3.2 International Models for Responding to Research Misconduct

As improved (and electronic) communication brings the scientific community closer together, cultural variation among scientists and norms for conducting and reporting research become more important. The following section explores the different international models for responding to scientific/research/academic misconduct, including the varying definitions used by the organizations that investigate scientific misconduct, the processes (both formal and informal), and the sanctions and corrective actions taken after the conclusion of an investigation.

3.2.1 National Bodies Responding to the Problem

Fairly few countries have developed national responses to allegations of scientific misconduct. Formal governmental mechanisms exist or are in development in Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the United States. The most formal, developed, and experienced systems exist in the United States and Denmark. Other countries, such as Great Britain, have addressed the problem through largely private bodies.a In Europe, the European Science Foundation has offered “The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity” Presented at the World Conference on Research Integrity in 2010, the European Code of Conduct is a publication which could be considered “a canon for self-regulation.”1 Some of the topics addressed by the Code include International guidelines for good practice rules, recommended principles for investigating research misconduct cases, and text suggested by the OECD Global Science Forum Coordinating Committee for international agreements in conducting international misconduct investigations.

aThe main response to the issue has been through the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the various Royal Colleges, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) (a body comprising editors of top medical journals), and MedicoLegal Investigations, a private agency that since 1996 has investigated 52 studies and 16 doctors.

The governmental bodies that respond to these cases have a variety of roles. Under most systems, the research institution employing the accused scientist is responsible for investigating an allegation of research misconduct.b This is appropriate because they will have access to the personnel and records necessary to conduct a credible investigation. Further, as the recipient of government funds, they should have responsibility for addressing such allegations. Accordingly, most of the governmental bodiesc serve review and appellate functions for university and research institution investigations and only conduct the primary investigation if apparent conflicts of interest exist within an institution, the institution lacks the necessary resources, or multiple institutions are involved and it is impractical and inefficient for the institutions to investigate the matter themselves. Nonetheless, in some countries governmental bodies are responsible for conducting the primary investigation of an allegation of research misconduct.

bThis is true under the Australian, Canadian, and US systems.
cThis is true under the model adopted in the Finland, Sweden, and the United States.

Many of the national bodies were created in the early 1990s. One of the oldest governmental bodies exists in the United States. In the United States before 1989, scientific misconduct cases were investigated by individual granting agencies. In 1989, the Office of Scientific Integrity (OSI), part of the United States National Institutes of Health, and the Office of Scientific Integrity Review (OSIR), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, were created to address Public Health Service scientific misconduct cases. The offices were staffed with scientists and attorneys were consulted periodically. In 1992, OSI and OSIR merged to create the Office of Research Integrity (ORI). The ORI professional staff is composed of scientists and lawyers. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the other US federal body that has been most active in the area of scientific misconduct since 1988. It too has blended law and science when evaluating such cases. Other US federal agencies have addressed cases of misconduct, but none have as much experience as the NSF and ORI.

The Nordic countries have been active in establishing national bodies that respond to the problem. The Danish system, established in 1992, is administered by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), an 8-member committee composed of a High Court Judge and 7 senior medical researchers. During 2002-2003, the committee upheld 2 of 14 cases reported, although in neither case did they find intent or gross negligence. The criteria against which scientific dishonesty are judged are “the existence of falsification or distortion of a scientific message or gross misrepresentation about a person’s involvement in the research”.d, 2

dDanish Executive Order No. 933, 15 December 1998, section 3, subsection 1.

Misconduct activity is also being investigated by institutions in the Netherlands. Specifically, Tilburg University suspended a researcher amid fears that he fabricated data in publications.3, 4 The Rector Magnificus of the university formed a committee to investigate the effected publications.4 Shortly thereafter, the University of Groningen started an investigation of the respondent’s work while he was affiliated with that institution, and the University of Amsterdam began an investigation into his Ph.D. thesis.5 According to the University of Tilburg’s preliminary report, misconduct is involved in at least 30 papers, with as many as 150 possible publications affected.6 Following the release of the report,Science issued an expression of concern over one of the respondent’s publications in early November 2011, only to issue a retraction in December of 2011 with the respondent’s apologies.7

Another researcher was fired from Erasmus MC in November 2011 after an investigative committee found him guilty of academic misconduct under its policies.8 According to the report, the researcher did not obtain informed consent from study participants, he inappropriately collected data, and fabricated data.9 The study itself dealt with the health of patients undergoing surgery and analyzing what factors can reduce the risk of surgery complications; the misconduct did not cause any medical complications for any of the participants.10 The committee also made several recommendations for avoiding problems such as this in the future, including encouraging the use of data collection checking systems and encouraging department heads to institute measures to prevent researchers from working in isolation without reports or discussions with colleagues.e

eReference 10, pp 9-10.

In November 1994, the Research Council of Norway also established an 8-member national committee composed of active researchers nominated by the research community and at least one judge. In 2011, Norway published a report detailing an investigation into alleged research misconduct related to a published article.11 The allegations were raised by Aqua Gen AS in January 2009, sending a letter to the Commission requesting that it evaluate the conclusions that the authors arrived at in the article.f The University of Bergen investigated the alleged misconduct, employed anonymous experts, and forwarded to the Commission its report in November 2009 clearing the researchers of any misconduct, finding that there may have been grounds for some criticism.f Interestingly, the company which raised the allegations was given an opportunity to comment on the institutional report, because the Commission has a responsibility to make sure the case is “well-informed.”g Because the Commission was troubled by the anonymity of the experts in the institutional investigation, it decided to investigate the case in May 2010, and sought international experts.h It found three respondents not guilty of scientific misconduct, stating that “the points deserving of criticism, neither individually nor taken together, can be regarded as serious according to the criteria of the Code of Scientific Ethics.”i

fReference 11, p 5.
gReference 11, p 6.
hReference 11, p 7.
iReference 11, p 21.

Also in 1994, Finland established a decentralized system under which the Finnish National Research Ethics Committee, comprising 12 members (a university chancellor, 6 professors, a theologian, and 4 civil servants), serves as an appellate body. As of 1999, the National Research Ethics Council of Finland, which is appointed for 3 years by the Council of State, published guidelines for the prevention, handling, and investigation of misconduct and fraud in scientific research. According to the 2009 Annual Report of the National Advisory Board of Research Ethics in Finland, the total number of organizations, including research institutions and universities, which had signed the guidelines established by the Board in 2002 entitled Good Scientific Practice and Procedures for Handling Misconduct and in Science was 92.12

Finally, in 1997, the Swedish Medical Research Council established a special 10-member working group chaired by a judge from the Supreme Administrative Court and including a representative from each of the medical faculties in the country (5 individuals), a representative from the Swedish National Agency for Social Affairs, a representative from the National Medical Product Agency, and 2 laypersons who serve on county council hospital boards.

In 1990, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council passed a set of guidelines and procedures to be implemented by all institutions applying for grants. Australia recently established a body to address misconduct. The Australian Research Integrity Committee became operational in February 2011, with four appointed members sitting on the Committee.13 Established by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council, the Committee supplies a review organization of institutional policies and responses to allegations of research misconduct. The Framework of the Committee states explicitly that the Committee is not to investigate any allegations of research misconduct itself.14 Moreover, the Committee may not judge the merits of any institutional finding, unless the process used by the institution was flawed and the error affected the finding.j

jReference 14, p 6.

In New Zealand, there is no formal central organization dealing with research misconduct. If misconduct is suspected, it is usual practice to report the matter to the researcher’s institution or to an appropriate government agency, such as the Health Research Council, if they have funded the research. Aggrieved doctors can also report their concerns to the New Zealand Medical Council or to the Health and Disability Commission if the ethics of research relates to patients. One problem is that the country is sufficiently small that, as one editor put it, “one hint of a problem and everyone knows.”

In Canada, the Tri-Council, comprising the Medical Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, each of which is a Crown corporation independent of the government, has encouraged universities and institutions to develop specific guidelines that address “research integrity issues.” Institutions were required to have adopted such guidelines by January 30, 1995, or lose their eligibility for federal research funds. In 2004, the Tri-Council published a detailed statement on scientific misconduct in research and scholarship.

Canada recently issued an evidence-based assessment for the federal government intended to support the government in its work in developing research misconduct public policy.k, 15 The report indicated that Canada needs to develop a positive culture for research integrity promotion and sanctioning. As part of the assessment, the report details models used by other countries to combat research misconduct issues. In August 2011, a consultation was launched within the university sector in an effort to strengthen the current Framework for the Tri-Council’s institutional policy review.16 Currently, universities have the responsibility of investigating research misconduct.

kInformation also provided by Cate Meechan of the Council of Canadian Academies (Director, Communications).

The Canadian Medical Association Journal, the largest medical journal in the country, employs a single individual who serves both as an ethicist and an ombudsman. After an author has responded to an allegation or suspicion of misconduct, the matter is discussed with the ethicist. After receiving the advice, the editors may take further action, which in some instances has involved notifying the institution involved or, in cases where there is no institution identified, informing the physician-licensing authorities or similar professional bodies. It is unclear if editors of smaller subspecialty journals in Canada have similar procedures. There is no national and no provincial bodies in Canada devoted to the investigation of cases of possible research misconduct.

In Britain, because no inspectorate exists and because industry has had most of the cases thus far, activity on this problem has been based on referrals by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry to the General Medical Council (GMC).17 Two other bodies in the United Kingdom have been advocating institutional reform to address allegations of misconduct: the Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE) and the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC).

COPE is a non-statutory voluntary organization whose members include editors of 175 journals from throughout Europe, as well as some in Asia and Australasia, whose editors and publishers have adopted the COPE code of conduct.18 It meets bimonthly, with any member entitled to attend and all members encouraged to submit cases for debate. Its executive committee determines policy and comprises 4 editors from premier research journals as well as a publisher, an official of the GMC, and a biostatistician, and there are plans to include a patient representative.

At its bimonthly meetings, each case is discussed and advice in line with the code of conduct is given to the submitting editor. In general this means that where the group agrees there may be misconduct it advises the editor to obtain a response from the author(s). When the response is unsatisfactory, the editor typically contacts the authors’ institution and/or funding body and asks them to investigate. Editors are encouraged to request the results of the investigation periodically because some institutions are notorious for using delay tactics. When editors believes patients may be at risk from the research, or when grossly unethical behavior has occurred, they may wish to report this to the national body with which the researcher is registered or which gives him or her a license to practice.

In the United Kingdom, governance rules require that an editor who is a practicing clinician or medical researcher and registered with the GMC has a duty to report to that organization any other registered member whose conduct or performance may be significantly impaired. This would include allegations of unethical research and dishonesty in any form. A finding of impaired fitness to practice due to the above reasons could result in the doctor’s registration being affected, either by conditions being placed on his or her work (such as a prohibition from conducting research for a certain period or demanding that all work is closely supervised and approved), suspension from clinical practice for up to a year (which by implication results in a heavy fine, because the doctor may not have an income during that time), or even erasure from the register. The last of these is reserved for very serious cases and has been used in at least one case of research fraud. The GMC is a statutory body whose activities are governed by the Medical Act. Its decisions can be appealed to the High Court.

During the last 10 years the GMC has charged 18 doctors with serious professional misconduct as a result of alleged research misconduct. Nearly all of these cases were reported to the GMC by a private investigative body set up by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. Publication was not an issue in most of the cases but rather misconduct or dishonesty in carrying out or recording data in industry sponsored multicenter trials.

In December 2004, COPE adopted a code of conduct for editors who are members of the organization. Complaints about editors that cannot be settled within the auspices of the journal concerned will be investigated and an ombudsman appointed to deal with appeal procedures. The organization’s major limitation is that it is advisory and cannot apply sanctions (other than to expel a member). So far, attempts to set up a system similar to that in the United States or Denmark have not succeeded, but organizations representing industry and universities, as well as COPE itself, are exerting pressure to set up a more widely based and formally constituted body.

In December 1997, the Medical Research Council, the major source of support for biomedical research in the UK, adopted a policy and procedure for responding to allegations of misconduct. The AMRC has advocated tighter regulations for responding to allegations of misconduct than those imposed by the Medical Research Council.

In 1997, in Germany, Deutsche Forchungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the main granting agency in Germany, created an international commission composed of 7 to 10 prominent scientists to discuss research standards and scientific oversight procedures that may be adopted in Germany and internationally. The DFG issued guidelines, required the appointment of mediators, and in 2001 started to threaten to withhold of funding from non-complying institutions. The DFG also appointed 3 ombudsmen to receive complaints. The DFG currently has a standing committee called the Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct and established a chair with 4 additional scientists. Further, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences, the premier research organization in Germany, developed guidelines and procedures for detecting, assessing, and sanctioning research fraud in November 1997 (amended in November 2000), titled, “Rules of Procedure in Cases of Suspected Scientific Misconduct.”

Prior to 2011, Polish cases of research misconduct were handled largely by research institutions or universities.19 The concerns among the scientific community and the Polish government regarding scientific integrity inspired the creation of a national oversight system; misconduct cases that had continued for long periods of time were silently dropped over the years.19 The new commission will be composed of up to nine members, and its tasks will include creating a national code of conduct for scientists, taking appeals of research misconduct decisions made at other institutions, investigating cases which were not properly investigated at the institutional level, and advocating research integrity.19

Recently, Indian scientists began calling for a national office of research integrity that could investigate and impose sanctions upon scientists who commit research misconduct.20At a July 2011 meeting organized by Institute of Mathematical Sciences and the Forum for Global Knowledge Sharing, a professor of materials engineering at the Indian Institute of Science illustrated the rising rate of retraction among Indian authors by pointing out that the average retraction rate for Indian authors was 70 per 100,000 papers between 2001 and 2010; 45 of those retractions occurred because of misconduct.20 By comparison, the retraction rate for Chinese authors was 48 per 100,000 papers published.

There has also been significant activity in China. In late 2009, two researchers were fired from Jinggangshan University after editors from the journal Acta Crystallographica Section E retracted 70 published crystal structures that they assert were fabricated.21 The editors used software that detects errors and chemical features that seem unusual.21Many of the crystal structures that were identified did not make sense chemically; the editors claimed that they would be checking all submissions from Jinggangshan University.21 Concerned about cases such as this, the Chinese science ministry had over 6,000 researchers surveyed with regard to misconduct, and as of January 2010, the results were not reported.21 However, according to Nature’s sources, approximately one-third of the surveyed researchers admitted to fabrication, falsification or plagiarism.21According to a March 2011 interview with Nature, the new president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Bai Chunli asserted that the CAS graduate school is considering instituting a mandatory class on research ethics to foster a “culture of accountability” from a young age among researchers.22

In Croatia, the Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports (which funds research) has started introducing regulation in the field of science publishing, primarily prompted by journal publishers and editors. Individual editors sometimes pursue cases in a manner similar to that advised by COPE but most of them are not aware of the research and regulation in the field of research misconduct.

A recent report by the Centre for Evaluation in Education and Science (CEON) for the Serbian science ministry found that approximately 11% of articles published in Serbian journals by Serbian authors were plagiarized.23 It was also reported that 0.35% of the articles in the Serbian citation index were published in the identical form twice; the director of COEN attributes this particular problem to editors who track manuscripts “manually” forgetting to mark a paper published.23 Despite the rate of plagiarism, according to the blogger Tatalovic, only six retractions appear from an index search of “retractions” in both English and Serbian from the 445 journals listed there.23 None of the retractions came from the authors, but rather from the editors.23 Importantly, the science ministry plans to update its guidelines for evaluating scientific writings by including a piece on plagiarism.23

In 2003, the Council of Japan issued a comprehensive report on research misconduct in Japan and recommended that allegations of research misconduct be investigated by third-party committees run by national ministries or scientific societies rather than universities or institutes. A researcher at Dokkyo University School of Medicine recently had a second article retracted from a journal due to duplicate image publication.24 According to a blog post, journals have retracted his work eight times for the reuse of images.24

Unfortunately, there are many countries that have not developed a national body to respond to the problem of scientific misconduct despite widespread awareness of the problem.25 Although other organizations exist to address problems relating to misuse of animals or humans in experimentation, radiation handling violations, and financial misconduct with research dollars, the advent of organizations that address other forms of scientific misconduct is relatively recent.

3.2.2 Definition of Research Misconduct

The responsibility of these bodies is dictated by the definition of scientific misconduct that is used. Unfortunately, a single definition of scientific misconduct does not exist in the scientific community, although most definitions include falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism. This multiplicity of definitions can be explained in part by the multiple national bodies within a country that may be attempting to address the problem. Further, in most countries that have developed a formal response, universities and research institutions are encouraged to develop their own definitions and responses, provided the definitions and processes contain elements mandated by national regulations. Finally, the definitions of misconduct are influenced by the legal structure of the countries in which they exist, the nature of the national body that has assumed the greatest responsibility for responding to the problem, and the ethical norms of the scientific community.

The definitional problem is exacerbated in countries in which multiple bodies have been involved in responding to the problem. For example, in Great Britain, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry defines “research fraud” as the generation of false data with an intent to deceive, and the Royal College of Physicians defines “scientific misconduct” as piracy, plagiarism, and fraud.l In contrast, the MRC defines scientific misconduct as:

fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or deception in proposing, carrying out, or reporting results of research and deliberate, dangerous, or negligent deviations from accepted practice in carrying out research. It includes failure to follow established protocols if this results in unreasonable risk or harm to human beings, other vertebrates, or the environment and also the facilitating of misconduct by collusion in, or concealment of, such actions by others. Misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences in the design, execution, interpretation, or judgment in evaluating research methods or results of misconduct (including gross misconduct) unrelated to the research process.

lThese terms are further defined as follows: Piracy is the deliberate exploitation of ideas from others without acknowledgement. Plagiarism is the copying of ideas, data or text (or various combinations of the three) without permission or acknowledgement. Fraud involves deliberate deception, usually the invention of data. (A Report of the Royal College of Physicians, Fraud and Misconduct in Medical Research, Causes, Investigation and Prevention. London, England: Royal College of Physicians; 1991:3.)

COPE defines misconduct as “intention to cause others to regard as true that which is not true.” A 2000 joint Consensus Conference on Misconduct in Biomedical Research, which included 10 medical councils, professional societies, foundations and industry in the UK, led to a broader definition that states “Behaviour by a researcher, intentional or not, that falls short of good ethical and scientific standard.”

The Wellcome Trust, Britain’s largest biomedical charity, defines misconduct as:

Fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or deception in proposing, carrying out, or reporting results of research or deliberate, dangerous or negligent deviations from accepted practices in carrying out research. It includes failure to follow established protocols if this failure results in unreasonable risk or harm to humans, other vertebrates, or the environment and facilitating of misconduct in research by collusion in, or concealment of, such actions by others. It also includes intentional, unauthorized use, disclosure, or removal of or damage to research related property of another including apparatus, materials, writings, data, hardware or software or any other substances or devices used in the conduct of research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in the design, execution, interpretation or judgment in evaluating research methods or results or misconduct unrelated to the research process. Similarly it does not include poor research unless this encompasses the intention to deceive.

Multiple definitions are found even in the United States, which has had the greatest experience and history in handling such cases and has engaged in open and widespread debate regarding the definition of scientific misconduct. These multiple definitions exist despite strong recommendations from the scientific community for a single federal definition. The 2 US agencies most active in matters of scientific misconduct, ORI and NSF, have used different definitions for the past 15 years. In December 2000, however, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a federal definition of misconduct and encouraged all the agencies, including NSF and ORI to adopt the same.

Effective June 16, 2005, the United States Public Health Service, which administers its integrity program through the ORI, defined research misconduct as:

Fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.

(a) Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.

(b) Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.

(c) Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

(d) Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

The NSF included each of the components of the PHS definition, and, until April 17, 2002, also included in its definition retaliation against those who bring such allegations. On April 17, 2002, the NSF adopted a definition of misconduct that tracks the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Thus, the current NSF definition is:

Research Misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing or performing research funded by NSF, reviewing research proposals submitted to NSF, or in reporting research results funded by NSF.

(1) Fabrication means making up data or results and recording or reporting them.

(2) Falsification means manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.

(3) Plagiarism means the appropriation of another persons’ ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.

(4) Research, for purposes of paragraph (a) of this section, includes proposals submitted to NSF in all fields of science, engineering, mathematics, and education and results from such proposals.

(5) Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

The US federal agencies encourage research institutions to establish their own definitions provided they meet the agencies’ basic requirements. Thus, in the United States, the proliferation of definitions occurs at both the federal and institutional levels which makes determinations of misconduct depend on which agency funded the research and at which institution the research occurred.

In the Nordic countries, scientific misconduct is defined broadly and precise definitions are deemed neither desirable nor feasible. The Danish system states:

[A]. Scientific dishonesty includes all deliberate fraudulent work at any time during the application-research-publication process as well as such extreme cases of negligence that the question of professional credibility becomes an issue. This corresponds to the legal concepts of intent and gross negligence.

[B]. The area of scientific dishonesty that is covered by the DCSD is characterized by falsification or distortion of the scientific message or a false credit or emphasis given to a scientist. This includes but is not limited to:

  • construction of data
  • selective and hidden rejection of undesirable results
  • substitution with fictive data
  • deliberate manipulation of statistics with the intention of drawing conclusions beyond what the data warrant
  • distorted interpretations of results and distortion of conclusions
  • plagiarism of other people’s results or entire articles
  • distorted representations of other scientists’ results
  • inappropriate credit as author
  • misleading applications

Norway has an even broader definition of misconduct that was developed with significant input from the Danish experience. It is simply stated as,

“All serious deviation from accepted ethical research practices in proposing, performing and reporting research.” It includes (1) fabrication and/or falsification of research results, (2) plagiarism of data or articles, (3) intended selection or withholding of results for publication when those results are relevant to the conclusion, (4) erroneous use of statistical or other methods, (5) intentional or gross negligence in withholding details in methods, (6) erroneous listing of authors, (7) erroneous presentation of research by other investigators, (8) presentation of research to the general public without scientific publication, and (9) unacceptable duplicate publication. The definitions used in Finland and Sweden are similarly broad.

The definition used in the Australian system is the ORI definition verbatim, with a sentence added that addresses inappropriate authorship (ghost authorship, honorary authorship, and failing to acknowledge the contribution of junior scientists).

Violations of human subject regulations would constitute scientific misconduct under the British, Canadian, and Danish models. Further, under the Danish and Australian systems, authorship disputes are investigated.m

mReference 25, p 126, refer to Case No. 11 from the 1993 cases investigated by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty and Good Scientific Practice, and the Australian definition of “scientific misconduct.”

3.2.3 The Investigation

As stated above, under most systems, the university or research institution has primary responsibility for investigating the allegations of misconduct and then reporting the results of the investigation to a national body. Whether and which US federal agency has the jurisdiction to address misconduct depends on whether and which federal agency sponsored or was asked to sponsor the relevant research. If a federal agency did not sponsor the research, no federal agency will have jurisdiction. If the research was funded by the Public Health Service, the ORI has jurisdiction over the case, and the case generally will proceed under ORI guidelines for investigating allegations of scientific misconduct. If the research was funded by the NSF, they will assert jurisdiction.

Institutions are required by US regulation to conduct the investigation of an allegation of scientific misconduct with individuals who have the appropriate expertise and are free from bias. The investigation must follow a prescribed timeline and proof of misconduct must be shown by a preponderance of evidence.

The scientific misconduct findings of ORI and NSF may be appealed. Thus far, only ORI findings have been appealed. The final step in the Public Health Service process may involve an appeal to an administrative law judge who may ask for scientific assistance. In the United States, only 2 cases heard by the final appeal body have included a scientist.26 In 1999, the PHS indicated that it intended to recompose the panel such that it always included 2 scientists. But in regulations proposed in April 2004, ORI indicated that it would move away from a panel and allow all cases to be heard by an administrative law judge, who would have the latitude to hire a scientific expert.

A similar appeal panel exists under the Danish system, which has 3 members and 3 substitutes, with a significant distinction being that 2 of the members and 2 of the substitutes must be active researchers. Similarly, under the model recommended by the MRC, “scientifically expert assessors evaluate the evidence and draw conclusions.”27Under the MRC process, the respondent has access to all material relevant to the allegation, its assessment, investigation, and appeal. Under the English MRC system, an appeal must be filed within 20 days after notice of appeal is sent.

In September 1999, COPE provided editors with guidance on how to respond to misconduct when it arose. Nonetheless, most agree that although a role exists for editors who detect misconduct, editors generally lack the resources and access to the necessary parties and documents to conduct a full investigation.

3.2.4 Post-Investigation Issues

Sanctions. Individuals found to have engaged in scientific misconduct, as defined by the relevant national norm, have had a variety of sanctions imposed by the institution that employed them, the relevant national body, and professional societies. These sanctions range from letters of censure from an academic superior to a prohibition from receiving federal funds and loss of a professional medical license. In the United Kingdom, 9 of 10 doctors referred for findings of misconduct were suspended or removed from the medical register. In contrast, in one case in Poland,28 no action was taken because under Polish higher-education law action must be taken within 3 years of the offense and too much time had elapsed between the alleged plagiarism and its detection.

Recovery of research funds associated with scientific misconduct has not been pursued in countries other than the United States, although it is being considered in Canada.

Confidentiality of Findings. In addition to the multiplicity of definitions that exist in the United States, multiple philosophies exist regarding post-investigation sanctions and corrective action. The ORI widely publicizes the names of those it finds guilty of misconduct and the full reports of its investigations, and the university investigations that were provided to them, are available with limited information masked. In contrast, the NSF does not provide the names of guilty individuals and those names are removed from its reports. Similarly, the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty does not publish the names of scientists found to have committed scientific misconduct. Under the United Kingdom’s MRC process, the scientific community, sponsors and other “interested parties” are informed of findings of misconduct.

3.2.5 References

  1. European Science Foundation. The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. Available at: http://www.nsf.gov/od/oise/Code_Conduct_ResearchIntegrity.pdf(Accessed March 9, 2012).
  2. Danish Agency for Science, Technology, and Innovation. Annual reports (in English). Available at: http://en.fi.dk/councils-commissions/the-danish-committees-on-scientific-dishonesty/publications. (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  3. Marcus A. Dutch university investigating psych researcher Stapel for data fraud. Retraction Watch Blog, September 7, 2011. Available at:http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/dutch-university-investigating-psych-researcher-stapel-for-data-fraud/ (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  4. Tilburg University Press Release. Prof. Diederik Stapel Suspended. September 7, 2011. Available at: http://uvtapp.uvt.nl/fsw/spits.npc.ShowPressReleaseCM?v_id=4082238588785510 (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  5. Marcus A. Stapel inquiry widens to the University of Groningen, University of Amsterdam. Retraction Watch Blog, September 26, 2011. Available at:http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/stapel-inquiry-widens-to-the-university-of-groningen/ (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  6. Marcus A. Stapel report finds faked data in at least 30 papers, possibly more. Retraction Watch Blog, October 31, 2011. Available at:http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/stapel-report-finds-faked-data-in-at-least-30-papers-possibly-more/ (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  7. Marcus A. Science drops other shoe in Stapel case, retracts recent paper on chaos. Retraction Watch Blog, December 1, 2011. Available at:http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/science-drops-other-shoe-in-stapel-case-retracts-recent-paper-on-chaos/ (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  8. Erasmus MC. Erasmus MC dismisses professor. Available at http://www.erasmusmc.nl/corp_home/corp_news-center/2011/2011-11/ontslag.hoogleraar/?lang=en(Accessed March 9, 2012).
  9. Committee for the Investigation of Scientific Integrity, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam. Report Summary at 4-5. November 16, 2011. Available at:http://www.erasmusmc.nl/5663/135857/3397899/report_summary_investigation_integrity?lang=en (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  10. Marcus A. Breaking news: Prolific Dutch heart researcher fired over misconduct concerns. Retraction Watch Blog, November 17, 2011. Available at:http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/breaking-news-prolific-dutch-heart-researcher-fired-over-misconduct-concerns/ (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  11. The Report of the National Commission for the investigation of Scientific Misconduct. Available at:http://www.aqua.cl/files3/918b93_ISA%20ethics%20investigation%20Apr%202011_EN.pdf (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  12. Good Scientific Practices and Procedures for Handling Misconduct and Fraud in Science. Available at: http://www.tenk.fi/en/good_scientific_practice/practice.html (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  13. Australian Research Council. Research Integrity. Available at: http://www.arc.gov.au/general/research_integrity.htm (Accessed March 9, 2012).
  14. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Research Integrity Committee Framework. Available at http://www.arc.gov.au/pdf/ARIC_framework_feb_11.pdf(Accessed March 9, 2012).
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(Authorship: Debra Parrish and Harvey Marcovitch took the lead in writing this section of the white paper on behalf of the CSE Editorial Policy Committee. Debra Parrish revised this section for the 2009 Update. Elizabeth Blalock and Debbie Parrish revised this section for the 2012 Update. Members of the Editorial Policy Committee and the CSE Board of Directors reviewed and commented on it. This section was formally approved by the CSE Board of Directors on March 30, 2012.)