Concept: Scientific misconduct
ABSTRACT A review of the United States Office of Research Integrity annual reports identified 228 individuals who have committed misconduct, of which 94% involved fraud. Analysis of the data by career stage and gender revealed that misconduct occurred across the entire career spectrum from trainee to senior scientist and that two-thirds of the individuals found to have committed misconduct were male. This exceeds the overall proportion of males among life science trainees and faculty. These observations underscore the need for additional efforts to understand scientific misconduct and to ensure the responsible conduct of research. IMPORTANCE As many of humanity’s greatest problems require scientific solutions, it is critical for the scientific enterprise to function optimally. Misconduct threatens the scientific enterprise by undermining trust in the validity of scientific findings. We have examined specific demographic characteristics of individuals found to have committed research misconduct in the life sciences. Our finding that misconduct occurs across all stages of career development suggests that attention to ethical aspects of the conduct of science should not be limited to those in training. The observation that males are overrepresented among those who commit misconduct implies a gender difference that needs to be better understood in any effort to promote research integrity.
David Resnik and Zubin Master review current policies and initiatives for preventing and managing research misconduct in high-income countries, summarize some high profile cases of misconduct, and make suggestions on ways forward.
The academic scandal on a study on stimulus‑triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells in Japan in 2014 involved suspicions of scientific misconduct by the lead author of the study after the paper had been reviewed on a peer‑review website. This study investigated the discussions on STAP cells on Twitter and content of newspaper articles in an attempt to assess the role of social compared with traditional media in scientific peer review.
The authors have retracted the article “Heterologous expression, purification and characterization of nitrilase from Aspergillus niger K10” published in BMC Biotechnology (2011, 11:2). After publication of the article, the authors realized that MALDI data analysis of the wild-type enzyme in Figure 1 prepared by Karel Bezouska is erroneous. Specifically, the protein sequence of the nitrilase purified from Aspergillus niger K10 (designated Nit-ANigWT) is incorrect. Hence, the two enzymes in Figure 1 are not variants of the same enzyme as hypothesized in the original article. In light of this, the original conclusions are no longer valid and further investigation of this protein is in progress. The Ethical Committee of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and the Charles University in Prague has found evidence of scientific misconduct on the part of Karel Bezouska. We apologize to all affected parties.
Retraction This poster presentation (Han et al, 2012) has been retracted on request of the author Michael W Cho. The Office of Research Integrity at the US DHHS has determined that the first author Dong-Pyou Han committed research misconduct and the poster was prepared based on falsified data (The Office of Research Integrity, 2013).
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published 9 months ago
Numerous biases are believed to affect the scientific literature, but their actual prevalence across disciplines is unknown. To gain a comprehensive picture of the potential imprint of bias in science, we probed for the most commonly postulated bias-related patterns and risk factors, in a large random sample of meta-analyses taken from all disciplines. The magnitude of these biases varied widely across fields and was overall relatively small. However, we consistently observed a significant risk of small, early, and highly cited studies to overestimate effects and of studies not published in peer-reviewed journals to underestimate them. We also found at least partial confirmation of previous evidence suggesting that US studies and early studies might report more extreme effects, although these effects were smaller and more heterogeneously distributed across meta-analyses and disciplines. Authors publishing at high rates and receiving many citations were, overall, not at greater risk of bias. However, effect sizes were likely to be overestimated by early-career researchers, those working in small or long-distance collaborations, and those responsible for scientific misconduct, supporting hypotheses that connect bias to situational factors, lack of mutual control, and individual integrity. Some of these patterns and risk factors might have modestly increased in intensity over time, particularly in the social sciences. Our findings suggest that, besides one being routinely cautious that published small, highly-cited, and earlier studies may yield inflated results, the feasibility and costs of interventions to attenuate biases in the literature might need to be discussed on a discipline-specific and topic-specific basis.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published about 5 years ago
A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3% of retractions were attributable to error. In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased ∼10-fold since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic patterns that may reveal underlying causes.
To explore increasing concerns about scientific misconduct and data irreproducibility in some areas of science, we interviewed a number of senior biomedical researchers. These interviews revealed a perceived decline in trust in the scientific enterprise, in large part because the quantity of new data exceeds the field’s ability to process it appropriately. This phenomenon-which is termed ‘overflow’ in social science-has important implications for the integrity of modern biomedical science.
Jean-Paul Chretien and colleagues argue that recent Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks highlight the importance of data sharing in scientific research.
The honesty and integrity of scientists is widely believed to be threatened by pressures to publish, unsupportive research environments, and other structural, sociological and psychological factors. Belief in the importance of these factors has inspired major policy initiatives, but evidence to support them is either non-existent or derived from self-reports and other sources that have known limitations. We used a retrospective study design to verify whether risk factors for scientific misconduct could predict the occurrence of retractions, which are usually the consequence of research misconduct, or corrections, which are honest rectifications of minor mistakes. Bibliographic and personal information were collected on all co-authors of papers that have been retracted or corrected in 2010-2011 (N=611 and N=2226 papers, respectively) and authors of control papers matched by journal and issue (N=1181 and N=4285 papers, respectively), and were analysed with conditional logistic regression. Results, which avoided several limitations of past studies and are robust to different sampling strategies, support the notion that scientific misconduct is more likely in countries that lack research integrity policies, in countries where individual publication performance is rewarded with cash, in cultures and situations were mutual criticism is hampered, and in the earliest phases of a researcher’s career. The hypothesis that males might be prone to scientific misconduct was not supported, and the widespread belief that pressures to publish are a major driver of misconduct was largely contradicted: high-impact and productive researchers, and those working in countries in which pressures to publish are believed to be higher, are less-likely to produce retracted papers, and more likely to correct them. Efforts to reduce and prevent misconduct, therefore, might be most effective if focused on promoting research integrity policies, improving mentoring and training, and encouraging transparent communication amongst researchers.