Be More Widespread Than Thought, Poll Says |
By Elizabeth Lopatto
June 18 (Bloomberg) -- About 1,000 potential incidents of
fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in scientific research
go unreported every year, according to a survey that suggests
such misconduct is far more prevalent than suspected.
On average, the Department of Health and Human
of Research Integrity receives only 24
suspected misconduct from academic and other research
institutions yearly, according to a report in the journal
Nature. The authors called for scientists and institutions to
implement more safeguards against research fraud.
Rooting out fraud in scientific research has gained
increased attention since 2006 when Seoul National University
investigators confirmed that one of their scientists, Hwang Wook
Suk, faked studies of human embryonic stem cells. Most of the
potential misconduct identified in the survey was fabrication or
falsification, such as altering research data, which accounted
for 60 percent of the reported incidents.
``We want to know if we're handling misconduct
appropriately,'' said Sandra Titus, the director of intramural
research from the ORI and one of the study's authors. ``There's
a feeling there's a disconnect between what the office sees and
what's happening in the world.''
The data was based on surveys of 2,212 scientists
research funding from the National
Institutes of Health, asking
if they believed they had observed fraud in 2002-2005. The
scientists surveyed in the report said they observed 201
instances of ``likely misconduct'' over a three-year period, or
about three cases per 100 people per year.
NIH research grants support an estimated 155,000
scientists. Extrapolating the survey results, the researchers
estimated that the 201 instances of misconduct over three years
translated into about 1,000 cases of fraud that go unreported to
government or institutional officials.
Research fraud happens even though the scientific
uses measures such as replicating original research, and
evaluating it through a peer review system, said James Wells, a
study author and director of research policy at the University
``Replication of research happens at a slow rate,
there's great pressure for personal advancement, for getting
money,'' said Wells, the director of research policy at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison, in telephone interview. ``The
respondents did indicate that they thought the high level of job
pressure is the biggest driver.''
About a quarter of what the observers believed to be
misconduct in the survey was by postdoctoral fellows, and about
22 percent was by a professor or senior scientist.
To contact the reporter on this story:
in New York at elopatto@....