Office of Research Integrity: a reflection of disputes and misunderstandings.
Each year, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) provides billions of dollars to support over 30,000 extramural research grants to more than 2,000 institutions in the U.S. and other countries. The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) is responsible for protecting the integrity of the research supported by the grants awarded for the PHS extramural research program. One of its responsibilities includes monitoring investigations into alleged or suspected scientific misconduct by institutions that receive the PHS funds. However, not all of the alleged or suspected scientific misconduct meet the the PHS definition of scientific misconduct. Among the wide range of allegations that the ORI receives are those that are ultimately determined to be authorship disputes. This article will report on ORI's functions and review some of the commonly reported allegations that do not constitute scientific misconduct according to the PHS definition. (+info
Fraud, misconduct or normal science in medical research--an empirical study of demarcation.
OBJECTIVES: To study and describe how a group of senior researchers and a group of postgraduate students perceived the so-called "grey zone" between normal scientific practice and obvious misconduct. DESIGN: A questionnaire concerning various practices including dishonesty and obvious misconduct. The answers were obtained by means of a visual analogue scale (VAS). The central (two quarters) of the VAS were designated as a grey zone. SETTING: A Swedish medical faculty. SURVEY SAMPLE: 30 senior researchers and 30 postgraduate students. RESULTS: Twenty of the senior researchers and 25 of the postgraduate students answered the questionnaire. In five cases out of 14 the senior researchers' median was found to be clearly within the interval of the grey zone, compared with three cases for the postgraduate students. Three examples of experienced misconduct were provided. Compared with postgraduate students, established researchers do not call for more research ethical guidelines and restrictions. CONCLUSION: Although the results indicate that consensus exists regarding certain obvious types of misconduct the response pattern also indicates that there is no general consensus on several procedures. (+info
The scientist's world.
This paper describes the features of the world of science, and it compares that world briefly with that of politics and the law. It also discusses some "postmodern" trends in philosophy and sociology that have been undermining confidence in the objectivity of science and thus have contributed indirectly to public mistrust. The paper includes broader implications of interactions of government and science. (+info
Publication ethics and the research assessment exercise: reflections on the troubled question of authorship.
The research assessment exercise (RAE) forms the basis for determining the funding of higher education institutions in the UK. Monies are distributed according to a range of performance criteria, the most important of which is "research outputs". Problems to do with publication misconduct, and in particular, issues of justice in attributing authorship, are endemic within the research community. It is here argued that the research assessment exercise currently makes no explicit attempt to address these concerns, and indeed, by focusing attention on research outputs, may actually be fostering such ethical problems. (+info
Scientific dishonestry: European reflections.
Scientific dishonesty has attracted increased attention around the world during the past three to four decades. Europe became aware of the problem later than the USA, but has within the past 10 years created national control systems for all biomedical projects, not only those supported by public money. The prevalence of the problem can only be calculated indirectly by referring to population figures as denominators. Measured this way, figures from Denmark as a whole show: 1-2 cases referred/million inhabitants/year, 1 case treated/million inhabitants/year, 1 case of scientific dishonesty/million inhabitants/5 years. For Finland, 1-2 cases were referred/million inhabitants/1-2 years; for Norway, similar figures of 1/4 million inhabitants/year were calculated. Figures from the Danish national independent control body 1993-7 show the distribution of the types of cases that were charged, with numbers of confirmed cases in parentheses: fabrication, 2 (1); plagiarism, 3 (0); theft, 2 (0); ghost authorship, 2 (1); false methodological description, 3 (1); twisted statistics, 2 (0); suppression of existing data, 4 (0); unwarranted use of data, 4 (0); and authorship problems, 8 (1). This survey emphasises the need for national guidelines, an independent national control body, and initiatives for strong preventive actions. (+info
Responsibility for truth in research.
For over half a century, cell cultures derived from animals and humans have served researchers in various fields. To this day, cross-contamination of cultures has plagued many researchers, often leading to mistaken results, retractions of results, cover-ups and some out-and-out falsification of data and results following inadvertent use of the wrong cells. Also, during years of examining cultures for purity we learned that many virologists were not too concerned about the specificity of the cultures they used to propagate the particular virus under study as long as the substrate (whatever it might have been) gave optimal virus yield. Polio virus propagates in primate cells, and much research has involved cells from man and various species of primates. In the 1950s a large number of chimpanzees were held in captivity in Africa for extensive studies of the efficacy of polio vaccine in production at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Chimpanzee tissues, particularly kidneys, were thus readily available and could have also provided substrates for polio virus production, since little was known about the purity of substrates and little attention was paid to their specificity at that time. (+info
A survey of newly appointed consultants' attitudes towards research fraud.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of, and attitudes towards, observed and personal research misconduct among newly appointed medical consultants. DESIGN: Questionnaire study. SETTING: Mersey region, United Kingdom. PARTICIPANTS: Medical consultants appointed between Jan 1995 and Jan 2000 in seven different hospital trusts (from lists provided by each hospital's personnel department). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Reported observed misconduct, reported past personal misconduct and reported possible future misconduct. RESULTS: One hundred and ninety-four replies were received (a response rate of 63.6%); 55.7% of respondents had observed some form of research misconduct; 5.7% of respondents admitted to past personal misconduct; 18% of respondents were either willing to commit or unsure about possible future research misconduct. Only 17% of the respondents reported having received any training in research ethics. Anaesthetists reported a lower incidence of observed research misconduct (33.3%) than the rest of the respondents (61.5%) (p<0.05). CONCLUSION: There is a higher prevalence of observed and possible future misconduct among newly appointed consultants in the UK than in the comparable study of biomedical trainees in California. Although there is a need for more extensive studies, this survey suggests that there is a real and potential problem of research misconduct in the UK. (+info
Report of a case of cyberplagiarism--and reflections on detecting and preventing academic misconduct using the Internet.
BACKGROUND: The Internet is an invaluable tool for researchers and certainly also a source of inspiration. However, never before has it been so easy to plagiarise the work of others by clipping together (copy & paste) an apparently original paper or review paper from paragraphs on several websites. Moreover, the threshold of stealing ideas, whether lifting paragraphs or perhaps even whole articles from the Internet, seems to be much lower than copying sections from books or articles. In this article, we shall use the term cyberplagarism to describe the case where someone, intentionally or inadvertently, is taking information, phrases, or thoughts from the World Wide Web (WWW) and using it in a scholarly article without attributing the origin. OBJECTIVES: To illustrate a case of cyberplagiarism and to discuss potential Methods using the Internet to detect scientific misconduct. This report was also written to stimulate debate and thought among journal editors about the use of state of the art technology to fight cyberplagiarism. METHODS: A case of a recent incident of cyberplagiarism, which occurred in the Journal of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (JRCSEd), is reported. A systematic search of the Internet for informatics tools that help to identify plagiarism and duplicate publication was conducted. RESULTS: This is the first in-depth report of an incident where significant portions of a web article were lifted into a scholarly article without attribution. In detecting and demonstrating this incident, a tool at www.plagiarism.org, has proven to be particularly useful. The plagiarism report generated by this tool stated that more than one third (36%) of the JRCSEd article consisted of phrases that were directly copied from multiple websites, without giving attribution to this fact. CONCLUSIONS: Cyberplagiarism may be a widespread and increasing problem. Plagiarism could be easily detected by journal editors and peer-reviewers if informatics tools would be applied. There is a striking gap between what is technically possible and what is in widespread use. As a consequence of the case described in this report, JMIR has taken the lead in applying information technology to prevent and fight plagiarism by routinely checking new submissions for evidence of cyberplagiarism. (+info