Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wikipedia on Scientific Misconduct

Wikipedia on Scientific Misconduct:

Responsibility of authors and of coauthors

Authors and coauthors of scientific publications have a variety of responsibilities. Contravention of the rules of scientific authorship may lead to a charge of scientific misconduct. All authors, including coauthors, are expected to have made reasonable attempts to check findings submitted to academic journals for publication. Simultaneous submission of scientific findings to more than one journal or duplicate publication of findings is usually regarded as misconduct, under what is known as the Ingelfinger rule, named after the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine 1967-1977, Franz Ingelfinger.

Guest authorship (where there is stated authorship in the absence of involvement, also known as gift authorship) and ghost authorship (where the real author is not listed as an author) are commonly regarded as forms of research misconduct. In some cases coauthors of faked research have been accused of inappropriate behavior or research misconduct for failing to verify reports authored by others or by a commercial sponsor.

Authors are expected to keep all study data for later examination even after publication. The failure to keep data may be regarded as misconduct. Some scientific journals require that authors provide information to allow readers to determine whether the authors might have commercial or non-commercial conflicts of interest. Authors are also commonly required to provide information about ethical aspects of research, particularly where research involves human or animal participants or use of biological material. Provision of incorrect information to journals may be regarded as misconduct. Financial pressures on universities have encouraged this type of misconduct. The majority of recent cases of alleged misconduct involving undisclosed conflicts of interest or failure of the authors to have seen scientific data involve collaborative research between scientists and biotechnology companies (Nemeroff, Blumsohn).

Responsibilities of research institutions

In many countries there is no regulator to oversee the investigation of allegations of research misconduct. For example in the UK, unlike the United States, even acquisition of funds on the basis of fraudulent data is not a legal offence. [So in the US, acquisition of funds on the basis of fraudulent data is a legal offense?] Universities therefore have no incentive and every disincentive to investigate allegations or act on the findings of such investigations if they vindicate the allegation. In one notable example, King's College (London) performed an internal investigation which showed research findings from one of their researchers to be 'at best unreliable, and in many cases spurious'. King's College took no action in terms of retracting relevant published research, or preventing further episodes from occurring. It was only 10 years later, when an entirely separate form of misconduct by the same individual was being investigated by the General Medical Council, that the internal report came to light.

This case and another suggest that the execution of scientific misconduct should not be simply considered as an individual acting alone. In both these cases senior academics supported an individual engaging in scientific misconduct. The role of the institution in tolerating and supporting scientific misconduct has probably been underestimated.

Responsibilities of scientific colleagues who are "bystanders"

Some academics believe that scientific colleagues who suspect scientific misconduct should consider taking informal action themselves, or reporting their concerns. (See Gerald Koocher and Patricia Keith Speigel in NATURE Vol 466 22 July 2010: Peers Nip Misconduct in the Bud, and (with Joan Sieber) Responding to Research Wrongdoing: A User Friendly Guide, July 2010.) This question is of great importance since much research suggests that it is very difficult for people to act or come forward when they see unacceptable behavior, unless they have help from their organizations. A "User-friendly Guide," and the existence of a confidential organizational ombudsman may help people who are uncertain about what to do, or afraid of bad consequences for their speaking up. (See Mary Rowe, Linda Wilcox and Howard Gadlin, Dealing with—or Reporting—“Unacceptable” Behavior—with additional thoughts about the “Bystander Effect,” in JIOA, vol.2, no.1, pp52–62.)

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