Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Coping with scientific misconduct

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 20 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6586

Rapid Response:

Re: Coping with scientific misconduct

Elizabeth Wager's article is full of important information and shows that it can be very difficult, even for a tenacious editor, to secure the investigation of suspected research misconduct. This problem is not confined to the UK but is prevalent in the US. At one time in the US there was little investigation or publication of the results of investigation once the offender or offenders had been dismissed from the institution, but this has improved. When I was working at a hospital and medical school on the eastern seabord of the United States there occurred a very serious incident of the results of clinical trials in patients with cancer being repeatedly and systematically misrepresented. The offenders were summarily dismissed but further investigation of the case was extensive, first by a committee appointed by the institution. Further investigation was carried out by a committee of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG). A committee of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) conducted its own investigation which led to the termination of research funding to the offenders. Finally the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carried out a prolonged and exceedingly thorough investigation, concentrating on the misuse of experimental drugs. Eventually a hearing in court was considered but did not occur. It certainly cannot be said that the misconduct was hushed up - far from it - but the lack of strict punitive action could be criticised.

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 November 2011
Alexander SD SPIERS
Professor of Medicine
Cookham Berkshire SL6 9TR