overstate the number of deaths.