Dr. Avnish Jolly, Chandigarh,22 June:To improve research reliability in academic labs, the paper recommends six point strategies for institutions, including adopting a zero-tolerance policy, protecting whistleblowers, and clarifying how to report misconduct incidents at all levels.
According to a recent survey published by Nature 2008, 453, 980, significant numbers of research misconduct in academic labs go unreported each year, Conducted by Sandra L. Titus and Lawrence J. Rhoades at the Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and James A. Wells, Director , Office of Research Policy , University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The survey evaluated responses from 2,212 researchers and found 201 instances of research misconduct over a three-year period. Research misconduct was defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research or in reporting research results. The survey found that 60% of the cases cited involved fabrication and falsification and 36% involved plagiarism. Respondents observed misconduct across all scientific ranks—from graduate students through senior faculty. They also indicated that of the 201 instances of misconduct only 58% were reported to institution officials.
The servers’ acknowledge that their study is limited. Because the survey set included only NIH grantees, it may not be representative of all sectors of science, and surveying a broader research pool could reveal a different frequency of research misconduct. However, using the resulting data, the authors extrapolate that about three cases of research misconduct are committed for every 200 researchers working each year. This number translates to significantly more cases of research misconduct than the average of 24 institutional investigations reported to ORI each year, the authors note.